Lindsay Brazell

Music Educator and Creative Professional

A Lesson In Musicianship

This year in my choir classes, I am trying to have a theme for each month that encompasses all or most of what we are going to be learning, or what supports events that occur during that month. Our few weeks in August were deemed, “Boot Camp,” because we reviewed every basic concept all students should know before they start repertoire: note names, note values, labeling solfege, finding and labeling Do, etc. It proved to be a valuable review for my upperclassmen, and a solid foundation for my freshmen/new students.
Now that it is September and we have our first whole month ahead of us, I decided to theme this month as “Musicianship.” Simply, we reviewed and created our foundation, and now we can start applying all of those concepts to our repertoire. The month will be dedicated to sight-reading notes and rhythms on solfege and takadimi, and understanding the basic dynamic and stylistic terms found in our scores to build their performance techniques and vocabularies. (October will be themed “Walking the walk, and talking the talk,” focusing completely on music terms!)

But first, we had to answer one major question: What is musicianship?

My “Do Now” on the board asked them to define musicianship in their own words as best as they can, or if they were unable to form a definition, write down words or phrases that come to mind when they hear that word.

The dictionary definition of musicianship is: “Knowledge, skill, and artistic sensitivity in performing music.”

After giving them time to write, I mentally divided the board into 3 areas (knowledge, skill, and artistic sensitivity), and as they answered, I wrote keywords from their definition or words that came to mind in the appropriate category. Once I had some words in each category, I told them the dictionary definition, and then labeled the 3 categories, which of course was greeted with exclamations of, “Ohhh I see what you did there!” etc.

Interestingly, the majority of their answers were about leading musicians and being passionate about music. They had either never heard the term before, or heard it several times but never knew what it meant. When I noticed that the majority of their answers were falling under the “artistic sensitivity” category, I underlined the “music” part of musicianship and asked them to consider that part of the word in their definitions. Once we learned the definition, we filled the columns fairly quick.

Since our introductory lesson, I have been asking them to recite as a group the definition of musicianship, (which they think makes them sound like a cult…I just think it’s funny…while also being helpful), and I am hoping that as the month progresses that their sight-reading abilities improve and they gain more confidence in their skills.

Feel free to use that lesson or modify it to the needs of your choir! I am finding the themes of the first 2 months helpful in guiding our instruction time, breaking what we do into larger units that cover a variety of important skills.


How are you teaching musicianship in your rehearsals? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.


About Lindsay

I’m Lindsay, a choral music educator by day, a singer-songwriter by evening, and a writer when time allows. You can find my latest album, The Room I Found – Lindsay Morelli on iTunes.

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