Considerations in Hiring a Clinician
We are beginning our school year at John Hersey High School and I am in the midst of planning all of our clinics and extra-school learning opportunities. One of the important aspects of our success at John Hersey High School is the inclusion of guest conductors and clinicians that work with our students on a regular basis, both on our campus and away from our campus. Hosting a concert festival at John Hersey High School, as well as observing or participating in 15-20 clinics a year, has enabled the privilege of observing some really powerful and impactful clinic experiences, as well as the misfortunate of watching some mediocre experiences and even discouraging experiences for students and professionals alike. The guest and host each need to provide essential pieces for a successful clinic. Here are some reminders that could lead to a successful experience for all. Most of them are obvious, but easy to forget in the heat of our busy schedules and pressures. From the host: - Reach out to the guest conductor early and then confirm all details in advance of the clinic. - Communicate how fees and expenses will be handled well in advance. Don’t put your guest in an awkward position by having them ask about those details. Their time is valuable and they are often making sacrifices to assist you! - Confirm the music and and share the interpretation that you have been performing. Of course, a guest will have their own interpretation (sharing their vision on the work or works is hopefully one of the reasons they are working with your band…..), but knowing how you have been performing the work or works will definitely help the clinic flow and not waste valuable time. Be sure to inform the guest of any changes that you might have made to the original score. - Confirm the correct arrangement or edition of a work you are performing with the clinician. - MOST IMPORTANT: prepare your students mentally for the clinic! You want your students mentally prepared for the experience of having a guest visit. Share the guest’s bio or your personal connection with them before they arrive. We want our guest to feel comfortable. Eye contact with the guest and silent acknowledgement of the guest’s communication are critical to making the person feel comfortable with the group, thus enhancing the experience for everyone involved. - Be sure that all students are present by telling them about the event well in advance and stressing the importance of their attendance. If there are any missing students causing parts to be missing, be sure to warn the guest before the rehearsal. - If the guest is not conducting a concert, consider conducting your band during the clinic if the guest is not intimately familiar with the score and having the guest start and stop the band while you conduct. - After the event, have a follow-up session and ask the guest for their thoughts on the clinic, the band and any insights that would help you and the band moving forward. - Remember that what YOU learn from the clinic with your students is a very important aspect of the clinic. Your students will learn if you are learning, too. Set that example for them. Be willing to learn from every situation. From the guest: - Think of all possible conflicts before agreeing to participate. - Once you have made a commitment, honor that commitment. Understand that the host has probably made sacrifices of student and personal time, as well as financial sacrifice, to have you visit. If conflict occurs that is unavoidable, reach out to the host as soon as possible. Possibly have an alternative ready to share before you inform the host of the bad news. - Be sure that you have all important clinic logistical information from the host well in advance and plan accordingly. - Determine where the band is at in their cycle of performance. How long have they had the music and what are they preparing for? This should guide your preparation for the clinic. - Ask about the strengths and weaknesses of the band before the visit so you can mentally prepare for those issues and possibly address the weaknesses. - During the clinic, share something personal about yourself to establish a personal connection with the students in front of you. Have some fun! - Try not to simply rehearse details of the music with the band, but draw on big picture concepts and give them something to think about and possibly investigate after your clinic is done. - Reinforce and support the host band director as much as possible during the clinic, no matter how much you might disagree with a choice the host director has made. You are paving the way for the success of the band after your clinic is done. You can share your disagreement with the director privately if you feel strongly about it. - Share your thoughts about the band and their performance with the band director privately when the clinic is done. Remember that if you are able to teach or inspire the host teacher, your visit will have the longest-lasting impact on the students in the clinic. Make every attempt to connect with the host in a friendly and helpful manner. Determine where their level of musical maturity is and meet them in that place. The setting and climate of your discussion has to be perfect for that teaching and inspiration to happen. They have to be willing to learn, but make every attempt to make them comfortable to learn from your experiences and thoughts. I hope that these thoughts help in making the most positive and impactful clinic session with any guest that you might invite or any band that you might be invited to clinic or conduct. Have a great time and good luck with the start of your school year!