A blog that discusses contemporary a cappella music, the educational practices of a cappella music, a cappella improvisation exercises, and a cappella in popular culture.
Monday, January 27, 2014
Locked In A House
Last week, my a cappella group went on a retreat. The retreat was my idea, because I figured locking us in an isolated house, in the middle of nowhere, for three days, with limited transportation and supplies, hours away from where we live, with almost no phone signal, was a really good idea.
Despite the enormous amount of things that could go wrong, I still recommend taking a retreat with your group. It should be somewhere you can all stay together, and still get some alone time. It should be isolated enough that you can get work done, but still near civilization so you’re protected when a mass murderer comes to hack you to bits…I mean…you have somewhere to go for dinner.
As far as retreats go, I have to say that this year was a dramatic improvement from last year, because we knew what to expect, and we knew what needed to be accomplished. Here is what I learned:
1) Have one, singular goal in mind.
If the goal of your retreat is as vague as “Practice music,” you’re going to find, once the weekend is over, that you’ve accomplished almost nothing. Our group had a singular goal: To choreograph and run our competition set. Just three songs in two days.
Every now and then, we would take a break from the set and sing other music. There was this fun (and by fun I mean hellish) moment when we tried organically arranging something. We ran over some simpler arrangements. We played rock band.
But when the weekend was over, our set was done. It wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but it was done. We had every group member there and every group member learned the same material in the same way. This will provide a big step forward in preparing ourselves for the future.
2) Chip in on a few cases of water.
Our soprano brought the case of water for her, and obviously, we stole most of it.
Fun fact! Every Poland Spring bottle looks the same, so when you put it down, you immediately forget which bottle is yours, so you decide not to risk the germs and just grab a new bottle. If everyone does this several times a day, you’ll be out of water by the second day.
Either buy enough water to accommodate this fact, or mark your bottle and re-fill it with filtered water.
3) There’s nowhere to run.
Make someone mad or upset (which happened often) and you’ll have to deal with it…all weekend. Consider this “nowhere to hide” scenario as a teaching tool in “what not to say.”
4) Be the boss.
Someone has to be the villain and keep everyone on schedule. It sucks, but if you are the music director, that person must be you. I found this year to be easier than last, because we had already been through the ringer before, and I had a realistic view of what we can accomplish, and what might be too much to handle.
Still, you have to make sure that work time is spent on work and play time is for play. Don’t try to cut the play time short for work, and don’t be lenient on reducing the work time for more play time. Have an hour-by-hour plan of attack and make sure those micro-goals add up to your macro-goal.
5) Someone, or everyone will get sick.
It’s just one of those “Murphy’s Law” things- whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Just because you keep your hands away from your face doesn’t mean someone won’t get food poisoning, or break their toe, or be the unfortunate victim of a leap-frog incident, or burn their finger, or take some medication that puts them worse off than before…
Everyone needs to take care of their bodies, and a first aid kit wouldn’t hurt either…
6) Pitch? Anyone? Bueller?
Hey kids! Guess what isn’t included in every house…
If you need to run pitches, bring a keyboard or tablet with a keyboard app and a speaker. Don’t assume the house will have a piano…in our case, it didn’t. And make sure the music director remembers to bring the keyboard…(whoops)
7) The bathroom is a sacred place
Our house had multiple bathrooms, so we made sure to divvy up the bathrooms between the boys and girls. Using the wrong bathroom may make someone angry (again…whoops), and remember that everyone has to shower every morning, which takes time if you don’t have multiple showers.
8) Cards Against Humanity
This has nothing to do with music. I just wanted to come out and publicly endorse this game, which is just the greatest game known to man. Bring it. Trust me.
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