Instructors can help define a corps (for better or worse), though most corps leaders don’t immediately associate the instruction of the members with the identity of the corps. In fact, this is an essential understanding in order to make the right choices.
Where instruction is concerned, the logical starting place is to determine if you need instructors at all. It may sound basic, but making a conscious choice here could save considerable headaches later on… and probably a few arguments within the group.
Junior corps should always be staffed with instructors to build the technical proficiency and musical maturity of the members and to teach them the repertoire. It is not uncommon to split instructional duties within a section, with one instructor teaching novice students and another teaching intermediate and advanced students. Instruction can be done individually or in a group setting.
Instruction in a senior corps environment is optional, and is usually based on the type of group and level of commitment required. A couple of scenarios exist:
- At the top levels of performance it is highly advantageous to have a non-playing instructor standing outside the ensemble and “tuning” it constantly
- At moderate ensemble levels a skilled lead drummer can provide instruction themselves. Balancing playing and instruction can be challenging if the majority of players aren’t in a fairly narrow spectrum of ability.
- At novice levels, the ensemble should consider utilizing an instructor. Similar to the Junior Corps scenario skills development is required, and you won’t get an optimal result unless you bring in help.
Availability of Talent
A large driver of who and how instruction is leveraged will be the availability of talent, both inside the organization and outside the organization locally. If willing talent exists within the organization then by all means it should be utilized. If not, you will need to look locally for options. This can be quite challenging in regions where you cannot find experienced fife and drum musicians. In this case the best you can hope to do is identify a “teachable fit” by identifying the attributes of the instructor that would be common to other musical applications, then work with them to close the gaps.
Regardless of the level of experience, you can usually expect to pay the instructor if they have no relationship with (or in) your corps. Your pay will be the primary motivator, so make it worth their time. If your instructor has to travel a distance you should also consider compensating them for travel time as well.
Payment of instructors who are already members of your group is a touchy subject, one likely to cause some discussion, if not discontent. It is a common expectation in fife and drum for members to contribute what skills they have to a common goal (the corps). If one member is compensated for instruction then shouldn’t the others be compensated for booking jobs, maintaining the website, and fixing the uniforms? It is a slippery slope, so think it through.