I just held the fifth rehearsal for my impending recital. I've recruited a group of six classmates to perform most of the music on my program with me. This is my first experience as a bandleader, and I'm loving it. We haven't performed a single note yet, but I've learned all kinds of little lessons just from preparing charts and coordinating rehearsals.
Unless you are working alone, communication is the key to success. Always. I've been convinced of this for years, and I've seen it confirmed in countless projects in both school and work environments. So I devote the majority of my recital efforts toward ensuring that everyone in my group knows everything they need to know. I do most of my communicating via email, but I have to be open to each person's preferred means, whether it's phone, text, Facebook, etc. And I have to keep all this information central and organized. But the most useful thing I've done is to create a little webpage for my band. It includes up-to-date PDFs of all the charts they need, reference recordings, instrumentation, and solo order on every tune. I also posted background info on each tune, which is especially helpful with my own compositions; I can get everyone's head in the right place before we play.
Scheduling is the biggest challenge in this process. We've yet to have a rehearsal with the entire band. It's rare enough for everyone's availability to coincide and damn near impossible to actually discover such a time. Short of knowing everyone's schedule in detail, it's a giant guessing game. This is where efficient communication is crucial. Persistence prevails.
Rehearsals run so much better when I have an agenda. Since I'm running this operation, it would be silly to have a conversation about what we should do next. No one else cares; they're just waiting for marching orders. If I don't know what needs to be done and in what order, then I'm wasting their time.
Keeping the group on task is another small challenge. I find it amusing. The band might like to talk and doodle while I'm pulling up the next chart or writing myself a note, but I know the silver bullet. I discovered that the count-off is sacred. Even when there's a bustle among the group, if I give a loud, clear "one, two, one two three four," then everything comes together at the last second. It's like magic.
Doughnuts and Beer
All my players are doing this for free, and I'm abundantly grateful. I'd pay them properly if I could afford it (and if recital etiquette prescribed it), so I try to at least show my appreciation on a regular basis. Thus far, my gratitude has manifested itself as doughnuts at morning rehearsals and beer at evening rehearsals. I'm hoping to condition a Pavlovian response for strong attendance and loyalty.
I'm not paying these guys, so there's no room for tension. I need them far more than they need me. I prefer to keep the atmosphere light-hearted and good-natured. This has been easy.
As the decider, I need to keep the decisions flowing. This was an unexpected challenge. There's so much to decide: repertoire, tempos, band members, instrumentation, arrangements, set list, solos, solo orders, rehearsal times, rehearsal agendas, and on and on. On top of that, I need to listen to every little thing during rehearsals and make continuous judgments about what I hear. It's mentally draining, but like I said, I'm loving it.