Creating, encouraging, and enabling self-direction in my ensemble is one of the best things I did. It was accidental.
When I wanted to grow the performance level of my choir, I knew Monday nights alone wouldn’t cut it. But I couldn’t be at a second after-school rehearsal. My family commitments meant the group would have to rehearse on their own.
So, in need of the rehearsal, I picked Thursday afternoons and bade them good luck.
It was the best thing I could have done. I can give specific or general goals for the group, select specific people to run specific rehearsal sections. Or I can leave the rehearsal open-ended, and trust my section leaders to make the call.
When I get a free Thursday, I can stop in and either take over rehearsal or (my preference) watch my students rehearse and give them feedback on their work.
It has given the students more ownership of their success. It has made Monday nights way more productive. It gives them an hour a week to bond without their conductor reigning them in. And it gives smart, enthusiastic young musicians the chance to hone their rehearsal skills while still in high school. The students invariably rise to meet the demands.
With careful planning, I probably could run most or all Thursday rehearsals now; I choose not even to look into it because the students having this time to themselves is way more valuable than anything I could add to that hour.