This past weekend, I had the pleasure of working with Robert Sheldon as he conducted the Regional Repertory Wind Ensemble. The RRWE is a Maryland based honor band that I have assisted for the past seven years. Early each summer, the organization finds a composer/clinicain/educator to come in and direct the audition based group on a concert of their own compositions. Many conductors have worked with the group over the years, all of whom are master composers, educators, AND conductors. Sam Hazo, Frank Ticheli, Richard Saucedo, and Brian Balmages have all worked with the group.
Working with Robert Sheldon is a real treat. His music finds a way of strongly connecting to the students. It is just so fun to play! I can hear and see how naturally they gravitate towards it in performance. One of the things I really admire about Sheldon is that he is a real instructor. His years of teaching experience have crafted him into someone who is really able to rehearse an ensemble, assess where the problems are, and immediately give just the right feedback to get the musical result he wants. And he gets these results without ever once raising his voice, putting a student on the spot, or diminishing their efforts. In every interaction he was complimentary, patient, and spoke deliberately. When he needed students to step up, he would always find a way to make them feel great as a member of the ensemble before first offering a suggestion. His manner of offering suggestions was much like dangling a carrot just far enough in front of them that they would want to sit up a little straighter, put their instrument in playing position sooner, reach for the peak of the phrase, etc.
I witnessed expert music teaching this weekend. And for that I thank Mr. Sheldon for his involvement with the ensemble.