The Importance of Ensembles

If you missed by previous blog post about getting creative with your studio–check it out.  It’s all about how I changed things up with mandatory ensembles, and how that worked out.  Now we’ll venture down another reason ensembles are such a great idea.

When I was about ten years old my family decided to form a family band. Well, it wasn’t really a family decision to be honest. More like a mom and, maybe to a lesser degree, a dad decision. The Christiansen band was a thing to behold. We wore matching light blue and white checkered button down shirts with white buttons and jeans. Even writing this today I cringe at the memory of those shirts. My brother, who played bass (and now is an accomplished reconstructive plastic surgeon), and I would literally try to sneak out of the house without any of our neighborhood friends seeing us going to our “gigs” in our “outfits.” My dad and I played guitar, my brother held down the low end on the bass, my mom sang and my little sister sang and played the pan lid. Yes, a pan lid. Her pan lid parts were strategically placed and even though I’d been practicing the guitar for five years and knew how to play pretty well, she stole the show with her pan lid prowess. We played an assortment of old bluegrass tunes (my dad and I would burn some tunes as duets… and that was actually a ton of fun for both of us), sang old folk tunes with the occasional country classic thrown in like John Denver’s classic “Grandma’s Feather Bed” or Alabama’s “Play Me Some Mountain Music,” and on occasion my parents would sing a duet of Muskrat Love. An argument can be made that all of us kids were scarred by that tune. We played for all kinds of events. Community gatherings, church functions, school events, actual concerts and family reunions (that were mostly not our family…. Not sure how that worked out) were all part of our scene. Looking back on this, my parents were geniuses. Not because of their Muskrat Love duet. They were geniuses for having the foresight of what that experience was going to do for their kids. All of us were incredibly comfortable in front of audiences and crowds at a very young age. It not only helped with performance anxiety (that helps me a ton as a professional musician), but helped all of us become confident public speakers. All of us became comfortable talking to adults and were able to adapt to uncomfortable surroundings. (Did I mention that we once performed with the entire family on one picnic table AT A ZOO?) Anyway, the short of it is that the family band was a blast. We rehearsed together, played together, ate together, traveled together and actually had a ton of fun. Any band is a ton of fun to be honest. So in retrospect, other fighting harder for hipper threads when the band outfits were being designed, that experience was awesome.

Author: Corey Christiansen, Executive Director of Music at EA School of Music

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