Cliff Towner, a music educator for more than 25 years, directs band activities at and Georgia College & State University.
He recently led a performance of a composition called, Of Our New Day Begun, written by Omar Thomas. Thomas wrote the piece in response to the 2015 terrorist act at Emanual African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that attack, a 22-year-old white supremacist shot and killed nine worshipers in the church.
In describing his directorial approach to the composition, Towner writes he wanted musicians to embark on their performance “through the lens of curiosity and inquiry instead of judgment, ignorance, or fear.”
You can read his full description of the process in our resources section.
Towner used the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to encourage the 51 members of the Wind Symphony to dive deeper into the music and contemplate the composer’s intentions — a process that lead to deeper interpretation of the composition.
He offers an honest assessment of where the QFT helped and where, in his mind, it offered unexpected results.
Overall it was a positive experience.
“Rehearsals on this composition appeared to be more focused and engaged than on the other five pieces of the concert,” he writes.
“To me the QFT has great potential to flip the interpretive obligation from the teacher to the student.”