I think we as educators would all agree that kids are much different these days than even ten or fifteen years ago. When I was in high school, in the early 90’s, I would sit in band class in awe of my amazing band directors. I took their word as the law and never questioned WHY I was being told to do something. My music teachers sat on a large throne in front of the class and were the kings and queens of band. They waved their white baton around so proudly and purposefully and we knew they were the conductor, and we were the students. The band director/conductor in those days were untouchable and hard to approach. Music lessons consisted of contest solos, method books and auditions.
Times have changed since then for sure, but how?
The experience for the student is much more important and vital than it used to be. Now, students will quit because they did not have “fun” in one lesson or class. Students are tired of being victims of emotionless lectures and experiences and they want their instructors to show love and care in their lessons. They want to learn practical information that they can apply immediately. They want to be entertained and feel something from each session. They want to be able to walk away from a class or lesson and tell their friends something new and fresh that happenend that day.
The student wants to know HOW and WHY and to feel very deeply that the instructor not only knows the information, but is confident, professional, an expert and is helpful. The days of the conductor being “God” in a mach turtleneck and a sportcoat are dead. The days of lifeless classes with no other purpose than to just present information are gone.
Do kids like your class?
What are you doing to show individual students that you care about them? What are you doing to help kids understand the information beyond just tellling them? Are you presenting information on different levels for the different learning syles? Are you helping the individuals be the best version of themselves by providing creative and practical ways to present information?
If you answered no to any of those, you are not alone. It takes passion, energy, creativity, initiative, forward thinking and most of all self reflection to evlove with the times. What does this look like for you? It depends on the type of class and type of students, but here are two ideas any music educator can incorporate:
1. Make time for relevant music to young students
Kids start playing an instrument for many reasons, but the answer I keep hearing form the majority of young students is: “I want to play fun music and music enjoy playing,” We all know that the classic band pieces and solo pieces have their place in education, but adding some time for pieces that students enjoy might just be the way to keep their trust, attention and help them improve. It might just knudge the student to start practicing!
2. Remove the music altogether
WHAT? Yes. Take time for communication between musicians without any music in front of them. Take time for improvisation. Do you know, most students have never had the oportunity to play by ear or create. Since the day they started playing the instruments, they have been given music and rules to follow. It is amazing the first time I begin this experience with students, they ask: “What do I play?” They are so used to rules and being told what to play, their creativity and musicianship is stifled. Take some time to improv together, and maybe even program a piece on your next concert that has no music. Below is a recent rehearsal I had at Madison Central High School where we removed the music and created a work of art through improvisation.
Take care and pride in the students you have been given, and look closely at what makes them tick. How do they learn? Help each student be the best version of him/herself and start seeing radical results.
Have you incorporated new and fresh ideas into your music classes?