Concert Season!

I have challenged myself to write a new blog post monthly for the next six months. So, as my December entry, let’s talk about concerts. It’s December and that means concert time for myself and my colleagues all over the United States who direct bands, choirs, orchestras, and various other ensembles and small groups.

While concert time can be stressful for directors and performers alike, I’d like to take a minute to remind everyone to take a breath and reflect on the great work that you’ve been doing with your students this academic year. What have your students learned this year? How much progress have you seen in individual musicians and in your ensembles as a whole? How many students have been positively impacted by being a part of your program? That one is hard to see sometimes. We talk a great deal about the external criteria for rating our programs; successful concerts, superior festival ratings, and feedback from respected colleagues. However, sometimes a more abstract level of criteria gives us just as much or even more valuable information. What’s the positive impact that you and your teaching are having on students? I think that you are having more of a positive impact than you believe.

When I was a beginning music educator, I used to stress about concerts, thinking that they were the most important barometer of what my students were learning. While concerts can be an important assessment tool, it’s also beneficial to think of them as a gift, an offering if you will. Your students put their focus into a musical performance and put on display everything that you have taught them about music. Tone, technique, intonation, expression, and countless other facets of performance. But what we sometimes forget is that when we play music we are putting a great deal of ourselves in that performance. And when you put even a little bit of yourself into any endeavor, you are creating a gift to those who take the time to listen.

So, as concert time approaches and we are left to wonder about the quality of the performance, take a second and breathe. Your students have been achieving great things in your classroom. Have there been setbacks and disappointments? You bet. That’s teaching. But overall you have been fostering improvement, both in concrete and abstract criteria. Your students will create a musical performance that will be a gift to those who are listening and cement into their minds the power and majesty of music. It’s December. It’s concert time and I see you. I see the hard work and dedication that you put into running your program and you make me proud to be a music educator. Keep up the good work and cheer up. It’s almost winter break!

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