Stephanie Lewis - Music & Education Talks expert

Music Education Rants

What can a music teacher do to improve their students' commitment?

In this video, Stephanie talks about students, parents, and commitment. How can a music teacher improve that? Join the discussion and share your own experiences with Stephanie and other fellow teachers.

Released on June 6, 2018

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi all. Stephanie, again with VSM offering a rant in June based around the difficulties of education and the performing arts. So to set the scene, situation one, high school graduation with musical interlude from chamber orchestra. Dates, times, etc., have been distributed well in advance of event, extra rehearsals rigorously kept to a minimum respecting other student commitments. On the actual day, it is unclear as to what time the orchestra will actually perform, but we do know it's towards the end of the event. At a certain moment, two people from the musical group are seen exiting from the theater with parent, who when questioned, say they have a train to catch.

My second situation is actually based on a theatrical issue, recognizing that both theatre and music are closely interlinked being under the title of Performing Arts. I decided to include this example which is as follows. So we have optional weekly theatre lessons for kids aged between 10 and 13. And here is a group of 13 kids. So each rehearsal lasts for an hour and a half. Now, in this group are 2 students who arrive 30 minutes late for every lesson, stating quite clearly that it is impossible for them to arrive sooner due to distance issues. Third last rehearsal before end of year's show they arrive an hour late. They got lost.

Second last rehearsal, the students still don't know their lines. It then transpires that, not only do they no longer have the script so cannot go over said lines, but that their late arrival plus excuses have been a sham for the entire academic year. Now, with these two examples, clearly, my discussion today is about people who, in the field of performing arts, music, dance, theatre, don't seem to get the working together idea, the concept of being part of a team and supporting your team players as they support you. Sharing objectives, doing your best in the name of the squad and respecting shared rules and regulations don't seem to be understood and or considered. In professional circles, obviously, you see this far less, probably less to do with principles, however, and more to do with the cash factor because ultimately, aren't we all bought?

Now, to get back to the two examples in the case of the chamber orchestra noted above. Clearly, both the students and the parent put their recreational needs before anything else. This was even despite the organizational materials handed out months before and the team of instrumentalists that suddenly found themselves without two key players on the day of the concert. For the theatrical situation, here are two students that lie to people offering an activity that they chose to do, not the other way around. By definition, they also lie to their peers who arrive on time, do the necessary work, etc. I respect shared rules and regulations. Not coming to rehearsals, obviously, compromises their own learning, but brings down the overall level of group work as they have neither developed skills, nor have the necessary discipline for participation.

Now, I'll leave it to your, hopefully, very colorful imaginations to recreate the thoughts and feelings I have towards said individuals. At a general level, however, I'm afraid I'm seeing a lot more of this. Certainly, a part of the underlying problem is the devaluing of the arts. You see this financially in budget cuts to Education, Arts Council's, etc., but it also, artistically, in the form of an arts market principally based on consumerism, rather than artistic expression. Then, of course, there is perception. Either arts are easier, less intellectual, and therefore, second-rate. With such an approach, it's easy to understand how people would treat with scant respect such disciplines. However, I do feel the main problem comes from society itself with rights and freedoms of people emphasized to the exclusion of all else. I think that many of us have actually forgotten the underlying responsibilities attached to these rights.

Rights, once upon a time, were earned. Now, rights are cried out from the hilltop, and any responsibilities attached are secondary, superfluous, at times, even hushed up. You see this everywhere, not just in music. At a micro level, there's the citizen who litters, banal, but a perfect example nonetheless. At a macro, we'll need look no further than a lot of big businesses. What product do we buy these days that's not based on exploitation and or slavery, environmental destruction, and so on? Apparently, this is all right, both for our governments and in turn ourselves. Apparently, we can have our cake and eat it.

With this current context, who can blame the individual, then, involved in artistic projects who puts his personal agenda before anything else? That's just what people do these days. And you're accused of naivety, of hopeless and anachronistic ingenuity, if you beg to differ. You need no crystal ball to realize the effect that this will have on the teaching profession leaving society apart. Our schools will kowtow to social norms. As public bodies, I guess they have to.

Any performing arts teacher with a modicum of self-respect and or options for a career change will quit. Self-sacrifice in the name of education the kids is all very well and good, but with the subject already trodden on and students increasingly unable or unwilling to collaborate, you're just doomed to permanent frustration. So, has the rot really set in? Have you seen this for yourself? Are you worried about music and the arts, in general, in the lives of our young people and, for that matter, in the lives of the not so young. Please, write in and share your own reflections and also your stories. Maybe we can change, not just the artistic situation, but the world itself. Looking forward to hearing from you. Bye.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Michael Prozonic * VSM MEMBER * on June 6, 2018 @11:58 am PST
This really takes support from the community leaders, the school administrators, the parents and the students. We are fortunate to live in a city that is committed to the arts as well as STEM education. We also have added a charter school for the arts which requires audition for admission
Michael Prozonic * VSM MEMBER * on June 6, 2018 @12:39 pm PST
In addition, we are home of the Freddy Awards, an annual competition for school musical performance modeled after the Tony Awards. This year it hosted 29 local high schools. In its 17 years they have given out millions of dollars of college scholarships to aspiring performers, musicians, and support people. During the award ceremony, the theater is filled with students from the schools and they all cheer loudly for each winner, showing a unique support and camaraderie among competitors
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