As we close the academic year, it is a time for reflection on improvements for the coming year. As you consider the music you chose and will choose, or perhaps an interaction with a colleague, parent, student or maybe a policy that was questioned, I encourage you to also think about the concerts and performances that you schedule for your ensembles. This could and should encompass all of the ensembles that you teach – from the most educational and rewarding to the least educational and rewarding. So often veteran teachers perform in places that they always perform due to an annual routine. Younger teachers might chose to continue traditions started by directors before them or they might perform in places their own mentors valued when they were students. Sometimes those work and sometimes they don’t. The most valuable aspect of choosing a performance opportunity is this: does the performance opportunity best serve your students and does it also best serve the goals and priorities of your program? Does the performance opportunity best serve those entities each and every time that you participate? Consider changes to a trusted performance experience: Perhaps a philosophical difference brought in by new festival hosts needs to be evaluated. Things like an evaluation system change or change in the quality of evaluators are two ideas that might cause you to reconsider your choices. Perhaps YOU are maturing as a director or your own philosophy is changing with experience – you are wanting something more for your students and/or your program. As you wade through this uncertainty, I urge you to consider these points: are your students being STRETCHED to be better musicians and better people. Are you pushing them out of their comfort zone and are you pushing YOURSELF out of your comfort zone. Complacency is the first step toward being a burned-out teacher. Are you allowing your own personal, professional goals to cloud what is ultimately best for your students? Are you taking the easy route as a teacher instead of providing a quality music experience to your students? There are many trips available that are “fun”, but do students value good music and music education more at the end of the trip or experience? Have they grown musically???? I think there are so many trips that provide little education value, it’s gotten to the point where the quality music educational trips are far and few between. And then there are companies or institutions that might provide a great music educational experience, but they charge criminal, astronomically high rates. The quality experiences are out there, but they require a lot of investigation and they require a sound philosophical approach and commitment to quality music education. As you move forward in your planning for next year’s concerts and performances, be careful to give your students the very best opportunities for GROWTH available.
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