To Perform or Not to Perform
-- that is the big question!
Over the past 6 years we have surveyed several hundred adults asking them “why did you quit music lessons and what would get you started again”? From these reports – often told as “horror stories” caused by well-meaning parents and teachers – we have identified six large barriers to life-long music-making and work to eliminate them at The Shedd so that learning music is truly fun and rewarding for each player.
A significant reason people say they quit has to do with performance issues. Perhaps not surprisingly to most of us, many folks described how much they hated the sweaty palms before “recitals”, or forgetting the music when they sat down to play, or being “forced” to perform in front of the family reunion, or being asked by the music teacher asking to sing a solo in front of the PTA and then having it announced that this is what she meant by a student who is “tone deaf.”
Others reported stopping because they were never “good enough”. “Good enough for what?” we ask: “For my mom”, “to compete for first chair in the orchestra”, “for my teacher”, “for ME!”
On the other hand, many report quitting because they couldn’t perform enough – their school didn’t have a band or orchestra; there was nothing after high school for them; they didn’t know how to find someone that played the same music; there were no community musicals or amateur performance groups, etc.
At The Shedd Institute, we have been examining these contrasting reactions to Performance issues to prevent any of these barriers from occurring. We have put into practice policies and opportunities that allow all students to approach their music-making, and particularly the public sharing of their music-making, in ways that work best for each individual.
Our “rule”, for example, is that no one must be in a recital or perform for others if they don’t want to. Culturally, for some reason, we have not “allowed” music making to be a completely private experience. Sometimes people want to be private because they don’t feel “good enough”, and later when they feel more secure in their abilities they are willing to perform for others. But playing just for yourself privately can be a complete and fully satisfying experience, and we should honor it as such.
On the other hand, for those who do like to perform, we offer regular “recital” opportunities where the students can share what they have worked on that term. We don’t have competitions, awards, or concerns about “excellence” in performance abilities. And it is such fun to have both adult and youngsters sharing their learning on our All-comers Student Showcases. [Guess who is more comfortable about doing that!!]
For those who are really excited about performing, we offer our “Professionals in Training” classes, such as Rock Band, Mariachi and Jazz Academy, where the ensembles may perform in various community settings. Any honoraria that they earn helps fund scholarships or some special project for the band. We also offer a “Singing for Competition” class for older students who do want to audition for performance roles or enter competitions.
Two new classes this term for high schoolers and adults provide a forum for people to gather and play the music that they are interested in. Marty Chilla of the Sugar Beets is offering “Song a Week”, where participants learn a new song each week. Multi-instrumentalist folk musician Chico Schwall is offering “String Band Jam”, for anyone playing a stringed instrument can get together to have a coached experience. Other beginning classes let younger students learn while making new friends and playing with others in the “safety” of a group that is all at the same level.
Finally, our “Woodshedding” is a design-your-own opportunity to play with friends, family or “match making” arrangements by our faculty in a structured setting so that you can play the music you are interested – from folk to classical, from polkas to bluegrass, from fiddling to quartets. Let us know what you would like to learn, and we’ll tailor lessons to fit your interests.
The “joy of music making” needs to be just that – joyful!! Listen to your children, listen to yourself, and trust those feelings to make it the most positive experience possible for each individual!
-- Ginevra Ralph, Director of Education