When students open their instrument case for the first time, they are excited to begin their musical journey. They also want to become good at playing their instrument. But it doesn’t take long for most students to realize that creating beautiful sounds on an instrument isn’t as easy as it looks — and it’s going to take some time and hard work to get where they want to be.
Some students enjoy daily practice (I didn’t), while others struggle to work consistently. Issues between extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation comes into play with young students almost immediately when they begin studying an instrument in school. Whatever a student’s relationship with practice might be, there’s one thing that will motivate them to practice intensely: an upcoming performance.
There is nothing more powerful than for a music teacher to stand on a podium on the first day of class and say, “We have a performance in four weeks, so let’s get to work!”
Here are 4 reasons that scheduling more performances will extend your child’s interest in music and help grow a powerful culture of learning in their music program:
Perseverance, grit, and commitment is only cultivated with consistent opportunities to perform. Most parents dream of their kids growing up to be hard workers who like to see jobs through to completion; adults who are active citizens who are determined to do a good job. It’s true that, through music instruction, students develop a “growth mindset” where they embrace failure and struggle in order to create something great — either as an individual or in an ensemble. But if the students’ opportunities to perform are few and far between, the struggle won’t seem worth it — and oftentimes, it’s not. Performances should be seen not only as benchmarks used for assessment, but rather as a tool for building the muscle of change and celebrating hard work.
Performance is the ultimate motivator when planned appropriately and builds confidence in young people. To be deeply motivating, a performance commitment should match students’ abilities, support the goals of the teacher, and fit everyone’s learning styles. If repertoire is too difficult, however, or is not to children’s abilities or taste, a concert will feel more like a burden than an exciting time. If performances are not regularly scheduled and young musicians perform less often, many will wrestle with performance anxiety. To become fearless performers, students need abundant opportunities to try out performance techniques, build skills, and learn to unleash their creativity on stage.
Students can mindfully reflect on their achievements. Capturing performances on audio and video and then listening back to them is one of the most powerful learning tools we have at our disposal. We cannot evaluate ourselves and perform at the same time — it’s tough to create anything while simultaneously evaluating, judging, and criticizing what we do. Creating a recorded piece of music is an accomplishment that deserves a celebration, and a wonderful time to hear and see true growth while at the same time making goals for future development. If everyone from every walk of life had this type of opportunity for self-reflection, can you imagine how many improvements could be made in our crafts?
Music making is (and should be) a social event. We must all emphasize the social aspect of music making. After all, human beings are social creatures who are driven to connect with each other in a variety of ways. This is the primary reason many get involved with music, and rehearsing with others is only one component — performing for one’s family, peers and community adds a completely different layer. All around the world, group music making is a central part of different cultures, and connecting with others through artistic expression is an extremely powerful experience that should be part of every child’s school life.
If you want to keep students engaged and excited about their music education, make sure they are performing consistently throughout the year. There are other profound effects on more scheduled performances for all school programs, as well. In mainstream American society, arts and music are usually looked upon as “extra” disciplines that are not essential to the function of our society and culture; yet the role of arts and music in our society fill a void that we all need in order to enrich ourselves and those around us, especially in the complex world we now live in. We as parents and teachers need to foster a growing curiosity and even an excitement about the arts in our everyday lives. The more community events we have for our schools in order to enrich everyone’s minds and souls, the better it is for our society — and the better the chance is that our children will grow up seeking to regenerate a world with concert music as a cornerstone of mainstream society.