Synergy, or We’re All in This Mess Together (Part 1)

I recently talked with a friend of mine who offers private and group music training. My friend had run into a problem: school music educators were not encouraging their students to take private lessons. In fact, some teachers were very guarded concerning the students in their programs.

I am someone who has been on both sides of the fence. I taught general and choral music at a school for several years. I currently direct several community music programs and teach voice lessons. Based on my experience, I think there are several reasons that educators do not always actively promote other groups or lessons:

  • Busyness
  • Fear of losing students
  • Fear of losing a job
  • Fear of inadequacy

Busyness

Music teachers are very busy. They must not only prepare lesson plans, but they also need to tailor each plan to a different age group. A third grader (we hope) can pay attention longer than a kindergartener. A different approach is required. Planning and executing lessons take significant amounts of time and energy.

The same could be said for middle and high school band, orchestra, and choir directors. They are very busy people. They have concerts, competitions, musicals, and other things to prepare for on top of regular rehearsing and music-reading training. Do they have time to promote someone else’s program? Is this a productive use of their time? When I taught in a school setting, this was probably the biggest reason I did not do more to encourage students to take vocal, choral, or instrumental training. There was just a lot on my mind.

Fear of losing students

Ensemble directors know they only have a set amount of young people who are interested in singing or playing an instrument. Will they lose students in their program if they recommend a community group? Maybe they have known a talented child who used to participate in their group but is now only performing in a community ensemble. This can be very frustrating for someone who wants to grow a  program.

Fear of losing a job

Added to the fear of losing students is the fear of losing their job. School budgets are being slashed, particularly in Michigan. With the collapse of the auto industry, the economy is still pretty bad. There are signs of growth, but full recovery is still years away. Consequently, school music programs are not always supported. If the directors lose students, they fear the administration will cut their jobs.

Fear of inadequacy

I think this is the least common reason, but I will include it in this list. Some directors might feel that if a child gets additional musical training from someone or somewhere else, then the student is saying that he or she is receiving insufficient instruction.

Again, this is only my opinion that many educators are not actively promoting private lessons or community groups. I’m sure there are other reasons. I would love to hear them.

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