Teaching Music Without PerformancesJan 26, 2021
No matter where you go or who you talk to, music class is synonymous with performances and concerts. Whether it’s the whole school winter concert or a school assembly performance, opportunities to perform in front of an audience are part of most music class experiences. But, what if your school doesn’t offer performance opportunities, or what if a global pandemic takes away your ability to host live concerts? Can we even still do music class? Short answer: yes. Long answer: let’s talk about it!
What’s The Point if There’s No Concert?!
For better or worse, some music teachers define their careers through performances. There’s no doubt about it, concerts can be a lot of fun for students; however, they can also be very stressful. If you take out the nerve-racking aspect of performing in front of a large audience, you will find that many students will actually flourish! Many students who were shy or hesitant to participate in a situation like that will blossom and showcase their creativity within the safety of the classroom.
Music class is just that: a class. In no other class will you find such a strong emphasis on showcasing the final product of what has been worked on in class. As teachers, our focus should be on the learning process, not necessarily the picture perfect outcome. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t host concerts for any reason, rejoice in the fact that you now have time free to deep dive into concepts or explore things you were never able to before!
What Will I do With My time if I’m Not Prepping for a Concert?
No doubt about it: Concerts take a lot of time, planning, and preparation. I don’t think I’ve ever met a music teacher who has said “I have too much time to prepare for this performance!” At some point, I think all of us have said something along the lines of “I’d love to teach _______, but this concert prep is taking up too much time!” But, when you take away the safety net and familiarity of concerts, many music teachers feel lost. When there’s no “end goal” in sight, it’s hard to know what to focus on.
The truth is, I teach at a school that does not have many performance opportunities. In fact, the only real ones we have are our elementary musical in the Fall and the middle/high school musical in the Spring. This way, each division within our school has one opportunity a year to perform in front of an audience. I was nervous about this when I first got my job, but it has given me a lot of freedom and control over the sequencing of my classes. If a particular class didn’t grasp a concept this week, I don’t have to stress about how to address it again while also preparing for a concert.
But Which is Better: Performances or No Performances?
This is an entirely personal decision. For some schools, performances are expected, well-loved, and beneficial for students. At other schools, performances are seen as something that have to be done, or are disrespected by the school community overall. You as the music teacher get to decide what is best for your students. (That being said, if there are traditional or expected performances, it’s likely a good idea to keep at least some of those going!)
In my few years at this school, I’ve never once felt that my students were “un-musical” because of their lack of performance opportunities. If anything, the time that would have been spent preparing for a concert is now used to dive deeper into different musical concepts, such as improvisation or composition, both of which are usually glossed over in elementary music classes, if not missed all together.
Have you found yourself in a situation where performances are minimal or completely gone? What was it like for you, and how did you handle it as the music teacher? We’d love to hear your experiences!