Have You Asked the Students?

Have You Asked the Students?

This will be a short and sweet suggestion to try in the next few weeks, or later this school year. I hope you’ll give it a try!

For many people, it’s almost concert time. As we’re preparing for the big performance, we analyze the music, listen to recordings, and make those final musical decisions to get everything just right. My question is, throughout the rehearsals leading up to the performance, do you ever ask the students what they think? Do you ever ask the students for their input on how to proceed? 

Have You Asked the Students?

For the first several years of my career, the answer to that would have been no! I was the one who chose the music, studied the scores, and planned the rehearsals. I knew how I wanted the music to sound, and I knew how to make it happen. But by taking this control, I was the only one thinking like a musician, and I was robbing the students of their opportunity to truly be musical. 

So my suggestion to you is to ask the students. Ask them what they heard, what needs work, and what they think should be the next step. Let the students think like musicians! Here are some suggestions: 

  • Start with a guided question, giving the students something specific to listen to, such as dynamic contrast, balance, correct notes and rhythms, etc. 
  • Have students think-pair-share to discuss their ideas with a classmate, then ask for volunteers to share out to the full group. This takes the pressure off individual students and allows everyone to voice an opinion. 
  • Ask students to come up with one compliment and one suggestion for their section or the ensemble. Suggestions come from a place of caring, and are often received better than critiques. 
  • Use an exit ticket for students to recommend two specific things the ensemble should work on next rehearsal. Use their recommendations and consider acknowledging the students. 

Keep in mind, the first time you ask the students to get involved like this, you may be met with silence and blank stares! Start with something easy that has no perceivable right or wrong answer. Then acknowledge students’ voices by using their suggestions and incorporating their ideas. 

A little student voice goes a long way to give them ownership and encourage musical thinking. During your next rehearsal give it a try – ask the students!

Looking for other ways to incorporate more student voice in rehearsals? Check out these posts:

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