behaviour… it’s contagious.

January 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Earnestly fighting the makings of a cold with my DEAR homeopathic friends Zinc and Vitamin C, I find myself wondering at the word “contagious” and the new way it’s cropped up in my thoughts this week. Not runny nose or sore throat, but more along the lines of behaviour.

Let’s face it… the way we treat other people is contagious. To say that this extends to our students (who are moldable and responsive) is hardly surprising. But to what extent are we self-evaluative and truly aware of how we are rubbing off on our students?

If we really want our students to succeed as musicians and human beings, are we ten steps ahead of them, modeling proper behaviour ourselves —being early, studying the score, sculpting and changing curricula based on our ensemble’s growth and change, jumping on opportunities to enhance the learning environment, hashing out or rehearsal plans with some degree of specificity AND fleshing out a plan of action for tackling the challenging passages should they not go according to plan? When we demonstrate the fruits of preparedness, their respect is easily won, and their inspiration to rise to the occasion becomes a reality.

Naturally, we all have off days, as do they. As for those perfect storm moments (when the ceiling is falling in with leaks and the excitement lies in the spring vacation starting tomorrow and Suzy’s viola bridge has popped out for the umpteenth time and can be adjusted to no avail) we’ll consider those  rehearsals the exception rather than the rule— the moments where we can learn a little humility, appreciate a little humanity, and recall the tenets of the serenity prayer. It is only when time and classroom management are consistently problematic that we should be concerned and look more carefully at why our ensemble has such “symptoms”. While the young people in our charge (who we hope have been taught good manners by their folks) are responsible for preparing their individual parts, they are still just that— young people in our charge. We still have to take ownership for the culture and expectations of our ensembles.

On a closing note, a funny little thing happened in Philharmonia this past Wednesday. As an occasional exercise, I bring in a twelve-sided dice and have the students roll it at the end of rehearsal to see how many days a week they have to include orchestra music in their at-home practice. Fewer than “3” warrants an extra roll of the dice; more than “7” simply means that the student has to practice orchestra repertoire every day of the week. (The beauty of the twelve-sided dice is that the majority of students will end up spending quite a bit of time on their orchestra music. 🙂 Without any trace of disrespect, one of my cellists asked:

“Miss Kimberly, are you going to role the dice?”

I smiled at her and told her she could roll it for me. Not surprisingly, I ended up with a “7”.

“Well, looks like I will be spending every day doing score study, too.” Corelli deserves it and the kids do too. It’s a promise.


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