[ORIGINAL TEXT IN ENGLISH]
Should a teacher insist on all students' participation in concerts? Is it the
same for adult students as for children?
“To perform or not to perform?” That is the question.
Written by Dr. Angela Chan. Ph.D.
As music teachers, we unquestionably hope that our students can fully maximize their potential as musicians - in the sense that they not only become capable performers but are also well-versed in other areas of musicianship.
Unfortunately, in the music education process, what is most demonstrable in
terms of progress is the performance. Into the first musical phrase of a performance, the quality of preparation speaks for itself. A performance is evidently worth more than a thousand words. It is the consummate revelation of an underlying preparative process - of the efforts invested, level of dedication, and care put into the practice process. Performance is also one of the most tangible ways of showcasing the efforts of both teacher and student as a team.
Perhaps before “enticing” our students onto the concert platform, we should
pause for a moment and reconsider a few questions: What is the music teacher's mandate? Is it to groom performers exclusively? Is concert performance necessarily the best approach for every student? What are the benefits that they will derive from a public performance at their current stage of learning / or with their current level of preparation? And lastly, what are the potential trade-offs (if any)?
I would surmise that many of us who wish to learn tennis will never become
champions in the field, nor do we ever wish to participate in the Wimbledon
tournament. By the same token, I understand that many students take music
lessons primarily for enrichment purposes. Hence, I think that they should have the option to choose whether they wish to perform.
With background training as a musical performer myself, I still strongly
encourage my students to perform. But the process operates on a voluntary
basis. Performance preparation can enrich the learner’s palette of musical experiences - so that the student understands the processes involved and experiences the full realm of emotions encountered by concert artists - from painstaking practice to making blunders in rehearsals, to calming butterflies in the stomach at the green room, all the way to "post mortem" analyses of the concert and dealing with negative criticisms. Performance, however, is only one of the many musical paths one may undertake to learn how to face challenges, With background training as a musical performer myself, I still strongly encourage my students to perform. But the process operates on a voluntary basis.
Performance preparation can enrich the learner’s palette of musical experiences - so that the student understands the processes involved and experiences the full realm of emotions encountered by concert artists - from painstaking practice to making blunders in rehearsals, to calming butterflies in the stomach at the green room, all the way to "post mortem" analyses of the concert and dealing with negative criticisms. Performance, however, is only one of the many musical paths one may undertake to learn how to face challenges, resolve difficulties, and to creatively develop strategies to overcome obstacles.
I recognize that not all students have the desire to pursue or even to experiment with the performance path, no matter how informal the performance setting is. It is simply not the path that everyone opts for. Just like, I believe not many of us would choose to spend a day in a garage as an auto mechanic – with the goal of experiencing how it is like to be an automotive professional (with the exception of the rare auto enthusiast). The process may be educational, enriching - but the bottom line is - do you really want to pursue it? That is the ultimate question.
In this regard, it may be simply unrealistic to have expectations on our students to perform. In many cases, it is also understandable that for the casual adult learner who has to juggle with career, family, and other commitments, music lessons primarily serve as a stress reliever. As one of my adult students, a university professor, shared with me that “piano is a haven for me. I feel completely relaxed and revived when I get to the instrument. It alleviates me of the pressures of the daily grind.” In this instance, it is clear that imposing extraneous demands such as a concert performance may potentially be detrimental.
As music teachers, we also recognize that some students are evidently not ready either psychologically or technically to play publicly. In this instance, rather than insisting that they “bite the bullet” and potentially setting them up to fail, I may try to "transform" the task of performance into other musical projects - of which, making recordings is one.
Students can learn as much from the process of recording. Unlike a real-time
performance, they are not confronted with delivering a one-take performance on stage in the presence of a live audience. Instead, students are given multiple opportunities to “reshape” their performances.
In the recording studio, students are exposed to a different array of challenges. They acquire experience in performing for a consort of microphones, going through multiple retakes (which they may quickly discover that performance generally worsens after a couple of trials), as well as participating in the editing process of their recordings. As developing musicians of the new millennium, learning to slice and splice using Adobe Audition ought to be considered as important as being able to perform reliably on stage.
Ultimately, the idea of learning music is to widen the scope of learner's artistic
experiences. I accept the fact that not all students are destined to become
concert artists. Instead of channeling learners into a direction that they have no desire to venture into, I will attempt to make appropriate accommodations that are tailored to each student's unique needs. The ultimate goal as a pedagogue is to help students flourish artistically and musically. To be fully effective, this involves maintaining a delicate balance between providing students maximal challenge yet without imposing an excessive burden upon their enrichment experience.