It’s a Gift

It’s a week and a half before the big Winter Performance, and I’m spending extra hours at school each afternoon, I’m squeezing in extra classes during my breaks, and I’m waking up three times during the night.  Every music teacher faces this moment, whether it’s a simple classroom sharing or a more formal performance in the multi-purpose room.  In my case, it’s two programs of poetry, songs and dances that will involve about 350 first and second graders.

There is an art to putting on a performance, and although it gets easier with experience, it is never stress-free.  I’ve learned over the years to start early enough to give the students time to play around with some ideas in a relaxed way.  I’ve learned how to adjust and adapt materials to match the skills of the students in front of me.  I’ve learned how to make the assigning of special jobs feel fair to the whole group.  But with young children, it seems that half the job of a music teacher is to motivate and inspire them to want to be part of the group experience.

Performing may be a completely new experience for some of the students.  There may be some children who would love to crawl under the covers rather then stand in front of several hundred eager parents.  (And who can blame them?)  There are some children who are not comfortable holding hands with others, and there are those who simply don’t want to submit to the energy of the group.

One helpful idea to gather the group energy is to talk about the performance as a gift for the students’ families.  For example:

We are preparing our poems and songs and dances as a gift to give to our  mothers and fathers.  It is something we can do to make them happy.  If we all are singing and moving together, then our gift will look amazing, and our families will smile in delight. 

This thought can give the children an experience of focusing outward on the group gift they are creating, rather than focusing inward, and becoming anxious about their individual performance.

It’s also useful to talk about working hard and trying their best, rather than being perfect. When the families applaud at the end, the children can take pride in the fact that they have spent time creating something interesting and lovely, and that they gave the performance their very best effort.  If each child has that experience, then for me, the performance was a success.

~ Liz

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