I hope you enjoy this series of fictional scenarios about teaching music, and find it at times thought-provoking, familiar, and even humorous. We look forward to reading comments by yourself and other teachers at the end, about “what would you do?”
To follow this story, you should first read Janina’s story (#9), if you haven’t already. Below are a few scenarios that might result from what happened in that story. Read them and tell us what you think you might do in these situations!
…OK, so you let Janina participate in the recital. Her sudden keen interest and responsiveness and determination to learn the tune in the lesson convinced you to give her some more rope and see what she can do.
You explained verbally and by email to her and her mother how the recital works. You do not have a lot of time between students to explain verbally, and you never know how carefully people read emails. In this case, you explain that the recital will involves mostly beginners of varying levels, all playing together, rather than by themselves. They will play a number of tunes all in a medley, one after the other, with students joining in on the tunes they know, and listening to others continuing with the ones they don’t. The final tunes in the medley are the most basic tunes so that everyone can end up playing together. Janina’s new tune comes last.
Before the actual performance, you start with a runthrough to get everyone a little more comfortable. They arrange themselves on the stage, and play through all the tunes, so they can see how it feels to play from where they choose to stand or sit, and how it feels to have everyone playing together. It’s all very informal and fun.
Most everyone starts playing together, and then a few more advanced players continue with a few more challenging tunes, then others join in as they are able, until all are playing the last couple of tunes together for a big finish.
Scenario #1 is the good one! Feel free to make a comment on this one, but it’s not a “what would you do” situation because we’d all like it to be this way: Janina gets up and plays (whether solo in a traditional recital, or in the group situation as described here), gets through it, feels pleased she has dared and succeeded, and gives both herself and you an accomplishment to build upon.
The next three scenarios aren’t so perfect. Let’s start where we left off, beginning the runthrough:
At the runthrough, out in front, standing proudly, Janina is beaming. She waits patiently through a few tunes. Then she begins to realize that she won’t be playing for a little while. Her proud stance crumples a bit. You chat with her briefly as you can while still trying to direct and help the others. You encourage her to wait for her tune. Eventually you invite her to sit on the edge of the stage with some others, in case she feels too much in the spotlight. One purpose of the runthrough, after all, is to have people settle into a relatively comfortable spot.
OK, it’s done. Everyone seemed to get through it fine. Nobody was perfect but they’re all in the same boat, and with the added piano accompaniment, it all sounded good, and everyone’s happy…except, you notice, Janina. She tried to play along with her new tune when it came up, but it’s a new situation, playing with others, and not quite the same tempo she did at home.
She has dashed off to her mother.
Scenario #2: You find Janina being comforted by her mother, and her mother is seeking your help to make Janina more comfortable with the situation. You know that in the big group, nobody can really single her playing (or her mistakes) out, so in the roughly 8 minutes you have to talk to her and a few others, you have to concisely help her. Many possibilities go through your mind.
What would you do?
Scenario #3: You have to handle a number of students between the runthrough and the recital performance, but you want to make sure to chat with Janina and her mother to sort out how she should stand and make sure she understands what to expect.
As you approach, you can see Janina huddling with her mother, and her mother is looking at you with a look that might be a “how dare you put my daughter in this situation” type of look, but until you talk with them, you can’t be sure.
What would you do?
Scenario #4: You have to handle a number of other students between runthrough and recital, and by the time you try to find Janina, you can’t. She has run to her mother and they have left the hall, without stopping to speak with you. Her next lesson is scheduled for 3 days from now.
What would you do?