Hello again, friends!
Woof. I love writing, and I've loved blogging for years. But boy it's hard to do it these days. I need to write more often though, since I really enjoy sharing my life with all who read about these horn things.
I've had a few talks this year with parents who lament about their children not practicing enough.
Since I've had this conversation a few times, I've had to consider what are my own expectations. Let me tell you, my expectations have changed over the past few years since I started this whole business.
In the beginning (about 6 years ago), I expected each and every one of my kids to practice an adequate amount of time every week. I used to get real bent out of shape if a student showed up and HADN'T spent time on their horn. I mean, if they were going to take horn lessons, shouldn't they be serious about it?
I've learned some things about the personalities of a horn student. I've had the pleasure of being with the same set of students since the fall of 2012 - the youngest ones were in 7th grade and the oldest was in 11th grade. Those 7th graders are now in 9th grade, and I've watched them grow as horn players as well as people. Watching their growth has shown me that there is a natural transition in a young musician's life.
For 6-8th graders, I've observed how important it is for them to have fun in band. I really do want kids to enjoy band. And I want them to GET band (hence my job - teaching them how to GET music). But do I expect them to be serious? No. I expect them to enjoy music.
It seems that those who are serious that young tend to be serious in nature and therefore take things seriously anyways. I was always delighted to get serious students in junior high or as beginners! However I soon realized that most of the time seriousness was more their nature rather than for the 'love of horn'. I realized most 6-8th graders have no real idea of what they will be when they grow up. They are 11-14 years old. Still children! How can I expect them to be seriously grown up about the instrument?
Real seriousness for the horn itself (or just wanting to achieve good things and do well) starts to come out in high school - specifically in 10th or 11th grade. That seems late, doesn't it? The way I see it, a 9th grader is just a poor kid trying to make that leap from junior high to high school (it's a huge leap on the horn). Students generally find out what they are made of in 9th grade. Are they mice or men? Can they handle a full AP or Pre-AP load of classes? What extra-curricular activities really speak to them? Do they know how to be team players? Was joining the cross-country team a mistake? That's when kids figure out if they really actually like music, the horn, or band - and that definitely includes marching band.
By the end of 9th grade, a horn player will know if he or she wants to be serious on the instrument or not.
10th grade starts, and essentially students get a do-over. This year students can accomplish the things they wished they could've pulled off in 9th grade. The 10th grader is in better control of what he or she does, yet there is still a whole world of learning ahead. After that, the diligent ones work very hard through their last two years of school. And the ones who want to have fun in band... well they just keep on having fun. (And why not?)
Ok, what do I expect from my students?
For my 6th-8th graders: I expect them to learn openly and enjoy themselves in the realm of music. If they don't enjoy themselves in band then it's a good time to get out of band (or maybe learn how to enjoy hard work).
9th graders: I expect them to work hard to survive that brutal year. I expect them to know themselves better at the end of this year. I expect that by May, their future dreams will crystalize in their minds. I expect them to begin picturing what they truly want in life, and then resolve to go get it.
10th-12th graders: I expect them to be truly 'serious' students. They know the game and how to play it. It's up to them to achieve what they want.
This is what I expect from my kids.