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Solo performance is one of the last things we should be preparing students for. Part 2/2

There are so many goals modern music students have that traditional formal recitals are disconnected from. Students want to produce music. Compose video game music. Make music with friends in bands or chamber ensembles. Formal traditional recitals are unlikely to be helpful towards these goals.

Yet the studio recital persists. Well intentioned teachers are unaware of how to teach musical understanding, or unaware that it can be taught at all. Well intentioned parents often don’t know how to gauge the effectiveness of their child’s lessons other than through a year end formal recital. Teachers believe they have to provide exciting recital performances in order to retain students. And on and on it goes, while students’ needs remain unmet.

I’m not arguing that studio recitals need to be replaced, just properly contextualized. Informal performances can be an actual celebration of music rather than a pretend one. I’m happy to report that musical understanding can be taught, and there are other useful metrics parents can use to gauge lesson effectiveness. Students can learn a basic vocabulary of rhythm and tonal patterns with which to create their own music. They can learn folk tunes for spontaneous ensemble improvisations. They can learn to play in various tonalities and keyalities to give their own spin to familiar tunes and accommodate players of other instruments.

There is a place for traditional formal recitals. But when the studio recital is the goal instead of long-term music learning, that’s a problem. Please, parents: allow teachers to take the time to provide students with what they need. Please, teachers: teach music in a way that allows students to think and create and make it their own. Structure their learning so that everything they learn becomes a foundation to learn something else. Let’s not be stuck in traditional structures that aren’t serving the purpose of music learning.

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