Happy New Year! This time of the year is one of my favorites because life offers an empty slate. There’s unlimited room for hopes and possibilities, and we are all given a chance to start over and make a better life for ourselves. As music educators, heading into the new year means a very busy spring semester filled with show choir competitions, musical rehearsals, spring concerts, and preparing for the next school year. How can we approach spring semester with an open mind and clean slate while keeping up with the busyness of life? I was in choir during every year of school, and I majored in music in college, so I understand the desire for a fresh start while also needing to stay on track and continue pushing through very busy seasons. Here are a few things I tried to keep in mind when music education was the focus of my life.
Working hard makes life more fun.
Thinking back to show choir competition season, I know there were days when I didn’t feel like giving 100% in a rehearsal. There were days I was so exhausted that I didn’t feel like being in rehearsal at all. But laziness was a bottomless pit of disappointment and further exhaustion, and our directors would not stand for it. I’m so thankful for that. The harder we worked, the more fun our rehearsals and performances were. We put energy and heart into our competition set, and when we worked our butts off in rehearsal, competition was way more fun because we weren’t stressed about lack of preparation. As a college music student, my recitals and big performances were usually in the spring, and I had to remind myself OFTEN that hard work now would allow me to enjoy my performances later.
Practicing is the only way to improve.
Often times when we start a new year, we set a million goals for ourselves to be a better person. As a musician, our new year’s resolutions usually involve practicing more and devoting more time to growing as a musician. Speaking from personal experience… this resolution fell through the cracks pretty quickly. But I urge other musicians and music educators to remind themselves and their students of the fact that practicing is truly the only way to get better. We have to put in time, energy, and a whole lot of effort if we want to improve as individual musicians and as an ensemble.
Ask for help when you need it.
Notice I didn’t say “if.” There will be times when you need help starting a rehearsal, getting the room cleaned up after rehearsal, sewing a few extra buttons onto suit jackets, and doing a million little things that make a performance ensemble successful. Ask for help. Your students are capable of far more than singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. If they are given the chance to help with other aspects of their success, they will have the opportunity to see what ACTUALLY goes into putting them at the top of their game. Parents want to help. Your student teacher wants to help. Your kids want to help. Ask them!
It seems obvious, but I know it can be hard to remember to have fun when you’re in the middle of a chaotic spring semester. Remember that you are changing kids’ lives by being a music educator, and if you allow yourself to have fun, they will enjoy making music even more. At the end of the day, if your kids learned a lot and enjoyed making music together, I would say you’ve done the most important parts of your job.