Some general thoughts and considerations on the imporance of choosing appropriate repertoire for long term investment
Every year we are faced with the perplexing issue of repertoire choice. What concerns/needs/pre-conceived notions will drive our choices? Do the following questions sound familiar?
- Will my students like the works I choose? Why?
- Will the works I choose have relevance?
- Do the students know the works, and does this matter?
- Do I like the works I choose? Why?
- Is teaching music through my repertoire choices an important consideration? Why, and how will I plan for this?
- Will the school, family and community approve of my choices? Is this important?
- What is the overall technical strength of my ensemble? Is this important?
- How long will it take me to teach my repertoire choices? Is this important?
- What are this year’s priorities and commitments?
- Where do I see my ensemble’s position at the end of the term? At the end of the year?
The importance of repertoire choice forms a vital link to achieving our overall educational philosophy and goals. It is essential therefore that we choose works from a broad base of significant, rewarding repertoire as a part of our teaching matrix, as this selection provides the necessary material for applying the skills and practical knowledge we are attempting to share through our rehearsal process.
If the purpose of music education is to stimulate, nurture and enhance the creativity, the imagination and the expressive abilities of our students, then the use of significant repertoire is an absolute necessity toward assisting us in achieving these lofty goals.
If we are to nurture a life-long love affair with music and the attendant creative process necessary for significant performance, we will need to search out and acquire repertoire, which by it's very nature intrinsically motivates through providing inspirational opportunities for exercising both technical and expressive skills.
To achieve this goal we will need to embrace four foundational beliefs, which in turn inform our music performance curriculum.
- The process of nurturing students through making and sharing music is more important than preparing for concerts, festivals, tours or contests.
- The long-term value of music education is greater than the entertainment value, which is often a high priority for families or school administrators.
- The long-term benefits of music education for our students is much more important than the short-term rewards of a concert, tour or festival participation.
- And lastly, the quality of the student’s music education is directly related to the quality of the repertoire (and applied learning processes), which they will regularly study and perform!
It is essential that we consider the importance of making appropriate and informed choices in repertoire selection, for every decision or choice we make as educators, whether it is musical or ‘extra-musical’ is a direct reflection of our values. In the case of repertoire selection the critical balance between aesthetic criteria and personal taste is a direct reflection of that value system. While aesthetic values may be more easily agreed upon, the issue of personal taste is more difficult to define. However, 'personal taste' may constitute the most important issue in the overall equation.
We must possess a basic understanding of how our chosen repertoire serves both our musical and non-musical educational agenda. In other words, we ought to look at our repertoire as a 'vehicle' that will transport our ensemble to its next musical and educational destination.
Please stay tuned in for my next installment on the importance of repertoire selection.
In my next post we will explore some specific criteria to keep in mind while making informed choices.