| February 28, 2011

It all started some weeks ago when, over dinner, a friend of mine admitted to me confidentially “You, know I could never sing…” Self deprecation in most cases is a sign of modesty that is to be held in high esteem; however this is the sort of phrase that causes me to cringe every time.   I think this is because I believe it is a phrase that is said a little too often.  My dad, in fact, marvels that both my brother, my sister, and I all enjoy singing because, in his words “I suck at singing!”  My dad has in fact tells  a story that has been brazened in his mind about when, as a seventh grader, his music teacher asked him to “consider another club” because his voice wasn’t “quite right” for the glee club.  My dad wasn’t trying out for a solo part; he just wanted to be in the after-school choir!

Rejection is a natural part of school.  In fact, its a necessary part of life.  But as a music educator, I think it is of absolute importance that we are very careful about the way we dole out criticism.  This, I believe starts with our attitude from the outset. When I begin a lesson with a new student who has never sung before, I begin with the following: “Singing is state of mind. Its a matter of confidence. You can sing. Lets begin.”

Most of the time my new student isn’t Pavarotti. My dad is certainly no Jennifer Holiday. But with a tweak to the way we galvanize and critique our students, we can more readily allow all of our students to both explore the outer bounds of their talent, and enjoy it while they do so.