TSWBAT: What do I want my students to do?

Last week, I read Thomas J. West’s excellent post at Alfred Leger Lines blog, “What Should Every Graduating Senior in a Performing Arts Program Should Be Able To Do?”

Mr. West outlines four primary goals for all of his ensemble students by the time they graduate. These include high proficiency on their primary instrument, improvisation over basic chord changes (not only in jazz), composition of a four-part quartet for their primary instrument, and the ability to record, mix, edit, and master audio.

As a pre-service teacher in my professional semester, the thought of teaching students to do one of those things in 4 years is daunting enough. I’d love to see more of Mr. West’s curriculum and how he puts this into action!

What I’ve realized, though, is how important skills like these are for a life of rich music experiences. This last week, I introduced a fifth grade band to solfege and we began to use it to read and listen to music. It was more than playing exercises in their method books. These students were beginning to make music! Sure, there’s not a lot of lasting quality in having students play the chorus to “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, but they were making music and loving it!

At the end of the day, I want to know that my students can do more than join a community choir or municipal band, but be active music-makers and partake in a musically productive life!

My work as a music educator is more than putting on programs for parents, and more than making great music with students. My work as a music educator is to make musicians! The goals Mr. West lays out do just that!

I don’t know how I will survive my student teaching or first year of teaching, but eventually, these will be my goals. To build in students the desire and ability to create music of their own.

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