Making Music Lessons Cool (Avoiding Stigma)
Every music instructor faces it. Whether you teach public school orchestra or band, or you provide private lessons, the stigma that music lessons aren’t cool can be difficult to avoid. And although it typically stems from unacknowledged jealousy, the impression pops up in each new generation, year after year. And it’s the rare student who isn’t affected by peer pressure, at least partially.
However, you can help avoid the stigma associated with studying music by structuring your classroom and lesson plan around things that students consider cool. Children and adolescents face so many pressures these days that you can actually take advantage of that fact and use your music course as a sanctuary. By making lesson plans fun and creating a hip and happening environment, your students will be able to say that their class is cool. (Only, don’t use words like ‘hip’ or ‘far out’… these have the tendency to produce giant eye rolls.)
Impressions Are Visual—Make Your Environment Cool
As an instructor, you can make music cool by using a number of visual techniques. The images your students (and non-students) see in your class create an impression. One either that promotes a cool environment, or feeds into the stigma of music class being a bunch of boring, unpronounceable songs written by weird-looking guys who are long dead. Although a few students can appreciate the genius and virtuosity of those masters, most will simply revert to that eye-roll mentioned before. Therefore, decorate you classroom with cool images.
You can find playbills, posters, and other items to adorn your classroom that will inspire your students. Indeed, it’s a great idea to get information from your students concerning your classroom makeover. Perhaps you might even make it a class project. The idea is to make your music environment a place that appears inviting.
Mix instructional aids with images of the hottest music stars of today, or deck your walls with great players from former decades. For example, a large poster of Jimmy Hendrix with psychedelic sound waves emanating from his guitar or an album shot of the ‘Fab Four’ both have a timeless, fairly high ‘cool-factor.’ You can find vintage posters that are outrageously expensive, or opt for the more affordable copies available.
The Sound of Success—Update Your Lessons with Popular Tunes
Making your environment a cool place to play and practice is a good first step, but you should follow up that step by structuring or modifying your lessons so that your students get to practice music that they like. Amazon offers a wide selection of the most popular songs transposed for violin and orchestral sheet music, but if your funds are limited, there are some free sources online as well.
When your students talk about their music lessons, they’ll be able to explain that they are learning the latest tunes. Plus, learning to play the most popular music will encourage students to practice more at home, so your ensemble will improve by leaps and bounds.
Now that you’ve updated your classroom and music, you can further avoid the stigma that music education is boring by scheduling and organizing lots of programs to show off your students’ abilities. Performers love to perform, and it’s no fun knowing a bunch of great songs without the ability to show off, right?
Arrange for as many recitals and concerts as you possibly can without overloading your players (or their parents), and choose venues that will excite your students. Don’t forget to try to schedule summer performances, too.
By making your music class a place that students can relate to, you’re developing the impression that music is cool (because it is!) and providing a location where students feel exempt from daily pressures. This type of approach will produce long-term benefits through improved retention and a more dedicated group of players. Moreover, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re developing a life-long love of music in your students.