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Teacher's Corner: Inspiring Your Orchestra Students After A School Break

The holidays are exhausting. It seems everyone needs a little post-vacation vacation. Wrangling students back into attention and getting them motivated for the next semester can be a challenge. Here are five ways you can inspire your students to get focused and achieve great things before summer break.

Get them excited about a big event

What's the biggest event on the orchestra's spring semester schedule? Perhaps you're planning to attend and compete at the National Orchestra Festival. If not, then perhaps the kids need to prepare to send in an application to attend the 2020 competition ­– applications are due by April 15, 2019! 

If they don't need to prepare for a big competition, perhaps there's a major performance. Is your spring performance also a fundraiser? Would it be valuable to broaden its exposure to the local community beyond parents? Set some new goals around their big performance to breath new some life into the experience. 

Empower them to set their own goals 

In fact, you might start the new semester by having your students set group and individual goals for themselves. If they do want to broaden the audience for their performances, task them with putting together a committee to handle social media promotion and public relations of the performance. 

Ask each student to write down their own personal music goal for the semester, with a plan on how they'll achieve it. They don't need to share it with everyone, but you can help them refine their plans. 

Introduce them to new, innovative artists 

Ease them into things by showing some videos of inspiring artists. It could be the latest from a group they might already know, like 2Cellos. Here's their version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," from their newest release Let There Be Cello. 

Or you can show a few video performances of up-and-coming professional musicians, like Black Violin. Here's their latest video "Dreamer."

Give them a fun first assignment 

Raise the kids' excitement level by giving them a first assignment they'll love to do. You can ask them to put together a short video about what inspires them musically. You can give them some pointed guidance, like having them create the video on what inspires them about their instrument, about performing, about music, or about what musicians inspire them. Or leave it open-ended and let yourself get inspired by whatever they come up with.  

Let them achieve a quick win 

Is there some great piece they can learn and master quickly? It could be an orchestral version of a popular song (check out these lists of popular songs for strings here and here, for some ideas). 

If you want to stay with classical music: Are there passages from larger, more complicated works, that they can learn quickly? They may not be ready to take on the full composition, but it can be a great confidence booster to master one of the piece’s simpler passages.  

Inspire as you have the kids buckle down 

Whatever inspiring first-week-back lesson plan you select, make sure it incorporates re-establishing the behavioral norms you have for your class and orchestra. They can have fun and be inspired, all while arriving on time, being respectful of their fellow students, and keeping the rehearsal room organized! So, re-acquaint them, in a light, respectful way, of what you expect from them. Rules may not be inspiring, but creating a space where kids can explore is. 

If you're still searching for back-to-school inspiration options, here are five more ways to motivate students after winter break.

Sponsored by Thomastik-Infeld.

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