Avoiding a Plateau

By Eric Rokohl posted 03-29-2013 14:35

Being an percussionist and an educator in a small community can be difficult for any number of reasons. One of the big reasons for me is that I have no personal musical outlet. Not only that, there is no one around for a hundred miles to help teach me, either. Because of this, it has been difficult to find ways to keep my technical skills sharp while being a middle school band director, but I definitely believe it is possible.

One of the biggest struggles is time. Band directors and music educators are busy. Period. Between lesson/rehearsal plans, festivals, after-school football games, concerts, sectionals, jazz bands, drum line rehearsals, there is very little time left to eat, much less practice. But we have to realize that our continual musical development is essential for our students, as well as our continued love of the art. If we are not in constant pursuit of greatness in our art form, how then can we expect to teach that kind of passion to our students?  The only answer then, is to make the time. I have decided upon two practice sessions- and I commit to at least one. For example, there are times when I have to make a billion copies or catch up on score study or spend time with a student, but it is a rare occasion for me to not practice at all on a weekday. I could write a whole blog about time-management, but that will have to wait for another day. I'll keep it simple- you just gotta make the time. It's important. Do it.

The second struggle, especially in a smaller community, is resources. If you're reading this, you've got a great start, because PAS is one of the better resources. But just one is probably not going to be enough- at least for continual growth. Finding multiple resources that work for you also takes time- take an afternoon and dedicate yourself to finding some. YouTube channels, PAS, Drumchattr.com, and various percussion companies are resources for bettering your skills at any level. Get books. Read blogs (from lots of places!). Talk to people- there are TONS of forums out there (including the one here!).

Now that you have made the time, you've found the resources, and you know what you would like to work on: stay focused. Especially with percussion, it can be easy to say, "Well, I want to work on conga, vibraphone, snare drum, and tabla technique." Like I said, one of the biggest issues for us is time, so spreading yourself thin will result in little to no growth. Work on one thing at a time. Maybe start with vibes and work through the entire Friedman book before moving on to try and learn tabla on your own (although I've heard that is close to impossible... but I've never tried). The idea here is steady growth, not immediate mastery in all aspects of the art form.

Last, but certainly not least: listen. Listen and watch good players play good music. Even in the middle of nowhere you have access to numerous ways to listen. Many colleges live-stream their concerts for most of their performing groups. I can listen to percussion ensembles in California live from my living room in central Texas. And I don't even have to wear pants!

Your continued musical development as an educator is just as important (if not more important!) as the growth of your students. By practicing and listening regularly, we can help fight against burnout and keep our motivation for teaching pushing forward.

#Pedagogy #Education #Motivation #practice