Tomorrow is the big Christmas concert at school. My students in grades K-5 have been practicing for six weeks to prepare two songs per group (they are broken into four groups). They have attained a variety of musical objectives along this journey from as small as identifying the genre of spiritual and the background of a song to learning the song from scratch by reading the rhythms and melody off the staff (grade 2!!). They have been working very hard to build strong, in-tune singing voices. They have played instruments as simple as a chord bordun and as difficult as a syncopated pattern. They have listened, reflected, compared and contrasted. They have viewed other versions of their piece on youtube and have listened to other versions without visuals. The children have gone up and down choral risers for two weeks. And now, it is time.
Music programs, for me, are a reflection of the learning that has occurred in the music classroom, not merely standing up and singing pretty songs. Each song has a meaning that the children delve into from both a theoretical and philosophical standpoint. (For example, when singing Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow-how do we as the “angels” in Luke 2 convince these shepherds to leave their precious sheep and go see a baby, even if it is the Saviour!)
However, as we approach the concert day, I fear not of the success of the performance. I know our children are prepared and will be successful in a variety of ways. They will attain success by having learned so many things and by demonstrating the courage to stand before their peers and elders and performing. I will be incredibly proud, I already am. But my fears lay deeply in the response to our performance. There are many out there who have expectations for performance that I do not understand. Many whom will not truly understand all of the things our children have gained in the preparation process. Many whom will see the parts rather than the whole. And many whom will leave lovely “suggestions” in my inbox before Christmas break. It is this response that gives me anxiety and keeps me from truly enjoying my student’s success.
A dear friend said, “just tell them everything you told me” when I explained my anxiety and my joy of my students learning. I think I am a place where I feel comfortable addressing unfounded or uneducated criticism. I believe that I can share with these critics what has been learned while at the same time respecting their opinions and expectations, however misguided. I know that in the end, all that matters is that the children feel they have had a positive experience.
But in the meantime, the next 24 hours will be only slightly frought with nerves…