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How do we help students become true musicians?

Updated: Jan 24

As music educators, we address the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards in our classrooms — creating, performing and responding. The fourth standard of connecting often gets overlooked because of budget constraints or difficulty in measurement. Maybe the challenges from the pandemic and solutions in addressing ensemble music education virtually have shown a path to incorporating connection as part of comprehensive musicianship in the curriculum.


Certainly, students in traditional and emerging ensemble music need to conceptualize, develop and refine artistic work. The second stage of interpreting artistic work; understanding the artist’s manipulation of the elements and the context of the work; learning to make interpretative decisions with expressive intent and refining those techniques enhance the level of performance standards. In learning to respond, students must analyze the work and context, discern the artist’s expressive intent and evaluate musical works and performances on established criteria.


How do we assure students become true musicians connecting their personal interests, lived experiences and ideas into the first three standards? We want students to relate their artistic ideas to societal, cultural and historical context and enrich the other arts in relation to how they respond to music. We do this through performance, not just for parents to see “their kids play/perform,” but to give the students a breadth of opportunity to become true musicians.


In-person music instruction may be in-person. If so, it will be chopped up by segmented (A-B hybrid) scheduling. Still, it is quite feasible to teach the first three standards in this environment. We need to continue to use tools such as Our Virtual Ensemble to provide students the experience of audio and video production, filming themselves, self evaluation, and improving their personal performance to surpass their current education level.

In the midst of struggling to meet these three standards–with or without a pandemic–educators still need to foster connection.


Zone concerts can provide a strong sense of connections to the older or younger performers in the immediate area. These gatherings provide the musician the opportunity to experience a variety of performing arts. They connect the educators as well as the parents. However, it doesn’t look like we’ll be gathering in gyms or auditoriums for some time to come.


As with the genesis of OVE, our team is looking at how to best facilitate this experience in the virtual space. The OVE platform can be utilized to virtually produce these zone concerts and foster cooperation, collaboration, and connection amongst the participants. Encouraging any connection we can make right now is paramount to the success of keeping music education alive and keeping our performers excited about their journey.

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