How do we blaze a trail as performers? As students? As teachers? What is that next step that will set us apart?
As performers and students, we need to focus on things other than learning the skills needed to pass a test, win a competition, and get into college.
As teachers, we need to be able to do something other than “teach to the test” or to prepare students for solo-ensemble, or the NATS auditions, or the upcoming recital.
Okay, I’m guilty of that. To a certain extent. But I can explain.
As a performance-oriented teaching artist, I seem to always have something to work toward. A competition, an audition, a recital, both for myself and for my students. But I do hope that my students aren’t working just toward completing those tasks, but discovering the process that is needed for them to take the next step in their performing lives. And I hope that I’m making that clear to them in helping them in that preparation.
If we merely follow the path without blazing the trail, nothing new happens.
Seth Godin is not a fan of traditional education. His belief is that traditional education follows a path, and doesn’t create trailblazers. Which is why he’s developed his Alt-MBA program, with the idea that we need to take the next step beyond merely learning enough to ace a test, to become independent thinkers and innovators.
In his November 10, 2021 blogpost, School vs. Progess, Godin outlines the difference between maintaining the status quo (school) and taking the next step (progress). I’ve added a column of how I think the next step pertains to us as performers, and I think we can apply that to teaching performers as well. (And in case you might say, “Okay, your words are just synonyms for the ones in the previous column,” I’m attaching definitions to tell you why they’re not.)
|Correct||Possible||Imaginable (or better yet, see below)|
As artists, we do have goals to achieve. We have competitions, we have auditions, we have assignments in our classes and lessons that we have to complete and master in order to get to the next level. And as teachers, we have to prepare our students for those events. But if the goal is just to get through it and get it done, without taking anything from it that, it’s just a treadmill. We might as well be working as cashiers at Target, putting in 8 hours and then going home.
(This is not a denigration of Target cashiers. I was one in high school and college.)
When you are on stage, are you just putting in your time and going through the motions? Are you following, leading, or responding? Are you copying, innovating, or interpreting? Are you doing what’s correct, finding what’s possible, or letting your imagination run free? (Or as I love to say in lessons, “what would happen if….?”)