A Summer Recap
Friday, August 19, 2011 • 10:33am
So another summer is coming quietly to a close. Anyone who has tried driving anywhere besides the Parkway on weekends knows what I’m talking about. I was in and out of the city so fast last night I felt like I was committing a crime.
Never fear – the bustle of September is never far away. But, as we head back to school, sports and our regular cadre of extra-curricular activities, I’d like to take a brief moment to look fondly back at another crazy summer of music and theater camps.
1. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my performing arts teaching career, it’s that kids are always capable of much more than you or even they think they are. I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve never subtracted material from arts camps but I’ve often added material. For the record, I have removed certain pieces for specific reasons, but never without replacing them with other pieces.
2. Performing arts kids don’t notice differences among each other. It’s not that they don’t care about their differences or accept others in spite of their differences. They literally don’t seem to notice them. This idea becomes more and more obvious to me every year.
3. Although it’s important to work with the kids on material they already like and are familiar with, it is equally if not more important to expose them to material that they don’t know. A positive experience learning and performing new material inevitably means that they will love the new material as much or more than what they already knew.
4. Most kids mature very quickly when given a great deal of responsibility. Choose your student assistants carefully. If you think you don’t need a student assistant, consider using one anyway. Your program will benefit in the long term, and, more importantly, so will the child.
5. Kids love being challenged, and they always rise to the occasion. The one exception to the rule is if you actually let them know that you are challenging them. In that case, most kids put up a wall in their brain that convinces them that they are not up to the task. Just give them the challenging material and have fun working on it. You will be surprised.
So there’s my two cents. Enjoy going back to school!
Joe Elefante has traveled 4 continents as a pianist, saxophonist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He has musically directed, conducted or played countless musical theater productions, including several at the Paper Mill Playhouse and Jersey Boys on Broadway and National Tour. Joe founded the Joe Elefante Big Band in 2001, which was the house band at Cecil's Jazz Club for three years, and was featured on ABC's Nightline and in The Wall Street Journal. Currently, Joe is a freelance composer/arranger/ performer, is very active as a school clinician and is Artistic Director of Elefante Music & School for the Performing Arts.
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