Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Today marked the last week of teaching for Fall Semester. Finals are next week, and in the music world that means juries. Juries are our version of final exams, and it's where you sing for your supper, or play for your grade, or pay the piper, depending on which analogy you prefer and how much you've practiced over the past thirteen weeks.
I've dutifully had the jury talk with every new student, laying out step by step what to do and what to expect. I even take the time to present possible alternate scenarios, on the off-chance that a faculty member might want to shake things up a bit. I tell every student "we WANT you to do a good job....we are on YOUR side..." but I'm not sure they believe it sometimes.
One of my new students asked me today, "just how HARD are juries?" I looked at him a bit confused, and asked, "what do you mean by HARD?" I said, "Their degree of difficulty is directly proportional to how much you've worked over the semester." My student nodded his head. "I've just heard all these horror stories about juries and how HARD they are."
I was crushed. Hard? We practically hold their hand and ask if they would like a warm washcloth to make it all better. We want them to succeed. We WILL them to succeed. We're not always successful, but every single time we'd rather see students do well than make a big mess all over the place.
We talked about stage performances, juries and students. I explained right now the stress level was pretty high, what with last week of class and rehearsal/performance-palooza at hand. My student nodded and said he understood, adding, "At this time of year it's pretty stressful, and I heard that if students don't sing well, you YELL."
For the record, I have never raised my voice to these children, and I explained that very fact to the student asking me these questions. I did admit, however, that if a student wasn't working anywhere near their personal level of expectation, I had no problem whatsoever letting them know that and offering very pointed and specific opinions of what needed to be done immediately. But the message was always delivered in a quiet steady voice of doom, not a booming voice of hysteria.
I was a little disappointed that anyone would think I had raised my voice to them, but secretly pleased that my powers of intimidation were not only being noticed, but feared.
THAT is the sign of a true teacher...and a true Diva.