We would all agree that the responsibilities of a successful music teacher extend far beyond the podium. Aspiring young music educators are required to study all aspects of music history, theory, form and analysis, composition, rehearsal techniques, orchestration, curriculum development, acoustics, and a host of related subjects. The development of the music teacher as a “leader” is often overlooked or discounted as an area outside the realm of musical expertise needed to be a professional success.
Times have changed. The inner desire to participate and contribute to a quality ensemble is still a high priority of young music makers; however, the process to achieve this end has shifted dramatically over the last few decades. In the past, students were expected to be obedient, focused, and dedicated to excellence. If they did not oblige, strong disciplinary measures were often brought to bear. Such extrinsic, imposed control became the admired standard as a requisite for musical success. An all-or-nothing approach is not as well received by today’s students. Although the quest for musical excellence is still at the forefront of their desired goals, the journey (process) is equally as important as the destination (product). One of core elements of SLAM is helping teachers discover the synergy between the music and the people. There is a shift from the authoritarian to the music educator who is concerned about the overall welfare of each musician while maintaining the group’s high artistic standards, both on and off the podium.
There is an important difference that exists between the demand for excellence and the desire for excellence. While both avenues may produce the same results, the impact on the participants often dictates their future commitment to the ensemble. For example, a director-enforced rehearsal atmosphere can (and often does) produce an outstanding ensemble; the demand for excellence is recognized by the students/members and they behave; accordingly, often this is to avoid any negative reprimands generated by the director. The second example is a student-imposed disciplined atmosphere leading to a similar quality performance; however, the rehearsal environment is a reflection of both the musicians’ and the director’s agreed-upon intent. Moreover, the desire for excellence shifts more of the responsibility back to the members of the group.