Students need to be not only accessed, but also engaged and nurtured
Working with teenage singers in a choir is somewhat similar to accessing the apps on your iPhone. If you have twenty-eight students, each one has different physical characteristics, answers to different names, possesses divergent strengths and weaknesses, and operates somewhat differently within your choir.
Think of your 28 students as that collection of apps you see every time you look at your phone. You access them for different tasks, work with them in different ways, and accomplish various and unique goals with each one. Each interfaces with your phone (choir) in slightly – or totally – different ways. There are advantages and limitations of each.
Similar to working with students in choir, right? Yes, indeed, but there needs to be a significant difference. What appears on our phones are apps, mini-programs to be “used” freely for what we need to have happen accurately and as quickly as possible.
What appears in our choir lofts are people; teenagers who need to be accessed not for what we can get from them but, rather, what we can help them become for their own wellbeing, development, and contributions to our world.
What’s the difference, we might ask? I believe there is a huge difference.,
We have all probably known choir directors through the years who are absolutely amazing at winning the hearts of students, accessing their musical abilities, teaching them large amounts of material, and staging them in highly creative ways. However, sometimes these talented directors are using the students more than developing them, accessing their talents for the build-up of the director’s little choral kingdom, dominating program, or legendary reputation. The students produced are great ego-builders for the director and his/her list of successes. In some cases, it really can become all about the director and the program as a whole and very little about the overall good of the whole student.
What director among us does not get a personal charge by seeing our students succeed, whether individually or as a choral group? Let’s be honest; all of us love seeing that happen, as we rightly should. We invest ourselves highly into our students. We feel personal satisfaction when they succeed, and we share a sense of personal failure when they goof off and fail to realize their full potential. As directors, it’s only human nature to feel that kind of personal investment which leads to times of joy as well as disappointment.
It is critical in our teaching and ministry that we regularly enact checks and balances on our personal egos, lest we begin to think that what we’re doing is all about us. Seeking and discovering that mystical balance between personal investment and setting the student free will not only help the students to find themselves, but it will help us to become better educators and mentors, as well.
Passion. Ego. Selflessness. Excellence. These are only four of the many qualities that need to be balanced in order for us to do a good job teaching students. You could easily add four or fourteen more essentials. And just as we work to balance SATB voice in choral singing to created beautiful harmonies, choral nuances, and harmonic overtones, so will we also need to constantly watch, listen, and balance our motivations for the work with do with adolescents.
When we find that proper balance, everyone involved is enriched, blest, affirmed, encouraged, and inspired.
Founder & President, YouthCUE & Minister of Music & Worship at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX
Prior to devoting his full-time efforts to YouthCUE beginning in 2005, Randy served for more than thirty years as minister of music at First Baptist Church San Antonio, First Baptist Church Shreveport, Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and currently at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio. He served as Chorusmaster of the Shreveport Opera Company from 1991-1999.
He has composed twenty-one published choral anthems and has authored the most comprehensive textbook to date on youth choir ministry, entitled, Revealing Riches and Building Lives: Youth Choir Ministry in the New Millennium. With more than six hundred articles published in over thirty publications, Randy Edwards is one of the premiere specialists in youth choir ministry today. He is sought widely as a conductor, clinician, consultant, and teacher.