Expertise Cannot Be Earned as a student. We must test our academic ideas in the real world.
I recently had a lot of time to think and reflect while driving home from the convention circuit, so I went LIVE in the Choralsophers FB group to discuss some reactions to audience feedback from the Success Rubrics episode. One of the ideas that drew the most attention, is that the primacy of the “degree” as a success marker may not be the best way for us to structure our professional spaces and organizations. So, with comments coming in to the chat while driving, (do not try this at home, I am a trained professional) I reflected further on this issue. As always, let’s keep the conversation going!
And other silly traps we fall in to due to the nature of our job and its subsequent ego pitfalls. Tune in for this short reflection on the overbearing conductor stereotype. I think it’s possible that we don’t appreciate what constantly having our job evaluated in front of people does to our Psyche…
I say it’s steering them. And I think that’s bad news. I believe that Social Media has a tremendous upside and potential for good. But only if it is reflective of the common humanity that we experience when we are in person. My concern is that this has been reversed. That, as we begin to return to in person activities, we will have centered our social media conversations as the “Conversation of Record” in our professional space. For healthy balance to be restored, we will need to get to work to reverse this.
See below a recent post on the Choralosophers FB Page.
Colleagues- we can’t let Facebook steer the ship in our profession. The errors of cognitive processing below are so much easier to avoid in person and/or if you know how to look for them. I’m working on a non-music specific Choralosophy Podcast blog and episode complete with expert guest Dr. Erec Smith on the subsequent changes to our communication habits (which spill into our classrooms as well as broader life…) This post is intended to provide some choir specific context.
Just a few of many Human Psychological processes that social media apps actively manipulate:
1. Availability heuristic- if you see the bad thing constantly on your phone, the brain places it in a category that is the same as “existential danger etc.” The thing may be very real and very bad, but it isn’t as prevalent as the phone makes it seem.
2. Anchoring bias- the first context you see something in, or the first fact you see is disproportionately hard to shake when new info arrives. (This is exploited when you rely on a small group of sources for info)
3. Audience effect- every interaction is perverted by an audience. Because the conversations are not between two people. They are between two people with an audience watching. Which means both participants in the conversation feel a very strong pull to perform. It becomes disproportionately important to us to appear to be a good member of our team. And often, the easiest way to do that is to be seen attacking the “other team.”Social media could be a powerful tool for good, and in many ways it is. But, the bad will outweigh the good if the next generation of kids is not taught how to spot and avoid these traps.
One of the most common questions I get from choir teachers is “How do I get my kids to sing louder?! I beg and I plead, but they just don’t make any noise.”
The first mistake you made was the begging and pleading. The second mistake was asking for louder. If kids aren’t singing with enough decibels for your liking, they don’t know how. Trust me. If they did, you will be spending most of your time getting them to shut up and sing softer! Once kids figure this out, they LOVE to hear their own resonance. Tune in for some ideas on my preferred approach.
Once you establish these expectations, the next step is accountability. This is where your grading system is HUGE. Once they know how to sing this way, continuing to do so becomes part of their grade. See more about this system here:
Many people use the term “elitist” to describe aspects of choral music.
The problem, as I see it is that this term means different things to different people. So in this short verbal essay, I reflect on the need to be specific when we criticize. I also discuss some places that I see Elitism in choral music. From the teacher training programs to the trenches of the profession, as well as in conversations on what it means to be a “great” choir. Should we avoid language that seeks to elevate some choral ensembles as “great” and risk creating an elitist culture? Or, is such a hierarchy a necessary outgrowth of working toward performance art related goals? *audio on this episode is not normal. I am traveling!
Some possible areas that draw this type of critique:
The concept of “what it means to be a good choir.”
How much focus gets placed on musical elements being “perfect.”
How does Academia contribute to elitism in the training of teachers?
Are there aspects of teaching “in the trenches” that are hard to see until you’re there?
Tune in via podcast platforms or on YouTube for the first volley of the conversation. Then feel free to add your thoughts in the Choralosophers facebook group or in the response form on the main page of choralosophy.com
The hot topic this week has been choir snobbery online in regards to pop music, or commercial music. I think this is an important topic, but as always, I have my own little angle that might be different than most. It could be that telling people what they must support can be just as elitist as not supporting things. I will call it “Preference Policing.” So, where is the line?
Can we express our likes and dislikes just like other consumers of music?
Or do we, as music educators need to vocally “cheerlead” all music?
Is the tendency for vocalists to nitpick the techniques or “validity” of pop singers a sign of our corruptly elitist view of singing?
Maybe. But it could also be that we’re just jealous…
I saw a few posts from colleagues recently that seemed to lament our inability to have good discussions among people who disagree online. The first problem: we aren’t actually having discussions anymore…
The best conversations I’ve ever had with colleagues have been in the bar at conventions. Or on my show!
Just a random rant in my car. As performance opportunities dwindled over the last year, we have been quick to rationalize this as a good thing. Maybe because we needed to in order to cope with the loss? Either way, maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe the performances are critical.