Greetings from Hilton Head Island, SC! It’s a beautiful day, and it has been a beautiful week. I’m enjoying my coffee and taking in the view from the porch…life is good!

Unfortunately, I was not able to participate in the #MusEdChat on Monday, so this will be a different kind of reflection! It’ll be like having a #MusEdChat by myself, which is not entirely exciting…but it will have to do!

The topic was: What activities help music teachers build a sense of community & nurture the social aspect of music-making in their classrooms/ensembles?

I think one of the best aspects of being in an ensemble is the social interaction and bonds we make with other musicians. Some of my closest friends came from participating in ensembles, however, I never acknowledged that a teacher could be responsible for creating this kind of comfortable, social environment.

In my college choirs, we had mandatory retreats at the beginning of each semester. The main purpose of these retreats was to set aside substantial time outside of class time to really work on our music, solidifying notes and rhythms to utilize rehearsal times for the details. The other purpose was to get to know the people you are singing with and build a community. It’s actually quite humorous how college and graduate students still find “getting to know you games” and team-building activities fun and amusing. Retreats ended up being something I looked forward to, regardless that they’d be held on Friday nights for a few hours.

In my smaller ensembles, we were able to do more social activities together, such as dinner after rehearsal, etc. I found that my smaller ensemble was a closer group of students because we worked so closely together. When my chamber choir was first started, our director organized a retreat where we went to see a community theatre show, stayed overnight in a hotel, and went to a nearby church the next day for our extra rehearsal. No one really knew each other prior to the retreat, but after we returned to school we became great friends. Our community established in rehearsals carried on outside of school.

Now that I think about it, I realize that part of the reason I switched my focus area in school was because of the community in the ensembles. I began as a double bass major, having loved orchestra in high school and enjoyed playing the instrument. In college I participated in both the orchestra and choir, but had completely different experiences in each. There really was no social aspect or sense of community in the orchestra. Students showed up at 4:00 when rehearsal started, and left immediately at 6 when it ended. I know that the social aspect is not what one should base total enjoyment on, but for I found it hard to enjoy playing music with people I didn’t know. My choir experiences were so much more intimate and rewarding, and it ended up providing the perfect environment where I could fully express myself. Because I had relationships with those people, I trusted them.

Community is so important in the arts. Community creates support, and a comfortable environment to learn, share, create, and teach. Look at the Music PLN….what a perfect example of community in the arts! It’s the perfect environment for musicians of all backgrounds to grow and learn with musicians all over the world! The arts cannot flourish without community!!

A great read on this topic…I’m loving this post by David Ahrens.

Well, that’s all for now folks! Although I’m enjoying vacation, I look forward to getting back to being connected!