Play It Again, Sam

Now that I’ve been teaching a number of years, I find myself wrestling with the issue of the re-using concert selections.

As a composer/arranger, I really enjoy finding well-written pieces that work well for elementary students. There’s so much great stuff out there that I’m sure I could go through my whole career without getting to play/teach/conduct everything I want to. However, as the years go by, I’m finding more and more material I can’t bear to see filed away indefinitely.

One of my colleagues has told me he has a 5-year rotation of concert selections. Essentially, he already knows what his groups will play at each concert for the rest of his career. When he first told me this, it seemed shocking. But that was several years ago, and now that I’ve been at it a while, I have a little more understanding of his approach.

So at this point I intend to do a little of both; I’ll try out some of the unfamiliar music which is likely to be successful, while at the same time bringing back into the rotation some of those gems which worked so well in the past.

How about you? If you’ve been teaching a while, what are your thoughts about re-using music? If you’re relatively new to teaching, are you finding material you intend to use again?

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4 thoughts on “Play It Again, Sam

  1. I felt the same way, but over the years I have found pieces that I want to revisit with future groups. If is it is of good quality, then it is certainly worth revisiting frequently. I have found that I can’t simply rotate my programs, as student strengths and weaknesses change. I do prefer to spend my limited funds on pieces that are likely to stand the test of time.

  2. Your blog is certainly a good place for motivated music teachers who want to share their thoughts and experiences in teaching music, celebrating its wonders and fun as well. I completely agree with you; I even felt the same way. I have also been teaching for a number of years now and I must say that whenever I find something that’s worth reusing, I’ll have them in mind. My students even with different strengths and weaknesses can surely enjoy or at least appreciate it. Like Mr. Williams, I’d go for those pieces that are likely to stand the test of time. Thanks again for this and please continue to post more creative music teaching resources that we can use in the classroom. All the best!

  3. I am currently a senior music ed. major at Clarion University o Pennsylvania and the one thing that we have recently learned in my instrumental methods class is the benefit of creating a 4 or 5 year concert cycle. In some aspects this is a great idea and a great way to be sure that you are revisiting pieces that you really enjoy performing. In the other aspect, by doing this you are kind of eliminating the possibility to find some more quality literature of the present day to perform. The way that I would like to set this up when I get out into the field is to have this 4 or 5 year cycle with certain pieces that I enjoy very much, but also leave a couple spaces in that rotation to add some more modern day pieces that I find enjoyable. I could be wrong, but this is something that I am really excited to try when I get out into the field.

  4. Ross: Good thoughts. There’s a lot of wisdom in getting familiar with the literature that’s out there, and planning some concerts ahead of time even before you start your profession. We had to do that sort of thing in one of my music ed classes, but I wish I had done a little more. When you do land a teaching job, or even when you’re interviewing, you would be at a huge advantage if you already had music selected for the fall.

    I’d even recommend going as far as choosing a concert of Grade 1 music, Grade 2 music, etc.

    And you never know what ensembles you may lead someday. I never thought I would be teaching so many string classes. I wish I would have been more prepared with repertoire for strings. I’ve never led a choir, but if I was looking for a new job, I would probably get prepared for that.

    Best wishes!

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