Blog, education
Comments 5

Broadening the definition of success for music students.

This is me in fifth grade. At the age of 12, I remember my teachers telling me that if I continued to work, I could get a scholarship to study the instrument in college. Many began to tell me that I should pursue a career on the instrument.

When I was barely in middle school, my path was already being set for me.

Slide2

The path of a classical musician is straight and prescribed.

The traditional path for a classical musician that has talent, interest and proclivity is straight and prescribed. In order to reach a high level of excellence on the instrument, proper setup and a deep pursuit of excellence is essential.

This type of training sets up an interesting situation: Practice and listen to what your teacher says and live to see another day or, don’t, and leave the art form all together.

Slide3

As I mentioned in this post, I believe that students have many pathways to success and our job is to help them find their pathway.

Slide6

All of this has gotten me thinking: What can teachers do to help students find their path. As a whole, the field should engage in a thoughtful dialogue about broadening the definition of success for students at the earliest age.

Slide7

Deciding a pathway to become a professional classical musician is a great pathway, but it’s one pathway. This pathway has become practically the only way that teachers define success in their own teaching.  How do we change this dynamic? Here are some quick thoughts:

  1. First and foremost, I am not asking teachers to compromise their pursuit of artistic excellence. Excellence should sit as a strong foundation to everything we do.
  2. As in the visual above, applied teachers should have thoughtful conversations about the variety of career paths that students can embark upon, utilizing the skills developed as classical musicians.
  3. Change the tenure process to allow applied teachers to expand their definition of student success within their studio and broadcast it to students and their families. We should not be ashamed of students who pursue careers outside their instrument.
  4. Only 27% of college graduates have a job related to their major. With our changing economy, we should be preparing students to work outside their degree path.
  5. Finally, I believe it is our responsibility to help students understand that music is something that they can pursue throughout their lives, regardless of whether or not they choose to major in the art form.

As I reflect on the years of amazing training I received to become a better bassoonist, what resonates with me the most is how well the training prepared me to do what I am doing now, running community engagement and career development at Colburn. Going deep in pursuit of excellence on bassoon has prepared me to do many of the things I enjoy most about my work.

How are you encouraging a broadened definition of success with your students? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

This entry was posted in: Blog, education
Tagged with:

by

Nathaniel Zeisler is passionate about supporting and developing the careers of artists and artistically minded entrepreneurs. Serving as the Director of Community Engagement and Adult Studies at the Colburn School, Zeisler is working to build a program that offers a menu of services and training to world-class artists who seek sustainable careers, through engagement activities in Southern California. In 2004, Nathaniel founded the Envision Chamber Consort; an organization dedicated to presenting music as a form of contemporary communication. Continuing to pursue connections between the business and arts communities, Zeisler co-founded and led Arts Enterprise, an organization that helps students find sustainable careers in their chosen field. Additionally, Dr. Zeisler served as the assistant professor of bassoon and professor of entrepreneurship at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. As a musician, Nate served as the principal bassoonist of the Ann Arbor Symphony and performed as second bassoonist with the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit. Nathaniel earned his doctorate of musical arts and master’s degree in bassoon performance from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s degree in choral and instrumental education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Nate, Many thoughts to share, but letting you know Thriving in the Arts and Income from Outreach (leading to children’s programs in Bay View and Petoskey) are still ongoing at the Bay View Music Festival. In recent summers I have had several bassoon students who are in Music Therapy and Nursing degree programs. They totally get that chamber music is helping build their teamwork skills which they will rely on heavily in their workplace along with knowing the healing potential that music provides. Also, students seem more appreciative of and take seriously their work study positions, especially stage crew, which builds teamwork and understanding of behind the scenes aspects of the performing arts. I encourage them to include their work study positions on their resumes. Employers look for those who are willing to roll up their sleeves to help the company or organization thrive!

    All the best to you,
    Jill

    • Thanks for the great comments, Jill! A lot of my foundational work in this space came from the experience you provided at Bay View all those years ago! Thanks so much and thank you for offering this great perspective.

  2. Pingback: Climbing the Ladder: Majoring in Music As A Pathway To College and Upward Mobility. – nathaniel zeisler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s