Motivating the Ensemble Musician

How can the ensemble instructor motivate the individual student musician, given the high volume of students in the classroom?

1) Have a “meeting” with the classroom to gather and acknowledge student goals and perspectives, to show that they are valued.

2) Express confidence in their abilities to instill feelings of competence, encouraging them to go forward in their studies.

3) Provide them with the rationale for their assignments and musical selections.

4) Avoid focusing on the talent of individual students so that students do not become distracted by self-comparison.

5) Classroom activities should be relevant and focused to the objectives set with student involvement

6) Musical selections should represent the ability of the ensemble as a whole, including a slight challenge to maintain interest.

International Symposium Held on Music & Motivation

The first known symposium on Music and Motivation was held in Frankfurt, Germany at the International Conference on Motivation in Goethe University on August 29, 2012 by chair/organizer, Julie F. Troum, Ph.D. and discussant, Dr. Robert H. Woody, Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Psychologist, Arielle Bonneville-Roussy (University of Cambridge, UK) and Dr. Paul Evans (University of New South Wales, Australia) also made research presentations. Examining musical training from a behavioral perspective is a relatively young area of research. It is hoped that future studies may inspire more widespread application of motivational learning theory towards productive practice and performance skill acquisition. Dr. Troum’s research presentation, “Predicting Deliberate Practice in the Passionate Musician,” found that obsessive-passionate musicians report higher deliberate practice, whereas harmonious-passionate musicians report higher satisfaction during practice.

Practicing with “Strings Attached”?

Does the practice of your instrument come with “strings attached” (pun intended)? Do you feel compelled to practice and suffer from low self-esteem when you don’t? You may be responding to the pressures within a controlling environment from a demanding or dismissive instructor/peers. Your natural reaction may be to defend your talent, out of self-protection (Mageau, Vallerand, Charest, Salvy, Lacaille, Bouffard & Koestner, 2009). These controlling factors are likely to reduce your well-being, persistence, and satisfaction when engaging in practice (Troum, 2012). A rigid or coercive environment may also prevent you from focusing on the improvement of your skill (Mageau et al., 2009). One solution may be to go in search of a new learning environment in which your ability and perspective are valued.

Recognizing the Signs of Obsessive Musical Training

Personal satisfaction and progress may be reduced when the training musician demonstrates obsessive-passionate behavior, such as practicing past the point of injury. Music instructors should become acquainted with the following indicators, which may have negative consequences on the musical potential and on the personal satisfaction of the training musician (Troum, 2012).

Six Signs of an Obsessive-Passionate Musician:

1) Compelled to practice to defend and protect self-worth

2) Portrays guilt or feelings of worthlessness when not engaged in practice

3) Continues to practice after physical pain or injury has occurred

4) Dependent upon acceptance from peers or instructors

5) Does not engage in interests outside of musical study

6) Engages in practice “at the detriment of school, work, or family life”

(Bonneville-Roussy, Lavigne, & Vallerand, 2011; Mageau, Vallerand, Charest, Salvy, Lacaille, Bouffard, & Koestner, 2009).

For Whom Do You Practice?

For whom do you practice? If you practice to improve your own personal skills, rather than to impress your peers and applied studio instructor, it is likely that you will progress at a faster rate, according to researchers, Bonneville-Roussy, Lavigne, and Vallerand (2010). Musicians who were motivated by social comparison, spent less time doing focused practice, called deliberate practice, and derived less satisfaction.

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