Have the performing arts quit performing?

I remember when I was a kid and enjoyed projects in 4-H. Those projects (livestock, leadership, performing, etc) all let me do one thing: be me. It was always awesome to go to a contest or show and be able to stand out for who I was and not what someone else wanted me to be. Fine arts should give students those same opportunities. Some do. Some don’t.

I watch all of the flash mob videos on YouTube and wonder where all of the experiments in creativity have gone in schools today? I know there are many out there still providing kids with the chance to show who they are, but it seems as a rule, the more standardized our core classes have gotten, the more standardized our elective classes have as well.

When you go to a band concert, the same thing gets pumped out each time. The curtains rise. The director crosses the stage. The tap on the lectern. The band plays. The parents applaud. The director bows. The curtain lowers.

When you attend a choir concert, well, CC of the band concert above.

When you go to a play, you get a small semblance of what the kids can truly do because they have no budget in the props area to draw the audience into the moment.

I’m not bashing these teachers, honest.  I’m just wondering why we see so few things like the video below in our schools. Why do they not allow the kids to take chances in their performances? Why do they not allow the kids to decide it is time to put together their own performance and showcase their talents in a way they choose to? What better place to have true independent study? The fall/spring concerts have been on the calendars as long as the Big Chief Tablet. And the adults run those things to make sure they stay between the lines.

I say, it’s time to let the students run with scissors. Please, let them step out of the shadows of the lectern. Let them enter the stage from behind the audience and down the aisles instead of hiding behind the curtain. Let them be original and not carbon copies of the generations who have come before them. Besides, they turn to YouTube in their own hours to do this anyway.

5 thoughts on “Have the performing arts quit performing?

  1. I remember “Back In The Day” when I taught Vocational Education.(1969-1984) I taught things like how to get a job; How to interview; How to operate a TV studio: How to run a radio station; How to repair computers; How to solve problems in a computer program; How to build a HeathKit; How to solve problems in a lab experiment;How to present to a large group; other topics were self-direction, building stuff; creating new ideas; …Oh yeah and all of my students could “Run with Scissors” because they were taught how to use them “Back In The Day”. Maybe we should take a look at what we did and taught “Back In The Day”

  2. Good point, Howie. That was a time when we trusted our teachers to be professionals. When we treated them as such. That was also PST: Pre Standardized Testing.

  3. Novelty is not the equal of better.

    Perhaps the school band or choir does not perform up to a quality that would move you or attract an audience beyond captive relatives?

    Check out the El Sistema movement from Venezuela and slowly growing in the USA. Kids can learn to make music, by developing mastery and connecting to a cultural continuum that elevates humanity.

    Seriously, check out this video – http://amzn.to/uUeP4J

    There are lots of factors making the school concert insufferable. Devaluing the arts, a narrowing of the curriculum, music teachers with bad taste or an affinity for Funky Winkerbean, no music budget, no private lessons, a public that demands simple pop tunes over classics, etc… How many of the students in your school have seen professional perform in a proper setting? One field trip can change lives.

    It might not surprise you, but I watch the couple of buskers (I wanted to use a less polite term) sawing through their cellos and want to jump in front of a moving train. That’s not art. It’s page views.

  4. I agree with you, Gary, on most of what you are saying. I do believe the arts are devalued much like core area content for the sake of standardization based upon some bogus achievement within someone else’s pre-defined rubric. That is not what the arts is about, but that is what schools have made them into.

    I do disagree with you on the cello video, though. Just because it is not your taste does not make it worth watching. It would inspire some kids to take up something others may have told them is for nerds or a waste of time. Every kid has their motivations. Every artist does as well. Why discount their choice of showcasing their skills?

  5. 1) I don’t find the cello technique particularly good, regardless of their song selection.

    2) Any technique they do possess is undoubtedly owed in large part to a school music program.

    Take the damned kids to a proper concert!

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