One of the most interesting assignments (for me) connected with the music appreciation classes I teach is for students to go to a concert and write about it. I ask them to write about various elements of the performance, including an evaluation of the audience, the performance space, and their own feelings about going to the concert. Because I live in a relatively small university town, and because most of the students wait until the week before the paper is due to actually go to a concert, I tend to get multiple reviews of the same concerts.
What strikes me as interesting is how different these reviews are. Everybody brings his or her own experience to a performance, and everyone's experience, even those people who have to be there for the same reason, adds something to the concert as a whole. Some people are quite critical, some people are impressed, and everyone is honest. None of these students have ever read a review of a classical concert written by a professional reviewer, so nobody has to worry about following any kind of "literary" or "journalistic" model. All they know when they are writing these papers is that I will read them, and that if they do a good job on the assignment, they will get a good grade.
Most of these students found that writing about a concert was an easy way to write a paper (their "research" takes about an hour, and they only have to write about what they see and hear for themselves). For me these papers act like a window to let me look inside the minds and ears of my students, and by extension look into the minds of what I hope will be part of the musical audience in the future. Reading these papers reminds me that what we are doing as musicians and teachers is life enhancing.
Most of my students (there are 60 of them) had never been to a concert before. I think that half of them might go to another concert at some time in the future. A handful of them might even become actual music lovers. That makes me happy.
Related Post: Being part of an audience for student recitals
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