(This excerpt is from a workshop entitled "The Intelligent Children's Choir" presented by Michael Mauldin in March, 1998 at the national convention of the Music Teachers National Association in Los Angeles).
The thrill for all of us teachers who truly love children doesn't come from trying to posses them or to claim them as our creations, but from helping them have more POWER--the power of ideas--ideas that can keep the wind in their sails while giving them a good rudder. Let me explain that by quoting from an article about student composition that I wrote for the AMERICAN MUSIC TEACHER magazine in June/July, 1988: "I'm a composer, a teacher, a parent, and...a child. A child because, regardless of my age, I 'play' a lot. I play with sounds, ideas, moods, textures--all in a way that may be foreign to a lot of adults, and even foreign to some children. Let me use an old analogy--the one about the sailing vessel being of no use without a rudder. It's true, of course, and I've met students who will not accomplish much with their music because they don't have enough self-discipline to develop their talents. But the converse of the old analogy is also true: a perfectly good sailing vessel, even with a good rudder, is of little use when becalmed, when there is no force to move it through the water."
How can we steer and inspire our students at the same time? Even though we probably go back and forth, we CAN do both. The two key words are INVOLVEMENT and BALANCE.
In the name of protecting our children, we Americans have segregated them (actually abandoned them) to an artificial youth culture, devoid of meaningful involvement with adults. But the best teachers I know are willing--even in the face of ignorance and intolerance--to show their affection for and fascination with children. Thank God for the power of that mentoring gene. For the sake of future generations, I hope that many of the children with whom we work will themselves love kids well enough to be involved with them--not just to "teach" them.
As you will see this afternoon--and tonight, if you attend the concert--I try to involve these boys directly in the preparation and performance of the music--including conducting pieces in concerts. For the adult involvement to be meaningful it should let your students share in the reward AND the risk of accomplishment. As we go through a mini-rehearsal in a few minutes, and as I ask the boys questions or try to stimulate their imaginations about the esthetics or structure of the music, I will invite their HONEST responses--and in their own words, though undoubtedly some of the responses will be directly out of our musicianship competency book.
The second key word, balance, is difficult to achieve, but must be our constant companion when we are personally involved with children. It is the balance of strictness with tenderness, information with imagination, leading with being led.
--Michael Mauldin, Albuquerque Boy Choir