As I reflect upon those formative years when my daughters were elementary-age students, my favorite memories include their earliest piano recitals. My wife and I elevated these into important events in their young lives. Looking back, I hope we didn't create unrealistic expectations. But we never wavered from an expectation that they would participate and do their best.
Fast forward to today, both have become successful professional women with many accomplishments while performing and advancing in their chosen careers. Katie has become the principal oboist with the Florida Orchestra and Mary Ellen an editor with McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Both have developed confidence in the technical, professional, and political aspects of their work. But more importantly, they have acquired high levels of self-confidence, particularly when speaking or "performing" in front of others. I think the roots of that confidence and their ability to self-express can be traced back to their learning experiences during to those childhood piano recitals.
Without any doubt, our daughters benefitted from having two parents who themselves had both majored in music. But neither of us were pianists. Much more importantly, they had an uncompromising yet outstanding piano teacher (after school). Mrs. Seeley modeled confidence and performance skill and insisted her students do the same. Besides learning about music and the piano, our girls were taught stage presence, poise, performance skills, public speaking, and the skill of improvising and thinking fast in the present. They learned to deliberately focus their practice sessions (homework) on what required the most effort and improvement. They learned self-discipline and responsibility. Our daughters now know that these peripheral performance skills have greatly influenced their ability to succeed as adults.
And, as you would likely imagine, those life performance skills were learned after school!
I challenge our professionals to develop multiple opportunities in our afterschool programs so that all kids can attain these advantages. They can be learned in many disciplines besides music, such as athletics, clubs, extracurricular activities, and enrichment endeavors. Many kids can, and must, be taught these success skills without the benefit of parental support. And believe it or not, we can teach kids to perform while learning math and reading.
I encourage you to prioritize the teaching of the peripheral performance skills in your afterschool program. In every way you can, I encourage you to create opportunities for kids where they can show what they know and can do so in front of supportive adults. Encourage them to speak and express their own thoughts, to improvise, and to show poise under pressure. They will thank you for these valuable learning experiences after they have successfully interviewed for jobs in a competitive market.
Share your ideas and best practices with our members. Together, we can greatly add to the value of afterschool experiences.
Paul G. Young, Ph. D.
President & CEO