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A Day in the Life... S01 E121

The Epidemic of Mediocrity

I’m not exactly sure when this began, but there is a strong feeling of mediocrity in the world- and in music. I’m witnessing the attitude of “it’s good enough” instead of “where can I make improvements?” When I ask people why things are the way they are, those with a fixed mindset tend to say “that’s how it’s always been” or something to that effect. We are charged as musical leaders to program appropriate music, encourage growth in our ensembles, and perform music at the highest caliber possible for that group in that moment. The minute we, as teachers and conductors allow the integrity of our standards to drop, the potential growth of our ensembles will be stunted. But what should we be insistent on? Of course note and rhythm accuracy are givens, but the “upper echelon” concepts of balance, blend, dynamics, style, intonation, etc.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but if you find yourself in front of an ensemble and all you’re showing gesturally is the beat and all that you are able to work on during the rehearsal cycle are notes and rhythms, you need to program music that meets the basic needs of the ensemble. For example, if you’re programming all grade 4 music and this happens, program grade 3 or grade 3.5 music. You are doing a disservice to yourself and your ensemble if you only work on notes/rhythms and if as a conductor, you’re only keeping time.

So when programming, conducting, teaching, whatever you do, give your best. Find a way to create, inspire, and grow. Be willing to change from the past to make the present better. The future will thank you. And if you find yourself in a position where this epidemic is not changing (the powers above you will not allow change), it might be time to walk away.


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