When considering the field of sport and performance, performance activities seem to be given a back seat.  Yet assessment applies to domains such as musical performance just as much as the world of sport.  An online article posted a year ago titled, “Grading, Instruction and Assessment in Music” demonstrates how by discussing the use of evaluate and assessment in musical performance.

    While having a system of evaluating and judging music students is a critical component of competitions such as Solo & Ensemble as well as structuring choirs, bands, orchestras, etc., the authors of the article address the effect of the current assessment process on the overall musical skill and development of individuals.  Essentially, giving students a score, especially when done on a consistent basis, may change the relationship between the music student and instructor, making it one that becomes authoritative rather than collaborative and supportive.  It also reduces the emphasis placed on mastery and long term goals, which develop overall skill.  Finally, it reduces musicians’ degree of internal motivation, therefore possibly leading to early dropout and feelings of dissatisfaction or negativity towards music.

    So how can this change?  The authors suggest teaching instructors, parents and musicians on how to focus on the mastery path, which sounds like a brilliant idea, expect for the fact that they do not appear to explain how to do this?  As a sport and performance consultant, my initial response is to build understanding of process goals, as well as how to create, execute and evaluate effectiveness of these goals.  As a musician though, I would simplify this to one basic suggestion – ask your musicians, “How do you feel (or want to feel) when you play?”  I believe the next (but not first) question is then, “What technical skills do you need to develop to consistently feel that way?”  Finally, one can look at how formal assessments (e.g., tryout, auditions) play a role in this bigger picture.  Hopefully by doing so we can create long-term lovers, consumers and creators of music.

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