High school and middle school musicians in the same music group?

SunglassesIn the years that I have been a teacher, it is amazing how teaching has helped me become a better musician. Because of hearing wrong notes and rhythms, my ear really tunes in to the correct ones. When I teach kids to be patient and continue to work hard because some day that work will pay off, I remind myself to do the same. When a student is finally able to play that piece of music they couldn’t play before, that motivates me to keep teaching and work on my music. In a similar way, younger JDCRO musicians often help high school musicians grow, both as musicians and as leaders.

There have been some concerns about our junior musicians and why they are playing with high school students. My initial reason was that the more people we can get involved with this cause at any age, the easier it is to have longevity for our organization. So I thought, let’s bring in anyone who wants to join, I can teach the younger students on the side and get them caught up. Make the music challenging for the older students, while creating less difficult parts of the same songs for the younger students.

However, another reason is that there are not that many opportunities for older students to work with younger students as mentors, as teachers. I’ve heard some JDCRO members say that they are interested in being teachers, whether it is music or otherwise. With this program, you can be a mentor to kids who are just a few years younger than you. Mentoring is beneficial not only to the one being mentored, but also to the one doing the mentoring. Mentoring those who come after you is your chance to thank those who took you under their wing when you were younger. It’s also another way of serving your community and learning how to be a leader, important skills wherever life may lead you.

With our audition process in the JDCRO, high school students can mentor those younger members in the group, but they don’t have to worry that junior musicians will be performing with them until they, the older members of the group, say they are ready. Watching our high school student judges not only critique, but give words of encouragement, and mentor and teach these younger kids has made me feel really good about what I am doing. I am proud of what I am seeing from our student judges, learning more about themselves while giving younger students the foresight of what they themselves could be if they keep working.

Finally, here is a different story about combining middle and high school ensembles. A teacher didn’t have the number of high school students to accommodate playing interesting music in high school, so she added students from the middle school to make it work. High school students were initially skeptical, but learned to appreciate being mentors and being able to play music they didn’t play before, and middle school students were thrilled to play with high school students.

To the students of the JDCRO, thank you for all you do. It is fun watching you grow!