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Now that all of the musicales, recitals and concerts that were designed to give pupils an opportunity to measure their progress during the year—or have it measured by their friends—are over, we rise to reflect upon the intrinsic value of such appearances; not in a spirit of criticism, but to the end that we, who are teachers, may govern our work in the following years better because we have reflected.

There isn’t very much that is new to be said either for or against the practice of periodically bringing pupils forward for a test. Probably no argument against it could offset the value which the pupil has gained by such an experience; but if there are arguments against it, they should be presented. It is of great importance that the pupils be made to understand their true status in relation to a program, that they are there as students and they will be judged as such.

Far too frequently a pupil’s balance is disturbed by a prospect of public appearance. Rightly advised by the teacher such disturbances can be avoided. Mistakes are made by teachers in giving students work that is too showy, too dramatic or beyond their compass, which, in itself, is reprehensible enough; but the effect upon the listener is frequently so demoralizing in his estimate of the pupil that in future appearances he will be called upon to sing against prejudice. There is also the injustice to the pupil of time wasted in preparing numbers that are for public display.

It has been said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The antithesis of this is to be found in our vocal pupils who assume that they are as good performers as is evidenced by their one and carefully prepared recital or concert selection. The real facts of the case are, that the pupil is like the chain, only as strong as he can show himself to be in his least pretentious efforts. Therein lies his only true claim to culture.

As opposed to this it may be urged that singers have frequently toured the entire country with only enough songs in their repertories to fill out their part of the program for one evening; but the day and generation of that kind of singer is rapidly waning.

By far the most admirable plan in relation to recitals is to allow the pupil to appear with the work in hand. This pre-supposes of course that the teacher grades the work of the pupil carefully and makes all of the selections in that grade to conform with good taste as well as good judgment in bringing forward things that are congenial to the particular trend of each pupil. There is so much available now that is unquestionably good, answering to the ability of pupils of every grade, that the teacher only condemns himself who fails in program making.

It is pitiful how frequently teachers do fail in this regard. It is criminal to permit young girls in their teens to perpetrate upon audiences the difficult arias, when so much abounds that is within their reach and at the same time worthy of their effort. The history of Ananias shows him to be a shining example of truth in comparison with an audience at the close of a pupil’s recital—“Charming!” “Lovely!” “Beautiful!” “Wonderful!” are showered upon teacher and pupils alike. The effect is meretricious in the extreme. False notions on the part of the pupils as to their attainments and some unlovely self-appreciation on the part of the teacher who accepts their comments at their audible value.

But, let us not deceive ourselves. Twenty years ago there were five out of every one hundred auditors who could not be deceived. Ten years ago there were twenty-five. To-day more than half of every audience in any thing like a musical center are wise in their discrimination. Thus rapidly are we advancing in knowledge of the vocal art, and it pays the teacher better to satisfy the half that knows by a rational apportionment of selections to students for their public appearances.


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You are reading Recitals. from the July, 1906 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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