Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Peer Feedback and Performance in Music

Throughout the year we will be asking teachers and students to compose blog posts.  Our goal is to help share some of the amazing things happening in and out of our classes.  We would like to thank Mason Mills, our band director, for writing the first guest post on peer feedback and performance in our music program:

One of the hardest things about being a musician, is that you’re asked to work intensely on your own on a piece of music, and then share that work with the public. The scary part is that once the performance is over, there is no ‘undo’ button. All you can do learn from the experience and prepare for the next performance. Music students at Hazen spend most of their time in rehearsal playing or singing in large groups where there is safety in numbers. Recently, the focus is shifting to incorporate more emphasis on solo performance and improving through peer feedback.


The benefit of solo performance is that it allows the performer to hear themselves more clearly, and focus on details that might otherwise be lost when playing with a large group. This also allows their peers to hear what you are working on, and to give supportive feedback to help the performer in the future. High school band students have begun giving solo performances every few weeks in front of the class, these students may be getting ready for auditions, or just as a chance to run a piece before performing in a concert or Coffee House. Students giving the feedback are given the instruction: “Be kind, and be specific”. Being kind helps to cultivate a safe environment where students feel comfortable to play for each other. Being specific forces both the performer and the peer giving the feedback to be objective about their comments and reflective in making suggestions for how to improve a performance.  


This model for peer review and feedback is not new in the music world. Music schools and conservatories have been using ‘Studio Classes’ or ‘Repertoire Classes’ for centuries to bring students together to share their individual progress, and to seek input for improvement. In this way Hazen musicians are connecting to the past with a tried and true method for reflective growth, and to their future of demonstrating a variety of proficiencies through feedback, revision and presentation.


Recent Hazen Union grad Keilah Figueroa is a getting a taste of this at the Ithaca College School of Music. Getting targeted feedback from both her private saxophone teacher Dr. Steven Mauk and her peers in the saxophone studio are helping her to make the transition from being  a strong high school musician, to being a part of one of the most selective music schools in the country.