SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / September 2007 / Contribute to the Music
Contribute to the Music
Question: What do you do as a vocal music director if you have a student who really can’t sing?
Russ Otte: My job is to find the right role for that student. I have to believe that all students are trying their best to be singers. It is not their failure, but mine if I can’t find a way in which they can contribute to the music.
Several years ago I was interviewing Russ Otte, vocal music teacher at Ashland High School. Russ’s response to my question was an "ah-ha" answer for me. He went on to explain that a student who wasn’t a talented singer could still be a part of a musical concert and contribute to the sound by playing a percussion instrument; providing lighting design for the performance; blending in with background vocals; or creating the program. After all Russ explained, the number of vocalists in show business who actually appear on stage is small compared to the technicians, the event organizers, the set designers and the musicians playing instruments.
In many ways Russ’s answer is a metaphor for every individual finding their place to make a positive contribution to their world. Entertainers get noticed, but the fabric of our world is woven by people contributing in their own individual ways.
One of the people I most admire, Jane Goodall, had this to say about the importance of each individual. “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
It is important for me to always think about the importance of each student that we provide services to. It is up to us to help students “find a way in which they can contribute to the music.” Recently, I attended a reception for young Studio Sfumato artists. Many people might label these young artists as developmentally delayed, but the teachers at Studio Sfumato didn’t seem to let those designations stand in the way of young artists expressing themselves with their paintings. Studio Sfumato encouraged and nourished young artists to “contribute to the music.”