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Motivation Multiplied

You know how football fans can be obnoxious sometimes (let’s not name names… but still… We all know it’s true).  And then their team wins a BIG GAME and they are TEN TIMES WORSE?!?!?!  Their ties once painted solid reds and blues are quickly switched out with “official NFL” ties representing their teams…  And then, they find each other!  And work becomes even worse if you are not a fan of that team…


Oh and THEN! They spend more time watching games, learning about the players, watching interviews, and their loyalty seems to multiply… You know exactly what I’m talking about, right?!  When you ask them “What is it that you love to do?” They say with the greatest enthusiasm “Watch the game, Man!  I am a _____ fan and I love to watch football!”

Well, I think it’s high time we try to use this to our advantage, and motivate our students to do something GOOD with their time: PRACTICE!

In the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to have received many awards and honors.  Please don’t stop reading now!  No, this isn’t a shameless plug about me… This post is all about how students want YOU to succeed and are truly invested in you and in your (“your” encompassing you and your students together) program.  I truly believe that even though these awards have my name on them, that they are really for my program.  With each new award, I have made an announcement and have thanked my students for all of their hard work to bring us to this point.  My boosters even put on a celebration for myself and for our students in order to congratulate everyone on great achievements.

When these awards started coming in, I noticed a slight change in my students.  They were even more invested once these started to come in.  They were more proud and wore their Annandale Orchestra gear non-stop…. And I mean, NON-STOP… Sometimes I wonder if they own anything other than Annandale Orchestra shirts!  And they became more motivated to practice, to succeed, and to excel.  I have been amazed at the change…


This week, the tiniest article came out about how orchestra is one of the most popular picks for elective enrollment for the coming year.  I hadn’t even seen the article, it was so small!  But one of my freshmen brought it to my attention.  He was so excited that he brought it right up to me at the beginning of class to show me that we have risen… We have risen to something popular!  Yes, the orchdorks rise again… Okay, sorry for the overly dramatic enthusiasm, you know I can’t help myself. So, of course, I had to share the news with my students. They immediately erupted into chatter “It’s because of … and … and …” Most of which had to do with how much fun they have in our class, how orchestra kids are just the best, etc., etc., etc…. And they were so excited! That day, I had tons of students staying after to practice. Without me asking. Without me requiring it. They genuinely wanted to stay.


Once again, they were proud to be part of something recognized, popular, and and something successful.  In the next few days, I told all of my students about the tiny article. Their reactions were all similar. Chatter, excitement, students telling stories of taking FOUR orchestras in one year… I’m not even kidding!

And afterwards, those obnoxious t-shirts, and hoodies, and orch dork gear were once again EVERYWHERE!  (Just kidding… I LOVE the obnoxious orchdork gear!)  Then, yesterday, during their “free period” where they basically have study hall, I must have had a good 20 students practicing in my room. Again, of their own volition entirely.  They were practicing, composing, arranging, and WORKING … WITHOUT ME ASKING… Amazing.

Isn’t this the goal after all?  To foster life long lovers of music who don’t need us, the teacher, to motivate them.

Leif Conducting Senior

This. Is. Education.

And, so, a few quick tips to motivating your students. For building that same strong sense of social identity that all football fans seem to have in abundance…

  1. BRAG!!!  Not about you, but about your students… Brag as often as you can.  I don’t care if the rest of the world hates you for it… Your students need to know that you notice what they do and that you are proud of them.  Get on it!  #MyStudentsROCK

  2. SELL IT! Send news to every media group available. Make sure pictures and stories featuring your students are on twitter, facebook, in the local newspaper, ON YOUR BLOG 😉  Start building that reputation!

  3. SHOW THEM THAT THEY MATTER – Every student, regardless of playing ability, intelligence, or even practice habits, matters. They need to know that they matter, why they matter, and what role they play in your program.  I cannot tell you how important and powerful this is.  Your biggest slacker in the program contributes in some way to your program.  Is he/she funny?  Can they fix things around the room?  Are they tech savy?  Are they the fashionista?  Find something. Anything. Show them that they matter and they will work harder for you.  I have seen it time and time and time again.

It is my hope that your students will be so passionate about your program that when you ask them, “What is it that you love to do?” They immediately say “I am a musician, and I love to make music.”

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