What is the right level of challenge for students?

The ideal learning environment should offer students a level of challenge that fosters learning. Often students will identify only music containing technical difficulty as challenging. However, the technical challenges of music represent only a small portion of the musical skills students need to master. Repertoire with limited technical challenge will allow the conductor to focus on the important challenges of playing in tune with themselves and other students; playing a phrase musically; playing with a good, clear sound and correct articulation; and building other ensemble skills. Rather than having students wholly concentrating on technical difficulties, pieces with fewer technical demands allow the conductor to better engage students’ ears toward tuning, timing, and expression as a unit. Conductors will also select some pieces that provide technical challenge. These pieces are do-able but will require more practice and concentration. Each conductor gives careful attention to choosing repertoire that is challenging on all of these levels, to help maximize student learning.

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