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Seven Lucky Ways Your Students (and You!) Can Deal with Burnout

Mike Lawson • GoodVibes • July 5, 2019

It is very easy for a percussionist, or any instrumentalist for that matter, to experience burnout at times. In our school systems, there are so many responsibilities placed on students, as well as so many activities.

There are situations where playing music can become so repetitive in a day to day routine that in can feel more like a task rather than an enjoyable learning experience. I am going to talk about how percussionists can deal with burnout, although these concepts can apply to any instrumentalist. Here are ways in which your percussion students can deal with burnout.

1) Take a break from practicing: It might be very difficult for your student to take a break during the school year, but he or she can definitely take a break from personal practice. Even the most musically passionate students sometimes need a break from what they love doing so much.

2) Try a new approach: Luckily for percussionists, there are so many instruments. If your student is feeling burnout with concert or solo music, they should be encouraged to trying a different aspect of percussion such as hand drum technique, jazz vibraphone, or six mallet marimba technique. There are so many styles and genres within the percussion world that it is very easy to branch out and try something new. Students often get stuck in the same day after day routine of playing the same exercises, instruments and music. Feeling burnout is a sure sign that your student needs to try a drastically new approach.

3) Experience other elements of life: I once gave an interview on a radio station in which they titled it “The Rhythm of Life.” Rhythm is the common denominator of absolutely every aspect of life. The cosmos, our heartbeat, our daily routine, time, sunlight, and even waves moving on water are all based on rhythm. If a student breaks out of his or her routine and tries other things such as playing a sport, going hiking, writing poetry, reading a book, or even taking on a construction project, they may discover all of the “rhythm” that exists in every single thing we do. Taking on an introspective mindset to experience life and find the rhythm in all things, your students may return with a renewed outlook for percussion and its effect on the world!

4) Reestablish your motive: A very simple approach to deal with burnout is for your students to ask themselves “Why am I doing this?” This very well may answer the question as to what has caused the burnout. At the end of the day, playing percussion or any instrument should be because your students enjoy the expression, emotional outlet, and the learning experience. When music is no longer enjoyable, it has most likely become a “task” at this point.

5) As a teacher, evaluate your curriculum: Like it or not, often times if one or more of our students are feeling burnout, it is a director result of the teacher’s approach to the curriculum. Teachers have to ask “what kind of classroom environment is my curriculum and teaching style creating?” It is just as easy for teachers to get into a rut and exhibit habits that make music feel like a task rather than a creative experience. At the end of the day, it is not about perfection, learning scales, or information sharing. Avoiding burnout in the classroom can be attained by a creative curriculum that emphasizes creativity and musical enjoyment. Sometimes changing the approach can improve the situation.

6) Back to the basics: This technique to overcome burnout seems to contradict my latter point, but often times going back to the very basics of music can hit the “reset” button in the classroom and allow your students to start fresh again. Sometimes burnout is caused by the inability and frustrations that result from struggling with the same passages of music. Many times, these struggles can be cured by going back to the basics and having a refresher course. For example, if a percussion student is struggling with open rolls consistently during marching band, going back to double stroke basic exercises will alleviate the problem and cure the frustrations.

7) Don’t take music too seriously: Music should be a passion and an enjoyable experience. Taking music too seriously can easily lead to emotional burnout. Your students shouldn’t take failed or bad rehearsals too seriously if they gave their absolute best effort. The sun will rise tomorrow and they should always remember to focus on their passion and love for music! Having your students go out and watch a sunset well help remind them why they are involved in the beautiful creation of music.

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