“Everybody breathe, two deep breaths, slowly ... relax, you’re ready for this!”
The firm, calming voice of Mr. Fulton to the Middle School Band members helped put them at ease and focus on the sight reading exercise before them. Mrs. Johnson would lead them through a three-minute survey of a piece of music they had not seen before and then they would perform it for a judge at the annual Florida Bandmaster’s Musical Performance Assessment (MPA).
The MPA includes the performance of three pieces on stage followed by the sight reading exercise. Most band teachers can train students to perform three pieces on stage but the true test of musicianship comes in the sight reading room. The consistent Superior ratings in sight reading received by LCS bands is evidence of the outstanding skill and leadership of LCS band directors Mr. Chuck Fulton and Mrs. Kathy Johnson.
As we walked out of the sight reading room last week, those of us who were privileged to watch commented on the skills of the conductors and the students in that pressure situation. It was an impressive performance by 11-13-year-old musicians.
From “Sight Reading” to Life
As I reflected on this experience, I was struck by the parallels to the realities of life. Some parts of our lives we can script in advance like the stage performance. We have a sense of predictability and control and we know where it is all headed and what we have to do to be successful.
The “sight reading room” of life occurs when we face unanticipated or novel situations that call on us to apply what we have learned in the past to address a new challenge or opportunity. The young musicians have to rely on the preparation of their directors as well as the level of personal practice time they have invested in applying that instruction. Their performance confirmed Mr. Fulton’s assurance that they were “ready for this.”
Prepare the child for the path
There is a small plaque on my desk that reads, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” Life seldom turns out like we planned. We prepare as best we can, but we cannot anticipate all of the difficulties our students will face along the way. The goal of parents and teachers is not to try to rid the child’s path of obstacles, pain, and injustices. Instead, it is to provide the training that will cultivate the resilience necessary to navigate the rough spots in life. The “sight reading” moments can not only expose weakness but also provide opportunities for growth.
The Christian faces these situations with a sense of God’s presence, purpose, and the confidence of His Providential care for His own. The apostle Paul instructs us, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Even the rough spots are ordained by our loving Heavenly Father for our good!
The best way to help
Perhaps the best way we can teach our students how to handle these types of situations is by example. How do we respond to the unexpected hurdle, the surprise disappointment, the unanticipated change in schedule, the unmet expectation? How can we help our students apply in real time what they have been taught in principle? How can we discipline ourselves to focus on helping them navigate the white water rather than trying to calm the storm?
Perhaps we can draw upon Mr. Fulton’s counsel to the Middle School Band:
- Two deep breaths- Pause… “Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10
- Resist the urge to fear- “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee…” Psalm 56:3
- Remember, even if we don’t feel “ready for this”, He is- “As for God, His way is perfect, the Word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30