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The Ties Between Music and Sports

Years ago, at one of my first conducting workshops, the instructor asked me about other interests I had besides music. When my reply was about sports and fitness, he scoffed at the thought of being interested in something he considered to be antithetical to music. His reaction was surprising to me, and I couldn't help but wonder why the irritation seemed so strong. After all, this was a person whom I believed had unbiased beliefs—at least in public. The divide between music and sports is generally due to the frustration educators face when competing for the exclusive commitment of talented students who are involved in both activities. Sometimes the obligation to one becomes an inconvenience or hindrance for the other. Since I was not one of his personal students, rather a participant for a few days at the workshop as well as a music educator myself, I was surprised that his disdain was carried over beyond his own classroom.

Growing up as a teenager, I was very involved with both music and sports. I believe that both subjects complement one another because they both require dedication, focus, commitment, practice, perseverance, discipline, teamwork, stamina, and good health. Both subjects are competitive (for the individual and for the group), something which always inspired me. The life lessons students learn in one subject readily cross over into the other. Together, they weave a solid foundation that reinforce an array of skills.

Of course, there are challenges to sharing talented students across different disciplines, particularly when considering grading issues and special events. What happens if your first-chair player is also the star player for the lacrosse team, and the championship games take place during a concert tour? Well, you can understand the gravity of the situation. Too often, however, educators will put the pressure on the student to choose between the two and the student does not want to disappoint either “team.” When students work very hard to excel in a couple of subjects, it is unfortunate when a schedule conflict prevents the student from participating in both events. Furthermore, it is disappointing if instructors do not communicate with one another about plans, schedules, and important events. Disagreements can readily occur if one instructor is informed about an important event at the last minute that conflicts with their own event.

How do we solve this division? Setting up and maintaining channels of communication between instructors, school officials, and administrators allows for favorable decisions and solutions when calendar conflicts arise. It is so important to have this proactive approach, have a plan beforehand, and know how to solve these conflicts. Non-conflicting schedules are ideal and can be pre-planned, although, in some circumstances this is not always possible. If a structured plan is created beforehand, however, then everyone will know how to navigate through the conflict and implement the solution. This will help students be less exposed to unnecessary stress and allow them to focus on more important things—like both of their teams. It is critical that students should never be made to feel caught in the middle and guilty for excelling in more than one subject.

Asking students to share responsibility and keep both instructors in the loop is also very important. Encouraging open communication about schedules and upcoming events, well in advance, can help circumvent smaller frustrations and help students take on responsibility and understand how positive communication habits can pay off dividends. These life lessons allow students to grow as individuals, while the result is the opportunity to enjoy all of their events.

Sharing talented students between disciplines is quite feasible and doing so doesn’t have to pit one subject against the other. Whether it be a secondary-level education or a college education, it’s helpful for students to have a balance and be able to learn and thrive in those subjects they sincerely enjoy. Providing students with all possible opportunities is what an education is all about. Furthermore, the bonds the students are able to nurture from those settings are lifelong, and their skill set becomes that much more strengthened and deepened. Let us work to understand the needs of our multi-talented students and endeavor to facilitate their interests and efforts as they strive to fulfill their full potential and explore all avenues their talents will discover.

~ Dr. Rome


What situations have you been challenged with when sharing talented students?

Did you ever have another subject you enjoyed and were committed to that complemented your music skills?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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