Planning vs Spontaneity

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self.” Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)

This is really a misleading title, cynically employed to draw in the reader. My personal view is that true spontaneity, especially in an educational setting, can only take place in a safe and organised environment. The only alternative is chaos. Spontaneity for the teacher relies on thorough knowledge of subject, planning and familiarity with procedures. Purposeful spontaneity for pupils assumes that the attention of the teacher is not taken up wholly with any elements of surprise, to the detriment of professional judgement.

A simple example – seating plans for school concerts. Who stands to benefit from these?

  • The pupils – any performance nerves are not going to be assuaged by finding oneself on the wrong side of a crowded stage. Moreover, when the music takes the form of an A3 part, pupils need to share a stand with someone playing the same part.
  • The audience – any pupil discomfort or embarrassment is acutely felt by family members. Besides, when savoir faire is dwarfed by needless waiting, attention wanders.
  • The stage crew – they need to know (beyond doubt) how many chairs and music stands are required; where they are to go; which stands are shared and which individual; has any member fallen ill at the last minute?
  • The teacher – a printed plan – available to view in the assigned warm-up room – can prevent a hundred excited questions, allowing them to concentrate on tuning, dangerously placed instruments, last minute questions etc.
  • The PT Music – who may face questions on practicalities on a day when the instructor is not in school.

So where does the freedom come into it? The minds of the pupils are free to engage with the music.

Attached are two plans – names have been changed to protect the innocent. You’ll see that each pupil is assigned a number. This is simply to allow them to line up in the order of seating. One plan involves all pupils taking the stage from the same side, and the other from both sides simultaneously. Walk-on from one side   Walk-on from both sides