Saturday, December 6, 2014


Post by Chris Saito: Chris is in his 8th year as Band Director at Bettendorf High School. You can follow Chris @TrumpetSaito

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.”

It should come as no surprise that, as a music teacher, I find myself needing to listen critically during rehearsal.  Actively listening for issues - such as improper balance, intonation, rhythm, or pitches - leads to the instruction that comes from the podium during rehearsals.  While I can pride myself on my own listening skills developed over my lifetime as a musician, one of the more difficult aspects of being a high school band director comes from trying to get all of my young students to actively listen, as well.

Emphasizing the importance of listening to the tuba player during every minute, every second, and every beat of music may not immediately show its importance in getting a job ten years in the future, but I strongly believe that students with well-tempered listening skills will place ahead of the pack years and decades down the road.  Why?  Read on.

The development of listening skills comes at a critical point in these students’ lives, as well as an incredible point in the evolution of social media and information technology.  With more and more students being connected to the internet, less time is spent listening in conversation.  Phone conversations that we had as students became text messages with more recent generations.  Facebook is not only a tool for sharing stories, but also for removing one’s self from needing a more personal interaction.

Think about how easy birthday greetings on Facebook have become.

Facebook reminds you of upcoming birthdays a week out.  You can click on a reminder, type “happy birthday,” regardless of whether you’ve spoken to the person in a day or a decade, and hit the “send” button.  How social is that interaction?  Is it social at all?  Yet that’s becoming the accepted norm among teens and young adults.

This is only one example of the de-socialization caused by the information age.  A bigger problem with internet anonymity and social media is the “fire-and-forget” problem that many of us find ourselves susceptible to.  We get riled up by something we read, and rather than having a conversation in person, or at least over the phone, we type up a text, email, Facebook post, or tweet, and put it out there, with the hopes that someone else will listen to what we have to say.  In reality, the fire-and-forget post only perpetuates a cycle of entrenching ourselves within what we had to say first.  The opposite of listening.

What do I need my young band members to become?  I need them to become well-rounded musicians, who have command of their own ears as well as their instruments.  I need them to become active listeners – people who will try to see all sides of a conversation, not just their own.  I need them to become fully engaged in a conversation, rather than being distracted by an electronic device.  Their developing listening skills will allow them to contribute to society as better leaders AND followers.  Better writers and readers.  Better husbands and wives.

By listening.

1 comment:

  1. It took me a few weeks before getting to read this, but I really love what you have to say here, Chris.