“Parents just don’t understand!”
I’m sure raising a disgruntled teenager is not an easy task… Having worked with teenagers for several years now, we actually at times count ourselves lucky that we are parents to a four-month old instead of a fourteen year old! But we know you are their biggest fans and want more than anything to see them happy and succeeding. So in this post I will talk about how parents can support their children in a positive way during the All State auditions.
Give your student space to practice
Practice is the key to success in All State, but most of us feel nervous performing a polished product in front of people, let alone sounding bad (read: improving) with an audience! This can make students shy or nervous about practicing at home with other people in the house. So we recommend that you give your student some space by running an errand or going to a different part of the house while they’re practicing…even for 20 or 30 minutes. Use it as a teachable moment for your other children:
“Sister is practicing so that she can get better, just like you do at soccer practice. Let’s let her practice in peace.”
Then, of course, try not to interrupt them or comment on their practice. First of all, being negative probably isn’t going to help, more on that later. Some students don’t even like to hear you being positive and encouraging (parents don’t know what they’re talking about, right?!) It’s also not wise to try to step into their teacher’s shoes and give feedback, even if you are a musician or feel you know a lot about All State. How about, instead:
“I noticed you’re working hard on that All State Music! I’m so proud of you.”
Ask Your Child About Their Preparation
My most successful students are the ones that are self motivated to practice. Sometimes it is due to a competitiveness, and other times they are just a hard worker and tend to be self-motivated in all areas of their lives. However, the majority of students are not self motivators and need nudges and reminders from teachers and parents to take time to practice weekly. You know your child best, so think of this as a homework assignment.
To keep track of your child’s progress and practice time, check out our practice log here.
Do you generally ask “Did you do your homework?” or do you ask: “What are you working on in Chemistry lately?” We all know a teenager loves the opportunity to grunt or nod to a yes/no question. Use specific but open ended questions:
“What is giving you the most trouble on your All State Music lately? What are you doing to work that out?”
If your child is open to it, offer to help them carve out time to practice. Oftentimes students are taking a really full load of classes and prioritizing homework over practice. Maybe you can help them find time, or clear time in their schedules (do they really need to go to their second cousin’s third birthday party? Or can they take Sunday to practice?)
Be Interested, but Save the Judgement
I imagine parents spend a lot of time giving direction to (harping on) kids and trying to keep them on track with school work and life in general. A teenager would definitely say that’s the case! You may know that they’re doing this audition and you have to drive them there really early on a Saturday…but how much interest have you shown in the All State process? Choir is probably their favorite class, and they probably spend a lot of time talking to their choir friends about All State. This could be a great way for you to connect to them as well. Then, later on they’d have a hard time with an eyeroll and a “Ugh nevermind mom, you don’t know anything anyway” because they told you all about it, so you do know! And if you don’t, they’ll know they can help you understand and you won’t doze off while they educate you.
“What’s your favorite song this year?” Why?”
It might also be helpful to help them take the focus off of other singers. Some kids love to compare themselves to others, whether in a positive or negative light. But if you learn one thing about All State, you should know that it is a solo sport, a competition with yourself, so using comparison does no good here…nor in life.
“I know Sally made All State last year, what do you think you can learn from her that will help you with this audition?”
Help Them Set Priorities and Goals
Did your student struggle to pass 8th grade Spanish and math but you are now pushing them to be Valedictorian of their high school class? Probably not (though I’m sure they’re lovely and kind)… parents know their kid’s strengths and weaknesses. So after you learn a little about the process, maybe you can help them frame their expectations, using our suggestions as a guide. And as always, avoid comparison to other singers if at all possible!
Encourage Attendance at Sectionals/Camps
An informal poll was taken at one of the mixed choir rehearsals last year at TMEA. The poll was “who has attended an all state camp in preparation for auditions?” 99% percent of the students raised their hands. Attending a camp is the number one thing that helps students prepare for auditions. Encourage and financially support your son/daughter to attend a camp, and maybe give them some choice as to the location. Attending a camp with a friend is even better so they know they will know somebody there and not feel alone.
Many schools hold sectional rehearsals before or after school. The school we teach at currently holds sectionals during study hall. We even do mock auditions! These opportunities are valuable as it is supervised practice time for students, possibly by a teacher who has a music degree. Offer to drop off early or pick up your child late from school for these opportunities or coordinate a carpool. Let your student know that work or even homework can wait for just a little bit while they put in some extra work on All State. Also, help them keep track of when these opportunities are! Check your email from the choir director…they probably will list those rehearsal times there.
“Do you think your teacher will give you some extra help on All State? Do you need a ride?”
Another great but small investment is to purchase a Sight Reading book for your student to use at home.
Enroll your child in voice lessons
Enrolling your child in voice lessons gives them an adult figure (other than their parents) to hold them accountable for practicing. A voice teacher is usually a great motivator for practice– and can set up a practice plan. I get emails from parents ALL. THE. TIME. asking me to nudge students to audition for things, practice more, etc. Usually, I am asked this by parents because they know their child is not going to listen to them the way they might listen to a teacher. Students are more likely listen to another adult more when given advice about something musical, or anything really. Encourage them to bring specific questions about the music to their teacher as well!
A teacher can be a great resource for you to check in on your child’s physical and mental preparation for the process, and you can help them understand where your child is as well. Sometimes parent and teacher hear different stories from the student!
Then, once they’re signed up for lessons, maybe you could help them remember when their lesson time is and to bring their All State music. 🙂
“What are you planning on working on in your lesson this week?”
Lastly, we know you will do this in all things, but no matter what, just be a cheerleader for your child. Even if you know nothing else about All State, you can just be there for them and continue to ask:
“What can I do to help you succeed?”