“Student Producer”

As a teacher, I always considered my job to be more of a “student producer” than a teacher. Unfortunately the term “producer” has become somewhat distorted. These days we tend to think of producers as famous people that throw parties, get wasted and constantly demand attention. However, real producers are very different.

In my mind, the role of a producer I imagine a genius in their field using their skills and talents to bring out the best in their artists. Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin and George Martin are all famous producers who did just that.

I invite you to re-think of your role as a student producer. Listen, observe and be flexible. Like every great producer, you should know your craft better than everyone else and always want to improve yourself. George Martin had the technical know- how to create the amazing sound of many Beatles records. Without that knowledge, their future would have been very different. Imagine if he had gone in the studio and said, “ok boys, here’s how it’s gonna work, we’re doing it my way.”

The greatest part of teaching a Rock Band class was that no one really knew what it should look like, so I was rarely judged until the performances. I was able to allow students to improve at their own pace, in their way and improve their skills. I simply guided them to a better result because I knew how to guide them as they honed their own process. Could I sing better, or play better or write better? Definitely not, but I could fix issues, encourage, inform and inspire. I didn’t say, “here is how you play music,” but I did say, “that is not how it goes” or “you’re gonna to wanna to fix that, trust me.” They did trust me. I was often able to create music students with the confidence to explore and grow on their own. What teacher doesn’t hope for that outcome?

It’s hard to imagine a classroom where the students are in control of their learning. It’s much more work and takes a certain calm in chaos approach. It also takes a certain type of student. I believe every student is capable of this process and wants to be in control, but many students are so unfamiliar with being in control. That issue has been created by us, the education system and parents. More on that in the future …

You’ve been to a kids’ soccer game, right? The worst parent on the field is the one screaming every single thing at their kid. Go left, move, run faster or get back to the ball. We all know that type of parent. The majority of parents enjoy watching the game and watching their kids figuring it out on their own. Yelling a word of encouragement every now and then is great, but mostly they stay out of the way. If you let it happen, watching them grow on their own is the most rewarding part. Why can’t the classroom be the same way?

Sometimes you really have to just put students in there and not tell them the plan. I’ve seen it work and honestly, I’ve seen it crash. Slowly, over time, students get more and more confidence. The difference is that they start to believe in themselves. Ultimately, they become self-confident and rely less on your instruction. However, this basically renders you useless. The good news is more kids are coming so you’re not working yourself out of a job!

A great producer builds a foundation of confidence within the artist. He knows the artist has to go and perform their art on their own, confidently.

Look for ways to become a “student producer” in your classroom. Don’t just teach at them. Think of your role as a producer, more than an educator. It will change your view and your approach.
Revision and change is often a healthy way to educate, inspire and live.