Thursday, January 10, 2013

Solo Projects!

A few years ago I began a "Solo Project" that students complete at home with their family.  I stole this idea from a colleague that teaches in the last district that I was in.  I have tweaked it out over the past few years for my own use and I think that I finally have a nice handle on it.  Many students don't perform beyond the three concerts we do per year and I think that this is an important part of the learning process, as well as becoming a more rounded musician.  Additionally, it provides parents with some insight to how the students are doing.

For the 6th graders, we are using the "Festival Solos" book that is a part of the Standard of Excellence methods.  This is the same method that publishes the "Festival Ensembles" book that we also work out of.  I like this book as the solos are progressive and come with a C.D. that students can play along with.  The percussion book has two sections, melodic and snare, so the students don't have too many books in their folder.  I should mention that this is not something that my school supplies-each student needs to buy their books or apply for a scholarship.  (More and more students need scholarships these days.)  I also like this book because they are transposed so that students can practice together-except for French Horn, OF COURSE!!!  However, that being said-the horn solos are written in a way that makes melodic sense.  Too often our young horn players are dealing with crazy jumps in their band method books because of the transposition issues.

So, back to the assignment.  Students were given several weeks to complete this.  I assigned it over the winter break so that they could play for extended family members if they so choose.  There were three levels that could choose from, each level being a bit more difficult.  I am proud to say that over half the students did either level two or three!  I wanted the students to take some ownership in their assignment so there was some flexibility in what they chose to prepare.

Additionally, students had to create program and complete a reflection with their audience.  I received some really fantastic programs and some haphazard programs.  Parents had wonderful things to say about their child's performance and the students were quite reflective.  Here is a copy of the assignment that was handed out to students:

Are you wondering how I grade this?  Well.....that has also evolved.  I used to have the students and parents assign the grade based on a rubric, but after some thoughtful reflection and conversation with some of my fabulous colleagues I came to the conclusion that just the act of putting together a program, performing several solos and the reflection is enough.  For some students this will be a big deal because they aren't particularly comfortable playing by themselves in front of other, but it is still a very valuable experience.  The students receive credit for turning it in.  Each level is awarded the same amount of points.  Students WILL lose points if they don't complete the program or if they don't complete the reflection.

The 7th and 8th grade bands received their solo projects today.  In addition to solos, they will be performing their short compositions that they wrote last month.  I will post about that project later, but there were some pretty cool things that came out of their minds.  I think that it will be a neat experience for my students to perform their own compositions-even if 6 or 8 measures.

Do you have comments or questions about what I do in my classroom?  Please ask away!

EDIT: I would love to hear about what cool things you do in your classrooms-please use this blog as a means of sharing!

Here is the very simple reflection.  I could probably improve this:

From the adult:

Please list two positives about the student’s performance:
Please list two constructive comments about the student’s performance:

From the student:

What are two things that went really well in your performance:

What are two things that you could improve on for next time:


  1. This is a great idea I may have to steal adapt and use with my students! Can you share what you have students do for the reflection portion?

  2. I added the reflection. I probably need to do more with this, but it is a start.

  3. What are wonderful idea! I'm so excited to try this with my students next year!