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Music Resolutions: Making Them Stick

Stephanie Morey-Barry

January 12, 2017

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Ever make a New Year’s resolution only to find that you’ve completely gotten off track come spring? Well, for musicians, making music resolutions can lead to the same results. Up until last year, I found that the same tired goal-making routine was becoming more of a chore and less of an inspirational experience. 

Turns out, I'm not alone. According to 2014 University of Scranton psychology department poll, 71% hold to these annual promises for the first two weeks. But six months later, less than 50 percent of those surveyed actually upheld the resolutions.

Last year, I created a new 6-step system for goal setting in my voice studio that completely transformed the drive and progress of my students: 

1. Discuss our goals together.

This seems obvious. But notice the word “our.” It is important for both students and teachers to have goals for the lesson time. Sometimes, the student has an idea of what they want to achieve. Simultaneously, a teacher may have a goal that the student hadn’t even thought of. In addition, a teacher might help a student to make their goals more realistic. A student might want to sing, Defying Gravity, but they may not be ready for that yet. A teacher can help guide the enthusiasm in a way that is age and developmentally appropriate. An open and honest discussion of goals is important.

2. Set a tangible goal. 

A student will often tell me that they want to, “get a lead in the school play.” However, this goal is vague and doesn’t expand on the many steps leading up to getting a lead in a play. This could easily lead to a dead end mid-year. Instead, we make a tangible goal, such as, “working towards developing an audition repertoire of 5 songs.” A student is more likely to be successful with a goal that is specific and achievable. 

New-Years-Resolutions.jpeg3. Display our music resolutions and goals in the classroom.

I have my students physically write their goals and place them on a poster that is in our lesson room. This creates a visual reminder every lesson that we are in lessons to achieve goals. It also makes our studio a place for serious learning.


4. Revisit our goals halfway through the year in June.

A lot can change in six months! Sometimes, goals are already accomplished by June. Other times, we find that our direction has changed and we need to change our goals. We make a whole new poster in June in order to add and modify our goals. This is also a great motivator for those students who lost their drive. They realize that they have six months to complete their resolutions!

5. Celebrate our victories!

In January of 2018, we celebrate our victories. We create a third and final poster board that displays all that they accomplished in the year. This reminds students of how great a year we had and helps them to reflect on how far they’ve come!

6. Repeat!

You’d be surprised how easily this 6-month goal-making scenario fits right into your music life. It’s an easy way to keep yourself focused, and it doesn’t belong only in the classroom. Add a poster in your practice space at home, in your dorm room, or anywhere you need a little motivation! 

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