Ask Rhee Gold | New Music Choices

Advice for Dance Teachers

Q: Dear Rhee,

I’m frustrated and want to pick your brain about music. I spend endless hours making it easy for my staff to choose fun and interesting music for recital dances. I research new music every week. I set up Spotify playlists and provide Kindles in every classroom with playlists for different dance styles and ages. There’s Wi-Fi in the studio for teachers who wish to use their own technology. I purchase music singles and full albums, and I edit all the music we use in performance. Yet when I go through my faculty’s recital music, I see the same old uninspired selections.

Studio owners are often criticized as “the old ones,” out of touch with our students, but my teachers can’t bother to take the time to listen to these pre-prepared playlists of new music. It’s not easy to find clean, appropriate music, but it does exist. Don’t tell me there are no current hip-hop options for elementary-age students when I just added the Descendants 2 soundtrack to our options this fall.

How on earth do other studio owners get their teachers to take the time to listen to and pick good music?  —Kimberly


A: Dear Kimberly,

I know you are frustrated, but in defense of your teachers, it is logical that they would choose selections that are familiar and comfortable. Although you are aware of how important it is to be progressive in today’s dance education field, some teachers might look at this from a different perspective.

Consider hosting a music brainstorming session with your faculty. This is how it works: present some new music options categorized by style of dance and/or age level. Share selections that you feel are appropriate for their classes, and let each teacher make his or her choices from the options you propose. If you set it up like a game, they’ll have fun, and you’ll get more inspired musical choices.

Or come up with two or three music options for each class, and meet with teachers individually to discuss. Let your teachers make the final choices.

Both of these options allow teachers to participate in the music selection process, which is important. Teachers who have a say in things like music and choreography stay invested in the creative process and in their students.

My mother chose all the music for her studio’s shows, and gave me and the other teachers our music when it was time to begin teaching recital choreography. It was easy for us, and my mother was assured the recital would have the variety of music she wanted. A few times I wasn’t inspired by her choices, and went back to her with some other options. If she was comfortable with what I presented, we could negotiate a final selection.

You are the studio owner and your reputation rides on every performance. It is OK to employ your expertise to create the recital that feels right to you. The key is to take control and work to improve what you feel needs improvement, while encouraging your faculty to take an active role in the decision-making process. Good luck. —Rhee