What to Do When A Student Just Doesn’t Seem to Care?

by Fran Kick

There’s at least one in every band or orchestra rehearsal. A student who just seems to go through the motions. Sometimes even mumbling to his or her section “I’m just not into this today. Rehearsal’s not good. It’s too hot today. It’s too cold today. Something’s wrong with my instrument.” And all the other variations of whining, griping, moaning, groaning, wondering why they’re having a terrible time. Notice how the entire focus of their complaining always seems to surround themselves. Or blaming other things for the fact that they’re not “into it.”

Rather than concentrating and paying attention, they’re complaining and perhaps attracting attention, certainly distracting others from paying attention, and in general making – and sometimes causing – more mistakes in rehearsal.

What can you do to make a difference? Well, short of kicking them out of rehearsal, which in truth isn’t a very good idea. Whether they’re the worst player, or the best player, we need everyone in rehearsal. Besides, they might not always be this way. Perhaps it’s just not their day. Think about it: they may have failed a test in another class. Forgot their lunch, had to buy, and it was Sloppy Joe Day in Lunch Lady Land. Who knows?! But we’ve all been there. Stuff happens outside of music rehearsal that impacts even the best of us and especially the worst of us.

Of course the trick is not letting it affect you. Allow the music to be an escape from all that and focus on making music–mentally bringing you to a higher place above all the riff-raff, the hassles we have to deal with, and the day to day “thick of things.” But what about that person in your group who just doesn’t seem to care? How can you help? Well here are three things you can do:


That’s right, ignore them. Don’t give them any attention. If we know that what gets attention gets repeated, then the last thing you want to do is pay them off with your attention. It only reinforces their negative behavior and you do NOT want them having “another bad day.”


Ask them a polite, non-threatening, performance related question 

Something like: “Hey, I’m just checking – on your part, what count does that rest appear to be on in measure 42? When does that crescendo start? Are there accents on your part in measure 64?” Now, you already know the answer, but it’s a good way to distract them from their bad day and focus their thoughts on something rehearsal specific. Do be careful when you ask them that it doesn’t come across as sarcastic. Just keep it casual in tone with a genuine “perhaps there’s a problem with your printed part” approach. 


Be sure to be the positive example you’d want others to be

If actions speak louder than words, don’t get sucked into their negativity. Be the example, the role model, the leader who makes things happen and always KICKs IT IN!