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Understanding Levels of Musical Development: Performing


6 min read

Dec 3, 2023




We’re in the middle of our Fall recital season with two recitals done and one yet to go after the first of the year. These are small “mini” recitals so that we can accommodate all of our students schedules on the weekends. These small recitals are much better for me as a teacher because I can focus on a smaller group of performers at once. They take a lot less time for me to put together and feel a little more “casual”. However, for my students, a small recital is a BIG recital, especially for the newer ones with less recital/stage experience under their belts.

people at theater


For parents that are not musically inclined or just new to the lesson process it’s important to understand where live performing fits into the levels of musical development in kids. All music students need to work towards performing on a regular basis.

In music the “PERFORMANCE” is the CHERRY on TOP of the Musical SUNDAE. The “Musical Sundae” being all of the layers need to learn to balance to become good musicians and performers. In music, we learn things in varied levels based on the ability for our brains to understand certain concepts and ideas. In learning music we are dealing constantly with an invisible variable and this is what makes music study unique and powerful all the same time.

MUSIC doesn’t happen until WE MAKE IT HAPPEN. It exists in print and on paper but we are the vehicle in which music exists. Learning music takes every fiber of your being. Your body, mind and soul are enveloped in the process. The weekly practice, the lessons, the hard work – all of this builds exponentially over time. To keep balance in the process we must constantly move between the practice room and the stage because these two things require us to be two different things in this process.


The best way to describe this is to have you imagine two differnt zones in your mind and being.

We’ll call these two zones 1) Analysis and 2) Creation. The two zones are part of your being but you cannot live in these two zones EVER at the same time. You know them each independently and they serve two different purposes.


  1. ANALYSIS: Analysis is simply what it sounds like – to learn - we analyze facts, figures, concepts, ideas. All the time our brains are comparing and contrasting to analyze data and information. As music students we are constantly in “analysis mode” learning songs and concepts. When we analyze we learn, we use good and bad input to make the process faster. We are really “digging in” in this zone of learning music.

  2. CREATION: Creation zone is the OPPOSITE Of Analysis Zone – completely opposite. In Creation zone we are no longer analyzing data but we are moving to drop that mindset and MOVE to let it ALL GO and move into the zone where we CREATE MUSIC. We’re trying to reach the ultimate level of our art which is to be FREE to explore – in REAL TIME – our MUSIC with every fiber of our being. To truly be free to be a vehicle for music.

That is the ultimate goal – to have worked so hard in ZONE 1 that we can easily TRANSITION to ZONE 2. Because we did the work required we are FREE to move into CREATION – this is when we MAKE music – we become the vehicle for Musical ENERGY!

A lof of young students don’t realize the importance of these two zones. Mastery at this level takes years of practice. Every time we transition from Zone 1 to Zone 2 we make huge strides in our abilities and our musical development. This is why it’s important for young students to perform. To memorize, to get out of their music, to move out of their comfort zones and on to the stage – no matter how big or small.

This highest step in our learning of a song – nailing it down 100% to perform it for an audience REQUIRES us to have done ALL OF THE WORK IN ZONE 1 to move to Zone 2 – forcing us to leave the comfort of Zone 1 – where a lot of young students like to stay.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FOSTER THIS? Encourage your child to perform for other people whenever possible. Recitals, church, school, family gatherings, video recordings, as much as possible to build that easy transitional bridge between the zones. Encourage mistakes. Many kids are terrified of the transition to Zone 2 – because of “MISTAKES”. it’s important to say here we want to aim for CONSISTENCY not necessarily perfection.

We’re not looking for perfection, it’s OK to make mistakes on stage; it’s normal. We don’t expect perfection all of the time – that is too high of a bar for anyone to reach, especially kids. We expect CONSISTENCY and hard work in Zone 1 and doing the very best you can in Zone 2.


Kids have a natural tendency when things get hard or uncomfortable to regress or retreat. This is normal behavior. We see this generally in the musical learning process around 18 months into lessons. We’re experiencing growth and development of the body and mind and easy things are getting “TOO” easy and hard things are…well…HARD and take a lot more effort in Zone 1. A child that has a lot of musical ability a lot of times needs gently pushing forward because they come up against these developmental and mental hurdles.

Kids today put A LOT of pressure on themselves that ultimately causes some self-destruction or self-sabbatage in the long run. Learning to understand how these two zones work in child musical development and when to push them forward is important for kids that are years into their music study. Always understanding that we work hard within the strong boundaries of Zone 1 so that we can FLY FREELY on stage to another level of Zone 2.

Kids; a lot of time expect or imagine themselves always at Zone 2 when they haven’t done the work in Zone 1 to make that transition happen successfully. Over time they learn that there is a process of working through these two zones to find amazing success in music and on the stage. Through this CONFIDENCE we achieve BALANCE and TRUST in our own abilities to do things we can only IMAGINE in our MINDS and this in turn, spills over into every aspect of our lives.

Heather Korn is a master teaching artist with a career of over 25 years teaching music students. She prepares young students for professional careers in music and the arts. She owns and operates Music Works Academy in Beatrice, Nebraska.

music works academy beatrice Heather Korn director

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