Luck is not chance, it’s toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned. ~ Emily Dickinson

Mr. Ahrens teaches band & choir at Bear River High School in Grass Valley, CA.


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Life Lesson #7: Personal Responsibility / Punctuality

Performing, listening to, and enjoying great music are their own rewards. But most people recognize that there are many additional life lessons learned while studying music. We discussed these lessons in a recent #MusEdChat session on Twitter. This series of blog posts contains my reflections on that discourse. Thank you to those who participated in the conversation, one of whom I have quoted below. Please click on her Twitter user name to follow and gain further insight. [Click here for more information about using Twitter as a personal or professional learning network.]

Music Life Lesson #7: Personal Responsibility / Punctuality

It was my freshman year in band when I first heard the little couplet:

“To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late.”

It was not just something thrown out there to help with punctuality but it was the way the organization was run. I was of course familiar with the concept of timeliness ever since the onset of “the bell” in kindergarten. But not being tardy to class is different from the idea of exercising your responsibility to your band mates by always being punctual. I had considered doing separate posts for ‘responsibility’ and ‘punctuality’ but the more I thought about it, it seems they are too closely related.

Performing music with an ensemble is a remarkable thing. One piece of art being created simultaneously by many individual musicians live in front of an audience. Of course we rehearse but the music is created anew with each iteration. As student musicians in school ensembles we learn of our individual worth and responsibility to the whole. Each member of a band or choir has musical value that may be positive or negative. We learn about our duty to each other to practice our parts to near perfection so that our value augments the caliber of the performance. We all have personal experiences with band mates (or perhaps ourselves) who did not put forth a diligent effort in learning their parts and thereby caused an entire performance to suffer.

@MinorMusic: performing well in a concert means you have followed thru with your commitment to the ensemble.

We have a responsibility to know our parts. We have a responsibility to focus and play musically during rehearsal. We each have a responsibility to better our ensembles. But if we are not at rehearsal, even for a couple of minutes, we are failing in these responsibilities. My wind ensemble director at California State University, Northridge (Dr. David Whitwell) often said that a minute of rehearsal time lost was 60 minutes lost (or however many members of the group there were). 60 individual minutes of talented, valuable musicians’ time could have been used to better prepare the band for a performance. And certainly we learn that a musician arrives well ahead of time to performances – earlier even than one may think is needed. A professional musician that is late to gigs is not hired back, if not fired directly. At my high school, the concept of punctuality was tied into the concept of excellence and a spirit of professionalism.

The concepts of punctuality and responsibilities to those depending on us (and to ourselves) are not exclusively musical in nature. But they are lessons one learns through music – specifically participation in an ensemble.

This is part 7 of a 12 part series.

photo credit: pennstatelive


The full series of Life Lessons:


  1. Work Ethic / Discipline
  2. Perseverance
  3. Listening
  4. Critical Thinking
  5. Getting Along
  6. Situational Awareness
  7. Personal Responsibility / Punctuality
  8. Self-Confidence
  9. Leadership
  10. Setting Goals
  11. Connecting Emotion
  12. The Love of Music


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