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5 Lessons of Grit that Students Learn in a Marimba Group

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

One of my last posts answered the question, "Why marimba?" and one of the reasons was that it teaches students all about GRIT. I wanted to give a little more detail into what grit is and why kids need to learn it and how marimba is a good way to learn:

1) TAKING ON CHALLENGES: If there is ever a time to try new things, it's in childhood. And while learning an instrument through private lessons is a great way to discover a hidden talent, marimbas offer a little something more--a group where other members are taking on their own challenges as well. And there is safety in numbers. And since the group is learning together, we all support each other as we all step out of our comfort zone together. The grit is putting yourself out there to try it out.

2) COPING WITH FRUSTRATION & STAYING POSITIVE: Marimbas are not your typical instrument group, like a string quartet or rock band. Everyone is playing pretty much the same instrument at different skill levels. During rehearsals, I watch my students very carefully as we are learning a new song, to see signs of frustration. But I don't step in to help right away. I want them to build that grit, to try and work it out themselves. I may ask the whole class "Who is struggling a bit? Be honest." I do this so everyone can see that they are not alone in their struggle. We then breathe, reset and work on it again, maybe with each other, maybe by themselves. I do approach students at some point, but overall, I want the student to stay in control as much as possible. I ask questions to guide them through it so they can realize that they have grit and the power to work through their frustration constructively.

3) VALUING HARD WORK AND PATIENCE: Marimba playing is a full body experience. Not only do you have to visualize and audiate your part, but you also have to physically play it. Your brain and body are working so hard together. And this takes time! Students find out very quickly that putting a song together is not an easy feat. But my favorite part of this process is putting a new piece together little by little, so that students can see for themselves how they are progressing, even if just by a little bit. That's the "ray of sunshine" when it comes to learning grit--seeing that progress. They see that it's worth it!

4) TRUSTING YOUR BODY: When I see a student having a particular tough practice--they can't remember the pattern, or they can but their mallets just won't cooperate. I have them remember what it was like to first ride a bike or roller skate. Chances are, it didn't come to you right away, that you had to teach your body what to do. Learning marimba in a group is the same way. I call it "marinating", allowing your brain and body time to digest all that you are feeding it. When a students comes back later after "marinating" their brain, they are thrilled that their hands and brain are finally together! Your body remembers more than you may think if you give it time. This is part of the process of learning grit.

5) LEARNING THAT YOU'RE HUMAN, AND SO IS EVERYONE ELSE: This is a big stepping stone for a lot of young students. I always have a student that thinks that because they take music lessons, marimbas are going to be a breeze. And then the piece falls apart. Playing in a marimba group is not about being a "hot shot" player; it's being able to play with others. It's humanizing for a student to realize that they need to stay with the group for the song to sound good. That grit is manifesting itself at that moment, making them realize that we are all human, on this earth together. And that even if our skills are better than others, we need to work together to make beautiful music.

Bottom line, grit is something that students need to get through the frustrations and failures in life and succeed. This grit can result in learning about yourself and others and the end result is having a great time. I leave you with this video below. This is a marimba group from Zimbabwe that is just having a great time on marimbas. Each of them is playing their own part, but all are fully aware of each other's contribution. And look at the fun they are having! This is my goal for each and every marimba group and class that I teach.

For information about an upcoming marimba camp or activity, please email me at for more info.

For information about an upcoming marimba camp or activity, please email me at for more info.

~Sabrina Silva

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