When you teach, using these labels are important for 2 reasons:
1) it is easier to teach a class of similar skill levels than to try and teach a mixed skill level (a mixed skill level is a bit trickier to teach, but not impossible)
I do use the distinction, especially with beginners who are truly beginners. You have to tell them about the basic sounds, the names of the instruments, which end of the drum goes up, the idea of a call to get everyone to start at the same time and same speed, etc. This is rather boring stuff for someone who's been playing for a while.
For mixed groups of "not completely beginners" and intermediates, it's possible to teach them together, but I find it difficult. I can give more complex accompaniments to the intermediates and such, but I find it hard to create a class that doesn't do injustice to one group or the other by either over-taxing them or boring them.
As a teacher, I HATE for my students to be level oriented. My goal is to push each individual student at each class. What "level" I am teaching each individual varies from person to person and from week to week
Same here. It's not about level, but getting the best out of each person and to feed them just what they need at this stage of their development to get them to improve.
Another thing I try to avoid in not using the levels is competition. I look to promote a positive working group... one that can perform on it's own (everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses and how to compensate for them in the group)
I've been encouraging our students to get together outside class and to play in a group without a teacher. I think this is really important. I know from my own experience that, as soon as my teacher is around, I get a bit self-conscious and inhibited because I no longer feel as free to experiment (and, of course, stuff up in the process). Without a teacher around, students can ask each other question that they might be afraid a teacher would call dumb, and they can experiment and muck around to their heart's content without feeling embarrassed or being under performance pressure.
Some of our students have been doing just that, and it's made a huge difference to their skill level. They go, practice together, retain much more of what we taught in class than they would otherwise and, each week, they come to class with increased confidence, proud to show off what they learned. It's really nice to see!
Another thing that I use is putting stronger players next to weaker players... I truly feel that this helps BOTH players!
One final thought on levels involves performance, I have heard "beginner" students play very well phrased solos. the solo comes from the head, ears and heart. I can overlook technique if the phrasing is otherwise good. Technique is easy to fix, but having a "good ear" is something that needs to be developed, not taught. (does that even make sense to anyone else?)
Yes. A simple solo played with confidence and correct placement can sound great, despite not requiring great technical skill.
Personally I like the TTM levels (as I last knew them)
the "student" levels
Beginner 1 and 2
Intermediate 1 and 2
Advanced 1 and 2
These are usually expected to take 1 year per group (2 years per level).
Rather formalised, but probably close to the mark. I don't know many people I would call advanced after four years of playing (although, every now and then, there is an exceptionally gifted person who gets there in that time).
Then the "performing" levels
Semi-Pro (I guess for groups performing around their local area/region)
Pro (well... the "pros" kinda self explanatory)
The only down side here is that it implies that you should not perform until you pass the "advanced" level.[/quote]
I don't think that's implied (other than meaning "professional" performance). Mamady is big on doing performances at the end of his camps and encourages everyone to solo, regardless of skill level.
Performing is fun and builds confidence for a lot of people. And, after all, what's the point of making music if there is no audience to listen to it?