Music students learn new rep on a semester basis, and the requirements for all performances are that they play only new pieces. I have been advocating for sight-reading lessons for a long time on here, and I also think that music teachers really need to prepare students to play the same thing over and over again. Am I contradictory? No, and here’s why.
The semester-long basis of learning is too far from the basis professional musicians know- of course, you could always debate that students shouldn’t be held to the same standard as professional musicians, which I agree with, but I still believe that they need to be prepared for that standard, which is not currently the case.
Professional musicians do primarily one of two things: sight read and play the same thing over and over again. Don’t believe it? I didn’t either until I thought through the options.
Church musician: Sight-reads some last minute choir piece, plays the same hymns on a regular basis.
Pop-rock band: Plays new songs by ear, mostly perform the same songs at every show.
Accompanist: Killer sight-reader, plays same pieces over and over when specializing in a certain rep: voice, trumpet, violin, clarinet, etc.
Military bands: Some sight reading, mainly play same marches and patriotic music.
Jazz musicians: Sight read never-seen-before tunes, but usually improvises different things over the same standards.
Orchestra musicians: Sight read new rep, but when they stay in the same orchestra for years, end up repeating the same basic rep over a few years.
After considering most options of professional life as a musician, I think the semester-basis of learning for music students doesn’t prepare them properly for life as professional musicians. As I’ve said multiple times before, students need to learn to sight-read as young as possible. They also need to get the idea of what it’s like to perform the same thing again and again in order to be ready for it, and to know if they’re cut out for it.