I think that's what it must be like teaching math. When a student does a math problem, they need to do all of the following things: Read the instructions correctly, understand the instructions, come up with a means of solving the problem, execute the solution correctly, make sure all arithematic is done right, and check work for careless errors.
When a student does one thing wrong in math, it doesn't matter if they did five things right. Any break in the chain will result in failure. They have to be perfect in all steps to demonstrate their intelligence.
But kids aren't cars. They know that, in life, they can use what they're good at to compensate for what they aren't so good at. Why isn't this true in school?
Ah, enter music! I have the great privilege of being able to allow my students to succeed, not in one way, but in many ways. True, I want them to be able to read music, sing well, dictate notes that they hear, understand the theory and have a sense of what they are singing about. But in a chorus, no one has to be able to do all of these things perfectly.
In my class, a student can succeed with only some of these elements. They can discover their areas of weakness and work on them without fear, because a small failure does not mean a total failure. If they can sing notes back to me, they can participate successfully in class and do well in a concert. Meanwhile, we can work on their reading skills along the way.
Even better, kids with one set of skills can collaborate with others to succeed as a group. It's great that I have good readers in my chorus sitting next to natural singers. They help each other, and neither of them is a failure.
This is very much the way successful people operate in life. They capitalize on your strengths, they work on their weaknesses, and they collaborate with others to succeed. Isn't it amazing that we can teach kids such things in school? I believe it is our responsibility to explain what we do in our music rooms so that its true value is clear. We provide vital opportunities for children to grow in ways that other teachers often cannot.