Tuesday, March 10, 2009
What's Like Got To Do With It?
A student today began her piece at measure 5 and played quite well to the end. I asked her why she didn't play the first 4 introductory measures. I thought that because they were quite a bit different than the rest of the piece that perhaps she couldn't play them, but she surprised me by jumping right in and playing them just as well as the rest!
"So, why didn’t you play the first 4 measures?"
"I don’t like them. Just because I don’t like them, doesn’t mean I can’t play them. I just don’t like them."
Well. You got me there! I am often struck by the students who judge a piece by its cover. If the young ones dislike the artwork, it can be an uphill battle. I often play a piece to introduce it to a student. Some of them have come right out and said that they liked it better than what it looked like on the outside!
I once had an adult student and she got rather accomplished. I eventually gave her a piece that was in a very plain blue Henle urtext (original text) edition. She smiled so broadly and said, "I feel like I've arrived! I have been waiting years to be good enough for 'the blue books'!"
Some of my colleagues allow students to play almost exclusively popular music. Others do nothing but the standard classical repertoire. There seems to be some judgment from one group about the other. The eyebrow raising goes both ways.
I guess I have a unique perspective on this. I was classically trained at my lessons. I was blessed with very diversely musical parents who took me to a wide range of concerts and listened to a very eclectic mix at home. They also showered me with sheet music which I didn't take to lessons, but played for fun. I played for the choirs at church and at school. My uncles and extended family all played instruments when there were family gatherings, and it was expected that I be able to improv along with them.
I remember playing a Scarlatti sonata at an anniversary party, and being quite proud of my performance. A great uncle came up to me a little while later and asked me if I played anything HE knew. SLAM! He later played with the band and was amazing.
Now that I can choose the music I perform, I play what I like. That is a wide range of styles and time periods, classical and contemporary. I expect students however, to try everything. Is this rather like having children try all their different food choices: eat their veggies, try ethnic varieties of food? How will they someday know what they like? How do you know what YOU like?
(Picture from the San Diego Zoo, brother polar bears at play, March 2008)