Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Canoe Tipped Over, On Purpose

When I went to my first summer camp, it was at a northern Minnesota lake. There were hundreds of other new campers. But we all talked about the same thing that first night around the campfire. Canoe lessons.

You see, over one hundred timid city kids in the lake that day swamped their canoes as lesson number one. Yes, we all got wet. Yes, we were mostly a screaming, splashing confused bunch of 11-13 year olds. But it was so smart of the counselors to get that "mistake" out of the way. Because you know it's going to happen eventually. You are going to need to know how to be in control, flip it, right it, and somehow, get back in the canoe.

I haven't taken skiing lessons but I've heard the first thing you learn is how to fall. Because you will. This might be an interesting philosophy with piano.

The transfer student seemed so afraid. There were so much water, i.e., lots of notes, fingerings, dynamics, slurs, phrasing. Where do I even start, she wondered. Start by making some mistakes, and make them big.

In composition, we could teach the same thing. Try a bunch of ridiculous ideas. Mix it up and dump it out, all over. Do more. Do less. Combine styles, focus on one style completely.

The new student comes in and wants to be a good student. They are shy or intimidated by the bigness of the instrument. You can't hold a piano in your hands like a flute or a violin.

I'm not expecting students to know how to play piano before they've been taught how. Jump in. Splash and scream. Get wet. I promise you won't drown. I'm right here. And it's so much fun. Happy Summer all.

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