Monday, November 26, 2012

Not Everyone Thrives in a 'Do this and Get a Gold Star' Environment

I remember taking saxophone lessons as a child. I was 7. My teacher was a Frenchman. A real nice guy. Until you made a mistake.

Then, he would hit me on the head with a pencil and tell me to start again. As a child, I thought this was playful banter. In other words, it didn’t bother me but what it did was make me afraid of making mistakes or errors as some teachers like to call them.

His approach was to create a technically proficient player who could read music well and play in time and on cue. Now this is the way it is for most music study. Teachers help students meet certain goals and I have no problem with this. But this approach does have a drawback, and it’s a pretty big one in my book.

It’s that the emphasis is on technique to the exclusion of creative expression which to me is putting the cart before the horse. Here’s why. Technique is great. No argument there. In fact, the classical pianist is a master at technique.

But technique by itself does nothing for those who wish to communicate their feelings on their chosen instrument. Sure, they can play scales, arpeggios, etc, but the idea of improvisation, composition, these things are left till the very end if taught at all. And this is what I oppose.

Students must learn to trust their intuition - a skill that can be taught, but isn’t to most music students.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, I encourage improvisation and composition while learning technique. This approach encourages innovation, creativity, and boldness - exactly the same qualities one should have to properly be called an ’artist.’

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