“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato
In the new issue of Clavier Companion, Pete Jutras wrote a thought-provoking article titled, “Finding the Center.” In the article he challenges us to keep the “person” the focus of what we do, amidst the scales, memory slips, and phrasing coaching. It is easy to get caught up in the “nuts and bolts” of teaching, but what is really important is teaching the whole person.
I adamantly agree with Pete in that the person must remain the focus of our teaching. However, I would also add that the music needs to remain at the center of our lessons as well. Good music makes us better people and ennobles us to a higher call. We have the opportunity as teachers to transform students lives through music.
February is a busy month at The New School for Music Study. We are preparing for our annual Piano Progressions evaluations. In this in-house festival, students are evaluated on repertoire, technical skills, ear training exercises, sight-reading, and a written theory test. With all of this preparation, it is easy for students and teachers alike to get bogged down with scales, triads, and technical details; we easily can lose sight of what really matters.
Last year during this time, we took a cue from Richard Rejino’s work, and asked our students, “What Does Music Mean to You?” We got many touching and heartfelt responses like the ones below:
“Music means to me your feelings and the way you express yourself. I think of it as your words trapped inside you that can’t get out and that you just can’t tell someone face to face. I also think of it as a letter or a note for another person. You’re afraid of what they will think of you after you tell them or give them the note, so the only way you can express your feeling is through music. You can let the world know without words.”
“Music means a lot to me. Music calms me down when I’m frustrated. It’s pleasant to listen to and fun to play too!”
“To me, music gives me peace and puts me at ease. I went through some tough times when I was younger and music was always there for me. It provided me with a way to escape reality for a short amount of time. This quote gave me hope as well, ‘Music can change the world because music can change people.’-Bono”
“Music means a great deal to me. It helps me take my mind off the things that bother me throughout the day. Whether I need to relax or get ready for a test, I can get in the right mindset by listening to music. Real music helps me block out the so-called music I hear on the radio on the bus every morning.
Piano music allows me to express myself within the parameters of a great artist whose works deserve to be shared with all. The piano has a huge range of expression – from happy to sad, joyous to melancholy, tender to furious. The array of human feeling and ability is succinctly yet expansively expressed in the works of piano. When I play piano music, I am able to get in touch with these emotions and channel them through my fingers to relay them to an audience. Music served me as a sort of catharsis, an emotional release when I played a recital the weekend my grandmother died. A phone call during which I played Mendelssohn’s Venetian Boat Song was one of the last things she ever heard. Music is a goodbye, a farewell, a last remark to those who pass on.”
This year, we will invite students to write and submit poetry about one of three topics: 1) Music, 2) The Piano, and 3) My Favorite Piano Piece. Ten winning poems will be selected to be read by students on our full faculty recital in May. The theme of the recital is Piano Music the World Loves. Our goal of this projects is to focus on what really matters: people and music.
Click here to read Pete Jutras’ article, “Finding the Center.” If you do not have a subscription to Clavier Companion, you can get a free digital copy by visiting the magazine’s website, www.claviercompanion.com.