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What do you do when you can't find a "purple moment?"

January 20, 2014

“Plant a purple moment in every lesson.”
—Marvin Blickenstaff


Marvin Blickenstaff is one of my very favorite people!  He is a brilliant teacher and just as brilliant at teaching all the rest of us.  Best of all, he is kind, generous, humble, and simply one of the best people you will ever meet.


One of the things I appreciate most about Marvin is how he is always able to bring us back to what really matters.  In this quote, he is bringing us back to the importance of sound and emotional connection.  I love it!  I want my students to feel this at their lessons.


BUT, the lazy part of me complains, “But Marvin, EVERY lesson?  What about those kids that haven’t practiced or don’t naturally play very musically?  How I am supposed to plant a purple moment in EVERY lesson?”


I haven’t asked Marvin, but I suspect that if I did voice my concerns to him, he would tell me that although these moments are seemingly organic, they must actually be carefully planned (or planted!).  After all, when a gardener plants seeds, the carefully plant them in neat, straight rows, rather than throwing them up in the air and letting the wind scatter them at random.  (Marvin, feel free to chime in if you have other suggestions for me!)


So, I have challenged myself to PLAN the planting of a purple moment in each lesson this week.  I am eager for one lesson in particular.


One of my students is Thomas.  He is incredibly bright, but often overlooks the details of the music.  His hand position needs work, and it is easy to get caught up with this, overlooking the need to shape phrases and create dynamic contrast.   This week, I will hear him play Skip to My Lou from Music Tree 2B as a review piece.  We did a full workout of this piece at his last lesson.  In this version of the familiar tune there is an ABA plan with the B section at a softer dynamic.  I will coach him to use a practice technique, HIL (“Hands in Lap…thanks Amy Glennon!) to achieve the softer dynamic level in the B section.  He will play the last two measures of the A section, then put his Hands In Lap and count to three.  Then he will begin the B section at the softer dynamic.  As he becomes comfortable with thinking through the change, he may count to two and the one before starting the B section.  I anticipate the “purple” or magical moment when he first moves from the A to B section in time, with the correct dynamic change.


I am hopeful that my careful planning will result in a purple moment for my students this week!  Hopefully I will have some video to share of these moments as the week progresses.

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This site is created by the faculty of the New School for Music Study, a division of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

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