Students must practise how to practise, but first they need a model from whom to learn. How many students have the opportunity to watch their teacher practise, and how many teachers observe their students as they practise? We learn a great deal from observing others.
On my first visit to New York City I had hoped to attend a concert featuring Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, and the New York Philharmonic, but it was sold out. Fortunately the rehearsal was open to the public. Witnessing one of the world’s great orchestras in rehearsal was a priceless experience, more valuable to me than attending the actual concert.
During a school choir tour to Europe in 2003, a highlight for my students was witnessing the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra rehearse Mahler. Students need to witness a new level of excellence to reset their goals.
When I wanted to raise the bar with the Brighton Secondary School Stage Band in Adelaide, Australia, I had them workshop with the university big band.
Purposeful listening is a crucial activity for all musicians. Observing a practice session is valuable, and opportunities abound to do so for free or at least inexpensively. Live concerts inspire and motivate children.
When I was a boy my mother took me to see Australian pianist Roger Woodward at the Adelaide Town Hall. It was my first real concert, and everything about it impressed me: the at-capacity audience, their earnest appreciation for the music, and the beautiful square marbled hall. I was in awe of the passion, the beauty, the emotional intensity of Beethoven’s sonatas, and the virtuosity of Woodward’s pianism. The audience response was overt and joyful; it conveyed to me that something important and vital had just taken place. The significance, gravity, and intensity of the entire event captured me, and from that experience I wanted to play Beethoven’s music. This was a crystallizing experience in my musical childhood. Another early crystallizing experience occurred at a distant relative’s birthday party where an elderly man played an old upright piano. My mother was astute in finding opportunities to inspire me musically, and she promptly introduced me to Don, asking him if I could watch him play. His wonderful music amazed me. Don was not a music reader but improvised and played by ear. I wanted to be like Don and have the same freedom from notation in my playing. Don, however, impressed upon me that he wished that he could read music, and he encouraged me to continue to develop my music-reading skills. I came away with the view that reading music and being able to play without music are both important.
One never knows when the arrow of inspiration might strike. Parents and teachers must set up numerous opportunities in the hope that they might capture a child’s curiosity.
from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin
“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, Music Educator, New Haven, USA.
“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Guildhall School of Music, UK.