Sunday, August 7, 2011

The thrill of 10,000 twinkles

Scott Adams, the creator/artist/author of Dilbert, has weighed in heavily on his views that his, by modern standards, boring childhood is part and parcel of what has made him the creative person he is today (and, pretty obviously, a boring career path contributed, too!).

As a music educator, I find this interesting, because there are often two schools of thought when it comes to picking repertoire. The first is "keep moving on"-keep doing new pieces that develop skills. Yes, you'll refine some pieces for recitals or performances, but for the most part, you're not going to go back and keep playing those first pieces you learned in your first book of study after you've played them for years.

The second is "There's always more to learn from the same piece"-so continue to practice, to refine, to not let it become automatic.

I admit, as a parent who has to hear the practice session, the first has some serious merit. Especially in the early stages where playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" is a major accomplishment. It's hard to get up the enthusiasm as a parent to encourage the 1,000th playing of a given song. Especially if you're not only hearing it on your child's instrument, but on the iPod in the car, or on the CD player in your child's room, because they're listening to it daily. And I admit that, while I'm well aware, as an early childhood music educator, that young children need repetition and having the same songs come back at different levels is a good thing, there are a few in the Kindermusik curriculum that I see on a lesson plan, sigh, and think "Again??? We have thousands of songs in the library, and I really have to sing "My Farm" again???"  And I know some of my parents have that feeling, too. So, there's a real temptation to pull in new songs-or at least, new versions of the old favorites. Not so much for the kids, but for the adults.

But the other side of it is watching my daughter begin to go beyond the page, beyond simple repetition. Zoltan Kodaly's little piece, "One Bird" is about a simple as it gets. Two notes. The first song taught in the Suzuki Recorder School, it keeps coming back. Different rhythms. Different note patterns. Different inflections. Pretty little piece-but after awhile, it starts bringing back memories of sleeping in my grandparent's house of 10,000 clocks.  But when I see what my daughter has pulled out of that simple piece, and how she explores it, it's wonderful to watch-and it's something that doesn't happen without going back and repeating, reviewing and reinforcing constantly. What's more, while she's taking piano more traditionally, in a "move it on" sense, she's started doing the same thing with her early piano pieces-taking them back, exploring them more fully, and experimenting. She's truly pulling creativity, one of my musical goals for her, out of boredom.

And that's a good thing. Even if sometimes it gets annoying.

Fall music classes and lessons now enrolling at the University of Memphis Community Music School-including Suzuki recorder.

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