Saturday, October 03, 2009

Music education: Waxing nostalgic a bit . . .

A couple of employees at Sonlight have started a blog about music education. Their first post inspired me to write about my musical training/background.

I'm curious to see where Tim and Anne Marie go with their blog. (I have some knowledge of what they have in mind. But they are also doing "their own thing," here, so there's also a huge gap in my knowledge and I really am curious to find out where they take this.) Even more--and this is why I'm writing this post--I am curious to find out what others think about music education and what they remember as they think about their own experiences with music education.

Indeed, I got thinking about writing this post because I want to ask my best friend from elementary school (whom I mention below) what he might have to say about these things.

Got any inputs you might want to share?

Here's what I wrote:
Let me start with my dad: He was a fairly accomplished pianist and violinist and--by everything I ever saw--really LOVED classical music. I mean, it MOVED him.

He wanted his 6 children--of whom I am #2--to love it the same way he did. As a result, he pushed me--at least, I think he pushed me! (I don't know anything about my other brothers and sisters)--to take piano when I was in first grade.

I hated it.

I hated having to walk the three miles to the lessons. I hated the practice. I thought it was "stupid." And it was certainly boring.

I don't remember the psychology of it all. Maybe I had asked for the lessons. Maybe. But, whatever, he kept on threatening me: "If you don't practice, I won't pay for your lessons."

I think I finally escaped the pain within about six months. Something like that.

But then, when I was in 4th grade, we (everyone in my class at school) learned a bit about the flutophone (cheap recorder). In 5th grade, we were encouraged to take up a real instrument.

I chose clarinet. I loved it. I got pretty good at it. My dad sent me to private lessons in addition to the public school lessons. I got up to Mozart's Concerto in A. Loved the music. Loved the sound of the instrument.

But my public school music teacher ("our" teacher) was an absolute witch. She verbally abused so many of the kids so badly, I "couldn't take it" anymore. (Honestly, as I recall: I don't think she abused me very much, if at all; I "simply" remember she would yell at kids and abuse them . . . and there was enough other noise going on in my life at the time at home that) I quit. I "just" left my instrument in the music hall at school one day with no intention of returning.

And I didn't.

My best friend went on with his clarinet playing and became quite good at it. In fact, last I knew, he does music for a living now (though not as a clarinetist).


I sang in church and in the church choir. Loved that outlet. Especially the tenor line.

Throughout high school, I used to listen to groups like the Moody Blues and sing along and especially enjoyed the high background wailing vocals.

Sometime about, maybe, 10 years ago, as the church moved more and more into "praise" music and completely abandoned four-part harmonized singing, I got the idea in my head that I would start harmonizing like the Moody Blues. So, at this point, whenever I can hear myself (i.e., the "worship band" doesn't play too loudly!) I try to improvise and add interesting ornamentations to whatever the rest of the congregation is singing.


I think, honestly, if I had the opportunity to learn anything I wanted, I would love to learn how to play percussion (the only time I can recall ever laughing out loud for joy over someone's playing, it was because what a drummer was doing in the middle of a song; it moved me).

And the one other thing I would love to do is learn how to compose music. But/and, I'm afraid, I would have to learn a lot of music theory and, somehow, figure out (or be taught) the way music "fits together."

[I remember reading a good portion of Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and being amazed at the patterns he described. I also recall watching/listening to and attempting to follow some of the early lessons in Piano for Life and being amazed at how regular the patterns are. --But I certainly don't understand these things! I can "feel" the harmonies when I sing; I have no idea where I am on the musical scale.]




--In case you're reading this on Facebook: This post originally appeared on my personal blog.
blog comments powered by Disqus