Friday, April 6, 2012

Pianist=Perfectionist=No creativity?

When you're a pianist, it always seems like the goal is to do everything that is written on the page... exactly as it is written down... perfectly. When I was younger, I thought that took the creativity out of playing. However, after being at college for the past three years in the school of music, I have learned differently.
    Every music major has to take music core. We take two years of music theory, dictation (writing out the music that we hear), and sight singing (so we can hear the music we play just by looking at the score). In music theory, the main focus was learning the rules and principles of correct part-writing. This focused mostly on hymn-like or hymn looking music. We learned the rules of voice leading, part writing, and harmony. We were graded on how well we followed the rules we were given. However, we always found exceptions to the rule in different musical passages. When we brought it to our teacher, he told us that it was okay to break the rules. We were learning them, so then we can break them judiciously. 
   I think it's the same in piano playing. As a student, I need to be able to follow all the directions provided in the music explicitly. Anyone can decide not to follow the instructions or to change things on their own, but not everyone can do everything written in the music. Once you can follow all the directions, then you can take your liberties as the musician and change things according to your knowledge of the time period and the composer and the piece. 
 Basically, the more you know and the more you're able to follow the directions to a T, the more space and room you have to be creative to make music the most beautiful it can possibly be. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I can do hard things

I just finished teaching one of my students. She consistently impresses me with her persistence in understanding and pushing through difficult concepts. If there is a complicated part of a piece, or I tell her that there is something to fix, it may take a little more time than usual, but she always figures it out. She never acts like it's frustrating either. She's just happy to be learning.

A couple of years ago, when I was teaching in California, I asked her if she was excited for summer. She said, "No, I'm going to miss school." I think that should always be our attitude about learning. It is a wonderful opportunity, and we can do so much more if we love learning.