Friday, August 20, 2010

One of my most meaningful rewards as a teacher of young people is when one of them pinpoints an area of weakness in their playing--a technique they would like to work on or some level of musical involvement that needs development.

Today such a moment came from a young girl who plays third base on her school softball team. What she needs in order to play better in time is to transfer to the piano the same skill she must use on the field, i.e., to anticipate where the ball is going to go whether to the right or the left of the base line. It is quite analogous to being ahead of or behind the beat: Once you get behind one beat without being aware of it you may be sure the next beat will be even later, and so on.

It was great to see her face light up as she got the point and could feel her concentration beginning to address the problem.

Incidentally, it is one thing to address specific problems that apply to all music and quite another to focus on mastering individual pieces, which are always an amalgam of complex situations. Addressing specific problems enables her to play better whatever particular pieces she wants to play on a given day.