My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Well-Tempered Pianist: exploring a pianist's life through music

A few years ago, at the age of 40,  I found myself struggling to "make it" as a professional musician. I seem to have always found distractions in my life to keep me from whole-heartedly pursuing what it is I truly love the most so this wasn't a complete change or anything, but that didn't make my mid-life crisis any easier to deal with.

After school, I got married. 
After getting married I was a music-minister's wife and my role was by my husband's side (at least that was my excuse.)
After he left church work and was pursuing his doctorate I had to bring home a salary to support us.
After he got his first teaching job at a university, I got pregnant.

You get the picture.

When our daughter got to be old enough, I dropped the mom excuse and earnestly attempted to piece together a musical career, through collaborative work, teaching at a local university, and then as a practice coach. Nothing really worked out for various reasons. Door after door closed. I took at it as personal rejection when in reality, I think it had more to do with me always finding excuses to not keep at it.

Then I hit 40. I felt utterly disappointed in myself. Music is my passion. Music is my religion. Music is quite simply me and I had let it slip out of my hands.

A few years before I had told myself that someday I wanted to have learned all 24 preludes and fugues from Bach's second book of the Well-Tempered Clavier. I dreamed of being able to sit down and play through all 24. That would be my all I would need to die happy and feeling like I had done something. 

It took a while, a couple of years I believe, but I did just that. I got them all learned. But then that wasn't enough. I decided I wanted to perform them all.  But who wants to sit and listen to all 24 at one sitting?  Or two sittings? That's when my Well-Tempered Pianist series popped into my mind.  

I decided that I would put together 6 recitals. Each one would feature 4 preludes and fugues and I would intersperse among them pieces that meant something to me from throughout my musical life, The series would be my musical autobiography.  

I'm now near the end of my second presentation of the entire series and I am so very thankful that I've been able to do this and that people have received it with such interest, acceptance, and excitement.  In between pieces I've been taking a few moments to walk the audience through my life and to connect the music I'm performing with the most significant points in my timeline. That too has been enlightening to me although I have to admit sometimes it's been a bit distracting to talk about an aspect of my life that meant a lot to me and then have to perform. I often find my mind and heart dwelling on what I just talked about and see the colors and sounds I normally associate with a given piece of music change into something I've never quite considered. In spite of some surprises in that way, it's been incredibly rewarding, especially since the audience has been receiving it so well too. Each recital finds me talking with audience members for quite some time afterwards, answering questions, hearing their own's been a tangibly reciprocal series of events.  

As for my mid-life crisis, I'm still in the middle of it. The recital series didn't fix that little problem. But it did remind me that even though I may not be able to support myself as a professional musician, I am a pianist with a very musical soul and people want to hear me and hear the music I have to offer them. That is enough for me...for now.

I highly recommend musicians do something like this if they think it might be of interest to them. So often I think we don't think the audiences want to know about who we are; that we are there to serve the music and that is all. What I'm finding, however, is that at least in this part of the country, in this atmosphere and culture, the personal aspect is appealing as well and encourages more of a conversation between performer and audience. 

For those of you who might find it interesting, here is a listing of what has been on each program. Please excuse any discrepancies in formatting.

Recital I: At the very beginning

Prelude and Fugue in C major
Beethoven's Für Elise
Clementi Sonatina in D major
Prelude and Fugue in C minor
Bartók Sonatina
Prelude and Fugue in C# major
Mozart Sonata in C major, KV 545
Prelude and Fugue in C# minor
Selections from Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood"

Recital II: A musical life in San Francisco

Prelude and Fugue in D major
Chopin Fantasie-Impromptu, Op. 66
Opening to the slow movement of Ravel's G major piano concerto
Prelude and Fugue in D minor
Dvorák's Slavonic Dances, numbers 1 & 2 from Op. 48 (sightread at performance on purpose)
Prelude and Fugue in E flat major
The Swan from Saint-Saën's "Carnival of the Animals" (I used to play cello too)
Prelude and Fugue in D# minor
Selections from Debussy's "Children's Corner"

Recital III: College living

Prelude and Fugue in E major
Debussy's L'isle joyeuse
Prelude and Fugue in E minor
Hwaen Ch'uqi's Souvenir 
Prelude and Fugue in F major
Rachmaninoff's Prelude in B minor, Op. 32, no. 10
Prelude and Fugue in F minor
Selections from Satie's "Sports et divertissements"

Recital IV: From the Golden Gate to the Alps (about my months working as a restaurant pianist)

Debussy's 1st Arabesque
Prelude and Fugue in F# major
Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby
Prelude and Fugue in F# minor
Beryl Rubinstein's concert transcription of "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess
Prelude and Fugue in G major
September Song from Knickerbocker Holiday (performed with my husband, baritone Tadd Sipes)
I Got Plenty O' Nuttin' from Porgy and Bess
Johanna from Sweeney Todd 
Prelude and Fugue in G minor

Recital V: Marriage, becoming a mom, and more

Prelude and Fugue in A flat major
Ravel's Jeux d'eau
Prelude and Fugue in G# minor
Finzi's Eclogue (performed with organ instead of string orchestra)
Prelude and Fugue in A major
Gounod's "O divine redeemer" (performed with a student I collaborated with and taught)
Sorenson's "In this hour"
Prelude and Fugue in A minor
Radnich's arrangement of "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter

Recital VI: Looking ahead

Prelude and Fugue in B flat major
Selections from Schubert's "Wintereisse" (performed with my husband, baritone Tadd Sipes)
Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor
Tiersen's "A song from another summer" from the movie Amelie
Prelude and Fugue in B major
Pärt's Für Alina
Prelude and Fugue in B minorHough's transcription of "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music

Monday, August 15, 2016

From the kitchen to the stage

Today I realized that great cooks and musicians have something in a common - they have learned to let go and to trust their senses.  They have learned that interpreting great dishes or musical compositions goes beyond technique and mere re-creation into a realm that incorporates their own experiences, whims, and moods,  blending them seamlessly with where their audiences are, even if their audiences don't even know themselves where they are or where they want to be taken.

These ideas have been floating around in my head for a while now but they seem to have all collided while I was watching a movie from a few years back called "Today's Special."  It's a fun, romantic, heart-warming foodie movie about a young sous-chef that has worked for years in a restaurant in New York City.  When a promotion doesn't come his way and he confronts the executive chef for an explanation, he receives an honest but painful evaluation - he doesn't have the passion, vision, daring, and creativity that it takes to be the soul behind a restaurant.

This news comes as a blow of course, and launches Samir, the main character, into a fairly predictable journey of introspection.  He ends up reluctantly helping out his father in the family's Indian restaurant that has been struggling to survive.  Having abandoned Indian cooking since he was a boy, Samir does everything to keep the restaurant alive except plan and prepare the dishes himself - he hires a taxi driver he had serendipitously met instead.  This taxi driver, Akbar, is a big of a magical character.  During the resurrection of the restaurant, he teaches Samir some very important lessons about cooking which I also want to translate for musicians for the remainder of this blog post.  In one scene Akbar turns the kitchen over to Samir, encouraging him to try his own hand at combining traditional Indian spices in order to create a "perfect" masala.  Samir looked bewildered and disturbed since there were no measuring implements or recipes anywhere in sight.  With Akbar's encouragement and repeated philosophy that one just needs to use one's head, heart, and stomach, Samir gives it a try - a dash of this, a gentle pouring of that, and so on.  In the end, is it "right?"  Akbar doesn't seem to savor the results but he approaches the moment as any good teacher should.  He admits that it doesn't seem quite right while at the same time affirming that what Samir has done was good anyway.  The lesson was not about "right" or "perfect," it was about letting go, listening, smelling, feeling, and creating.

I am convinced that even beginning students should be given plenty of opportunities to let go and to experience music making and learning in a way that involves more of their senses.  I believe that we teach musicians to rely too much on reading every note on the page, note-by-note-by-note.  We don't teach how to read music as a language.  Similarly we teach students to read every indication on the page and to follow them without necessarily knowing why they are there.  As a result, students don't feel that they have the tools they need to make music on their own.  If someone handed them a piece of music without any fingering, pedal marks, bowings, guess it they would feel just as bewildered and disturbed as Samir was in the movie without recipes or measuring implements.

As I have mentioned on my blog and on my Facebook page, I don't consider myself a teacher even though I spend most of my waking moments thinking about the process or learning.  At the moment I have one adult student who I consider my guinea pig for all of my philosophies and strange notions and oddly enough, at her lesson this morning, long before I watched this movie, we had a series of very similar moments to the movie scene I described above.  In the past few weeks at our lessons I have increased the amount of times I intentionally pull the music away from my student and ask her to narrate to me what's going on the music and what her understanding of the music means to her.  Today we did even more of that.  I had her re-create several passages to the best of her ability based on her narrative, without the music anywhere in sight.  She kept asking to see the music but for the most part I kept saying, "Say what you know and we'll go from there."  I certainly didn't expect "perfection" but what I did want to encourage was thoughtfulness and complete engagement and she accomplished what I was after brilliantly.   This type of work terrified, and probably really annoyed her, but as the music has gotten more and more complicated and she has still managed to work out how to accomplish what I'm asking for, she has gotten more and more confident.  She has also started making more decision of her own regarding musicality, pedaling, and the like because she understands the tools and the techniques.  For me it is thrilling to see how much she can process with just a little help and guidance from me and it leaves me speechless when I see how surprised she is by her own ability to comprehend music as a language after only one year of lessons.  She does not need to keep looking at all those notes and scribbles on the page.  She can see it as a language and use her head, heart, and not necessarily her stomach, but her ears to guide her music-making.  At today's lesson she had several moments where she seemed genuinely shocked by how easy it was to play the music by letting go and thinking of the music as a language.   But this takes trust and I believe we need to practice trusting ourselves at our instruments.

Which leads me to the title of the movie and one of my favorite things about it.  As many restaurants do, the Indian restaurant in the movie has a sign that hangs in the window to list the daily special.  One day when Samir comes to work he sees that Akbar has listed this instead of an actual dish...
Trust me
Exactly.  Trust me - trust you.  It takes courage but trust me, there is incredible growth and creativity that comes from letting go and trusting all your senses - not just your eyeballs.  Speak the language of music, not just notes.  It's worth it.
Trust me.
You will hear more, feel more, love more...and so will your audience.
Trust me.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lesson learned while trying not to be a piano diva
Pianist who demands that attention be paid to his or her needs, 
especially without regard to anyone else's needs or feelings.

Perhaps it's silly of me, but I actually work pretty hard to not be a piano diva.  I have many reasons for this but in all honesty, my biggest motivation behind my efforts is that I actually kind of enjoy the odd challenges and obstacles that arise when I'm not very piano diva-ee.  I've played on tons of out of tune pianos, of course; electric keyboards have been a frequent instrument at my disposal; poorly regulated pianos are really quite amusing and are a good test of one's short-term memory (which key was it that sticks out?)   But sometimes my attitude has ended me in situations that haven't been quite as fun - Puccini arias on a small electric keyboard that didn't have a sustain pedal; playing the organ part of the Faure Requiem with a professional orchestra on a very good electric keyboard/organ, but one without a sustain pedal available and not with the full range of keys; a severely out of tune piano that also had several missing black keys...that last one was at a jail which made the experience even more noteworthy (pun completely intended.)

A few weeks ago I was asked last minute, by a friend with whom I haven't played with in a while, if there was any chance I could fly out to Lake Tahoe to play a cello recital with her full of repertoire that I absolutely adore.  Of course I had to say yes!  I love, love, love pinch-hitting...almost as much as I love trying not to be a piano diva.  

As I was preparing to fly out there, the cellist asked if it would be all right with me if we just rehearsed at her house the night I arrived - that she'd have a good keyboard available to use.  I think you can guess my answer.

When I got there, we rehearsed using the keyboard.  Not that I'm being a piano diva here, but this was an older keyboard that was touch sensitive, but not in the way that keyboards today are touch sensitive.  But it didn't really bug me.  Remember, I enjoy little challenges like this.  I was pretty quick to discover that it all had to do with the speed at which I pressed down the keys.  The faster I pressed down, the louder it was.  The trick was to play a fast passage quietly.  Try that sometime!  It really is quite fun!

At the end of the evening my friend asked what I wanted to do the next day (the day before the performance).  Did I want to drive all the way to Tahoe, about an hour away, to rehearse in the church on the piano or should we just continue to rehearse at her place.  

Can you guess my response?

The day of the performance she asked when I thought we should get to the church.  In my non-piano diva fashion I said, "If we get there an hour-and-a-half or so before that should be fine.  After all, I didn't want to get in the way of any church activities that might be going on.

We get to the church and as I'm warming up I notice a couple of keys sticking.  Not just sort of sticking.  Seriously sticking.  Non-piano diva Erica thought, "No problem, I can deal with this...maybe."  We rehearsed just a tiny bit and pretty quickly realized that my attitude was not a good thing in this situation.  I immediately switched gears and did the first thing I could think my piano technician...from Virginia...who was at that moment driving to New York City.  After trying a couple of tactics he gave me, I thought we had fixed the situation so I ended our conversation and went backstage to get ready.

Recital started with Prokofiev's Cello Sonata...for the first page or so, no sticking notes...brilliant!  Then it started...again...and the number of rebellious notes seemed to grow quite rapidly and with most notes sticking for about 10 seconds each time...if not longer.  I did a lot of lifting-back-up-the keys when I could, edited some of the music when I could...I also kept pushing back on the keys in between movements to try and get the keys farther away from the board that is in front of the keyboard.  It was all pretty "interesting".

Second piece was Arvo Pärt's "Spiegal am Spiegal" - 10 minutes of exquisite minimalist beauty.  While the cellist was talking to the audience about the piece (fortunately that took a few minutes), while I made a few more attempts at pushing back on the action, I glanced up at the music and at that moment it dawned on me how many notes in the music where ones that were notes that were sticking.  At that moment, I have to admit I started to sweat.  But I was determined to make it work and to make it work in such a way that the audience wouldn't be distracted by what was, or wasn't happening at the keyboard.

Thankfully, the Pärt is slow.
Thankfully, it is meditative.
Thankfully, there aren't a lot of notes to play and the left hand has LOTS of time to serve as the key picker-upper.

Believe it or not, we made it.  How well did it come across?  I have absolutely no idea.  What I do know is that the minute they stopped clapping I was back on the phone with my technician, asking him for reassurance that if I took the piano apart and removed that wood strip in front of the keys, that the action wouldn't drop out of the bottom of the piano.  He said it would be fine, gave me some pointers so that I didn't accidentally rip off key tops, and within minutes, we were all set.  No more sticking keys.

Phew!  That is a long story!  But here's what I learned and want to pass on to other pianists...

It's ok to not want to be a piano diva but it's wise not to take that too far.  

Needless to say, I just had a solo piano performance this past week and you better believe I made a point of going several days early to try out the piano!

And no...sticking...keys!

One more thing...Andy Lyford, our amazing piano technician, I owe you a lot of cookies!  Or whatever you want!!  I owe you!!!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Finding my roots in new soil

The last few years have been interesting.  I have gone from both my husband and I teaching in universities and performing to both of us moving out of academia, relocating to a new town, and taking up a job in a completely different field.  For the past two years I have been working in retail in toy stores, most recently as a manager of a new one.  I decided to put aside my music for an indeterminate time to give my ailing elbows a much needed break and to give myself the space I needed to revisit how I approach the piano, hopefully opting for a more healthy one.  I had also put aside this blog and my practice coaching business because I wasn't convinced that I was being effective in what I was trying to do: I didn't necessarily know if people wanted to hear what I had to say; my website for my business wasn't getting enough traffic in spite of trying to do what I thought was necessary - SEO optimization, use of ideal tags, and other factors I really don't understand; I wasn't getting any new practice coaching clients; I wasn't getting very much feedback after delivering my talks on practicing and learning music.  In short, I felt like I had reached the end of a road.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason so in spite of the challenges and insecurities I've faced these past few years, I have always had a sense that music and my research on and passion for the process of reading and learning music was simply in hibernation mode.  In spite of my silence, I can assure you that my mind still manages to stay in high gear most of the time.  One of Rainer Maria Rilke's lines from his Letters to a Young Poet come to my mind at this point...
Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.  Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.  Do not now look for the answers... At present you need to live the question.  Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
That's where I am right now, friends.  I am living the question.  I am living in the moment.  I am living.  And in this new place where I find myself, a place without any clear future, I am realizing that I don't necessarily care whether or not I am a "professional" musician.  I am a musician and I am me.  That is, at least for right now, enough for me.

I am back to practicing and learning new music.
I am back to performing again and have set up 6 recitals over the 2016-2017 year that will enable me to perform all 24 preludes and fugues in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, a project I started many, many years ago.
I am back to playing music with others and with such great joy and excitement!
I am still working in a toy store but also hoping to write again and to teach anyone who would be interested in finding out the way I perceive of music.

I am, in other words, being me once again, only in a different type of soil, with new roots, a new environment, and lots of fresh air.

Not a bad place in which to find myself.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting students hooked on practicing - game on, video game world!

As music educators and parents of musical students we probably all have in our repertoire of questions, “Have you practiced yet today?” or “How many hours did you practice this week?”  They are the questions we often feel we have to ask but also dread because of the answers, emotions and facial expressions they tend to evoke – I think you know what I’m talking about.

Just for fun, what if we followed the words “practiced” and “practice” with “video games”?

“Have you practiced your video games yet today?”
“How many hours did you practice video games this week?”

I have a feeling we’d get quite a different reaction, wouldn’t we?

There is no question that a high percentage of the population, regardless of age, love playing video games.  For some it is even an addiction.  Personally, I understand why.  Ever since I was young playing games has been a way for me to relax.  As a parent of a young child, it has been a way for me to spend time with my daughter, and as a teacher in a university, it assisted me in teaching students the importance of pulse and rhythm.  (Check out Symphonica if you want to experience a great music game app!) I love video games and often have to check myself to make sure that I’m not spending too much time playing around on my iPad instead of on the piano. 

With that said, I want to say right here and right now that I am also addicted to practicing music.  Unlike video games, however, the appeal definitely did not start until I was much older, when I finally started figuring out how to make practicing interesting, full of accomplished goals, and musical high scores.  As a practice coach, someone who steps into musicians’ practice rooms with them and helps them tweak what they’re doing physically and mentally, I’ve become more and more curious about finding ways to carry what we do when we’re gaming into our practice sessions with the hope that there’s a way to make practicing just as addictive and desirable as spending time in front of a screen.  In this article I want to explore what it is that makes video games the activity of choice for so many and to see if we, as music educators, can learn a thing or two from gaming that can help us make practicing a little less torturous in the minds of our students.

Video games are designed to get us hooked.  I know there’s a number out there for how much money is spent by the gaming industry on research but I’d rather just keep it simple and say, “A LOT!”  It seems they’ve whittled down the list of ways to get gamers coming back to the following must-haves.  Let’s take a look at some of them and evaluate how well practicing music provides these same hooks to keep kids going back to the practice room.

 Getting the High Score
I don’t know if there is a video game out there that doesn’t have a way of scoring throughout the game.  It doesn’t matter if the player is trying to beat his own score or someone else’s, that number at the top of the screen, or wherever it happens to be displayed, is always very obvious and well in the player’s line of sight.  For most people it is the pursuit of improving his or her own score or beating someone else’s that keeps them coming back for more.  And when the player achieves that goal?  Watch out!  The level of excitement and pride is usually palpable and the reward tends to be intrinsic rather than extrinsic, unless you happen to be at the arcades that hand out tickets that can be exchanged for less-than-high-quality-junk. 

Getting students to practice for intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards is immensely beneficial and sets them up beautifully for a lifetime of learning – it also happens to be cheaper and easier for the teacher!   Before students can start sensing these internally motivated rewards, however, we need to teach them how to discover what their current high score is and to be able to know where they are at any given time in that pursuit.  There are apps and programs out there right now that actually are doing this.  The student can play through the piece of music and the program tells them how many notes were correct and which ones were missed.  Personally I’m not crazy about this approach because it runs the risk of teaching the students that absolute perfection is the goal – I’m not so sure that should be a goal in music-making, largely because I think it’s virtually unattainable.  And think about this – at least as far as I know, most games don’t seem to have one highest score.  It always appears that there is no end to the potential for improvement.  Perhaps even video games there is no perfection. 

What I do like about the programs, however, is that they are giving instant, specific feedback to the students and that is something they themselves tend to have a difficult time doing.  I think it would be ideal if we can find a way to get students to be self-evaluating their practice in an objective way, free from the negativity and self-defeating attitude that tends to seep into one’s feedback, so that students can give themselves their own scores throughout their practice and can keep pushing themselves to getting their new highest score before quitting for the day.

Exploration and Discovery of the Unknown
There are many games out there that are all about exploration and discovery.  Some, when you open them for the first time, tell you absolutely nothing about what you’re supposed to be doing or even what the final goal is.  It’s up to you to just start observing and trying things until a storyline and a purpose begins to emerge.  It is the norm with this type of game to find oneself in the same place for an extended period of time, doing practically nothing but thinking.  An outsider might question the appeal of such a game yet obviously they strike a chord in many people, myself included, because when you finally do figure out what you’re supposed to be doing you know that you’ve figure it out not necessarily by pure luck, but through using your brain.  When that happens to me it’s enough to make me feel temporarily brilliant.  Who couldn’t use a little ego boost now and then?

Two of the biggest problems I see with practicing these days are frustration and boredom.  When people think of practicing, they tend to only think of repeating things over and over and over and over again.  Throw in the metronome and then play it over and over and over and over again until it’s “perfect.”  Is it any wonder the student would rather play video games than practice?  What if we help our students see that learning music can also be full of discovery?  I spend a lot of time teaching musicians how to read patterns in the music rather than reading note by note so that they can start to make connections between different pieces, styles, and composers and so they can become more literate in reading music, just as they read books word by word, phrase by phrase rather than letter by letter.  This also enables them to simplify the music for themselves so that tricky passages become easier to understand and to solve.  It can reduce the need for repetitions and can give the students something to put their mind to when they do have to do them.  It’s about inspiring students to always be using their brains rather than simply shutting them off and waiting for progress to happen on its own.  As we all know, successful performances rarely happen randomly.   But when it happens as the result of a student’s problem-solving skills, creativity, and discovery, he or she will realize what they are fully capable of and that is usually enough to keep them coming back for more: more practice, more guidance from their teacher, and more performing!

Video games often put the players into someone else’s shoes; often times it’s someone completely unlike who they themselves are.  Whether it’s a sweet little magical boy in LostWinds, a hero in a role-playing game, or a detective in a mystery, those moments in front of the screen offer the gamer the opportunity to slip out of his own shell and to try on something new.  As with the last hook discussed, it allows the player to tap into his creative side and to express emotions and characters that he or she may not feel comfortable expressing on a day-to-day basis. 

Music offers the same role-playing activity if we choose to tap into that side of expression.  I love to ask students of any age and ability what character or characters they are trying to portray through the way they are playing the music.  More often than not they look at me like I am completely crazy.   If we can encourage young musicians to feel comfortable trying on different characters while they play, just as they do in video games, I think we’d find that it’s easier for them to get personally involved in what they are doing.  They will once again be using their brains, but in concert with their emotions and their untapped expression.   Just think of the high-scores that can come from that!

Feeling needed by others
I have yet to try online role-playing games like World of Warcraft because of how powerful these games can be.  In many cases players become so involved they can end up neglecting work and family, choosing instead to focus on their virtual community.  That concerns me.  But I think it’s important to figure out what the hook is in these games that make them so powerful.  I think it all comes down to gamers feeling like others need them. 
Even though there are far more negative effects this hook has on gamers, I think educators can and already do use the “all for one and one for all” mentality when it comes to playing in a band or other ensemble.  How often have we said to students, “Come on!  You are letting the group down.  Tonight you have to practice that hard part or else the concert is going to be a disaster!”  I’m not personally a big fan of this exact approach, but I do think it can be good for students to realize that they are part of a team when they are working musically with others, whether it’s a small or a large ensemble.  For students playing an instrument that doesn’t typically have a role in a team experience, I encourage teachers to find or make opportunities for them no matter how hard that might be.  For duos, trios…anything that takes them out of their little world and helps them to realize that they have something to offer others musically too.

Call me crazy, but I truly believe that as music educators, we are in the position to help young people discover within themselves the power of their mind and their ability to create magic through the medium of the arts.  We live in a time where their intelligence tends to be measured by tests that ask them to fill in bubbles on a page.  We live in a time where young people don’t know how to answer open-ended questions because they are so accustomed to having to give the only right answer.  It’s no wonder to me that they often don’t know what to do with themselves in the practice room.  They fear making a mistake, which of course is inevitable.  They get bored playing note after note after note without understanding how those notes can actually create a story.  And they are more often than not isolated and not understanding how this practice time can benefit them.  But how do those same children feel when plopped in front of a video game?  Do they fear making a mistake? Do they bottle their feelings up?  Do they require physical rewards to keep playing?  No, they don’t.  Because gaming helps them connect with their talents, their creativity, and their persistence.  It makes them feel good!  Wouldn’t it benefit us to try using those same hooks?

(As an interesting side note, I regularly took breaks while writing this article and guess what I did?  Yep, play a game on my iPad. )

Game on!!