brain webLast Thursday, I was working with an adult student on a Joplin Rag and a piece by Nazareth. These are pieces that she has returned to several times and they are becoming seasoned. She is charmed by the fact that the pieces have the same form yet one is totally North American and the other South.

She is also able to give them more character now, since technique and the notation aren’t in the way. In short, her body is obeying her will and her ear with much less interference. At one point near the end of the lesson, we were working on the shaping of the phrases in a short section.

Since there is only one piano in the room where I teach at EAC, I was conducting (translation: lunging and generally flailing my arms about), singing, and verbally coaching her along. I was trying to illustrate the fact that the first half of the phrase ended in a diminuendo at the cadence while the second half slammed right into the cadence full tilt. (and golly gee whiz I’m glad no one has a video of it.)

I generally try to avoid words like hit, bang, and slam because of their negative technical implications. Well, I’m glad I broke my rule in this case because there was an email waiting for me when I got back to Tucson. Apparently, this happened!

Today was the most exciting, enjoyable, and exhilirating lesson I have had with you or anyone, ever. Working on the tango piece at the end with you giving verbal and movement type instructions while I was playing worked so well for me. It is usually a big struggle for me to do all the things that you ask and look at the music, doing everything on demand. It’s often overwhelming, but today, well, that worked so well, and I was feeling great when I left, just thinking about it.

Somehow I guess I was just able to process the instructions hearing them while playing. Plus, it was just so lively and fun to follow instructions that way. I think because more than just hearing the instructions or seeing them, your body movements I could see from peripheral vision and in a sense just feel them. I seem to learn best by actually doing things, so it makes sense to me that it would work so well that way, I mean, kind of feeling what you were wanting in the music from the combination of body movements and words and sounds.

All I can say is WOW! I LOVED it!

Thanks for getting my sluggish day to a flying start. What a great way to get going. I think if everyone could find something as great as this, nobody would need drugs. It’s an awesome high and in a totally healthy way.

and the next day…

I still get a rush from just thinking about it. I think from this moment on, ” slam” is a word I will always remember with exhilaration and joy, (also a little laugh imagining my former teacher hearing piano and slam used in the same sentence). Oh yes, I’m still floating on clouds…

Because I know she becomes overwhelmed by too much input, I usually try to stay pretty quiet and calm and focus on one or two things while we are working on a phrase. The week before, I had played the “tuba part” to her rag in octaves while she played the piece as written. We both had a great time and this week her attention to the bass line was evident. Maybe that was my clue that things were changing.

I think she’s ready to have a go at doing some cheerleading for herself. I’m going to suggest to her that she imagine herself playing through her pieces while talking/singing wildly and making her own crazy gestures.

She might want to try it in the bathroom with the door closed and the water running…


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