This fall I made a commitment to develop my students into more “active listeners.” How’s it going? The truth is, I’m not sure. It’s too early to tell. i can say I’m doing a lot more “exploratory teaching” these days. After the student plays, I’m always tempted to focus on the issues that are not correct in the score. I’m trying out a plan where I take just a small part of the piece–the part that’s played the best–and asking listening questions. First, we are experimenting with adjectives and MOOD. What do they think this music portrays? At first, my younger students defaulted to the “happy or sad” descriptions. Now I’m shooting for more depth if possible! Projection is key. Students often think they are playing with dynamics and expression, but across the room, the penetration is simply not there. I’ve tried to have to take my place and stand where I usually sit. I play once “my way” with lots of likely overdone emotion! I contrast that with what I hear them doing. We switch places and they try again.
The challenge of course, is to get the same results at their home practice without you standing there cheering them on. This work takes time–lots of it, sprinkled with patience. I’m hopeful that by June I may raise the level of musical awareness. I realize that some students will be more suited to this and enthusiastic than others, but creating young musicians is a day by day, week by week, and year by year pursuit.
Details matter–Active Listening is key. Deep concentration is a difficult and often alien concept to our students in this noisy and overstimulated world we are living in. Happy teaching!