noteworth: lessons from pianissimo
“The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
– Peggy O’Mara
It never made sense for me to be the screaming teacher that must always keep students edgy and learning from a space of fear and agitation.
I take a different approach. I use a quieter voice and sometimes so quiet are my statements that my students start talking to themselves and become their own guiding voice. Dolce. Legato.
I’m not always as quiet though, I modulate my interaction and like the music they are working on, will have moments or measures taken on with statements that ascend and meet a crescendo. While my student is playing, they become like an instrument to me. Allegretto ma non troppo.
It’s a very mindful thing to do, having a conversation while someone is also creating music. I can aid them in being the voice that guides them as they get through difficult passages and choose yet to raise my voice when I sense there is slack in the moment. Agitato.
STUDENT: “Why don’t you just tell me to stop every time I make a mistake.”
JNET: “I want to give you a chance to recognize it first and correct it.”
So why not yell? Get REALLY intense as some other teachers, coaches, and drill sergeants do? You know those teachers; the ones who have tension in their body and aren’t exactly students of the positive reinforcement method.
Where would the students’ most powerful learning happen then? When someone is always burning a fire under their feet, yelling, driving an emotional rollercoaster….. Do I want to teach young people to fear mistakes, relate that answers come after a certain amount of berating…. from someone ….or their own inner mean voice?
We learn things powerfully in our silence and solitude. Lessons become solid in the private conversations we have with our spirit of discovery. Realization and revelation doesn’t not have to be a painful place to arrive to.
The piano lesson…is the practice towards creating that discovering ear and stretching that imaginative mind to find that honest place of self-expression where one feels solid and real where they sit and play.
STUDENT: “Wait don’t say anything… How I meant to play it is this way….”
Its always moves me to hear, truly hear, my student through their playing. I can hear what their favorite section is and in their hesitations know where they need a clearer understanding and connection. I can even hear when they are hungry and tired.
We recognize all these different moments during the lesson for they do not fall on deaf ears. And my hope is that they not only learn how to listen to music and notes…. but also how to listen to life.
How’s your listening?