“You are told a lot about your education, but some beautiful, sacred memory, preserved since childhood, is perhaps the best education of all. If a man carries many such memories with him, he is saved for the rest of his days.”
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky
We all likely have many great memories of our education. Being music teachers, many of those memories are probably from our music classes. Perhaps those experiences are what motivated us to get into music education. Hopefully part of our reason for being teachers is to provide those experiences for our students.
I remember particular band rehearsal when I was in junior high. We played through, from start to finish, an arrangement of the theme from the T.V. show “The Greatest American Hero.” In retrospect, the T.V. show was awful, and the theme song may not have been the most artistically profound choice on the part of the director. I doubt the band really sounded exceptional either. Nevertheless, I remember how much fun it was to play that music at that particular moment.
Being a teacher now, that memory gives me two important reminders:
1. It’s important to have “run-throughs” of our music. We often take time to painstakingly focus on difficult technical passages. We try to expand our students’ understanding of music by teaching new musical concepts. All that attention to detail, however, should be balanced with opportunities to play more extended passages. Having a run-through, with all its probable imperfections and blunders, might just create a special memory for a student.
2. We need to provide our students with opportunities to create beautiful artistic moments. As artsy-fartsy as that may sound, I believe it’s those experiences that make music class different from any other subject. A colleague once reminded me that simply playing a Bb chord, correctly balanced, with a beautiful tone and good intonation, can be a wonderful moment.
Our students will probably never go home from a rehearsal thinking, “Wow. I sure am glad Mr. Engel reminded us to play the third note of measure 23 staccato.” But they will hopefully walk out the door thinking, “That was fun! I can’t wait to do it again!”
Here’s hoping that we provide our students with special memories of excellent music.