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Music Speaks to Me

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Being a piano teacher, I think most people expect me love classical music.

Generally, I do enjoy it, but it is not my “go-to” genre.  The California Conservatory of Music (https://www.thecaliforniaconservatory.com), gives an excellent list of reasons why we study classical music:

1) Classical music is the basic building block for all other genres.
Think about classical music as a Lego brick. Putting different Legos together results in all different kinds of colorful creations and masterpieces, but if you don’t know how to put the bricks together, you have limited building abilities.
2) Practicing classical music develops your chops
We’re not talking about pork chops or lamb chops; in musical terms, “chops” refer to your physical abilities and mastery of techniques. Chops are key to fulfilling your wildest musical dreams.
3) Classical music feeds your brain (and the rest of your body, too)
There are loads of studies out there that prove the benefits of simply listening to classical music. Some of those benefits include sleeping better, feeling more relaxed, and becoming happier.
4) Classical develops your repertoire
Learning and studying classical music gives you more options: not only will you learn more tunes, but you’ll probably also learn more techniques and learn to read music better.
5) Classical music teaches you to set goals and conquer fears
We’re not going to sugarcoat it: it’s not necessarily easy to play classical music and play it well. You will reap the rewards of challenging yourself. Perseverance and hard work are your rewards!
6) Studying classical music gives you a crash course in applied music theory
Music theory explains what music does and what’s going on when we hear it. Components of music theory include melody, harmony, rhythm, scales, chords, and how they all work together. Classical music is rich with musical concepts, and there’s no better place to learn the rules and elements of music than in classical music. It’s applied music theory at it’s best!”

George Handel is my favorite composer. He’s from the classical period. In particular his work, “The Messiah” tops my list. My high school choir sang the complete movement when I was a Junior; I was honored to do a couple solos. Every Christmas I still sing along to those arias!

If I’m honest, minimalistic music speaks to the depths of my heart. Minimalist music tends to have extremely simple, prolonged, rhythms and patterns. Individual phrases are repeated almost excessively, and embellishment is avoided. If that is gibberish to you - quite simply, it minimalist music is simple. Ludovico Einaudi is quite possibly my favorite minimalist composer.

I find the simple chord progressions of minimalistic music to be somehow comforting and soothing. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I lay in Savasana at yoga (you know, the corpse pose, where you lay flat on your back at the end of class), with my mind running through the simple I, IV, V progressions, or a variation thereof in the final relaxing song of class.

Next, I gravitate toward Film Music. According to Google (and Google knows all … well, maybe not) “Music in film achieves a number of things: it establishes setting; it creates atmosphere; it calls attention to elements; it reinforces or foreshadows narrative developments; it gives meaning to a character's actions or translates their thoughts; and it creates emotion.” This is precisely the reason I love it so much.

Back in the day, I studied writing; no wonder film music speaks to me! I love all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s works (though he wrote for musical theater), Jurassic Park music, and many, many other pieces.

It’s only natural that we go back to the music we listened to when we were coming of age. For me, Elton John produced prolific piano music at this time in my life. This soft pop genre brings back times where I was learning, growing and cutting my teeth on music. All-the-while, mind you, I was singing Chamber Choir music and Italian Arias. While friends were doing “who knows what” in my itty-bitty hometown in Kansas, I was arranging Funeral for a Friend on the piano.

The point is, there is much to be learned from all types of music. My goal is that students understand how music is put together (much like a Chemistry formula) in order that they can appreciate its beauty, read music more easily, and become better all-around musicians.

Just as one cannot expect to learn everything in literature from a Harlequin Romance Novel (or quite possibly nothing), one cannot be exposed to only one musical genre and have a good understanding of music. This is why the graded “lesson” books that younger students use are so vital. By working through them through level 3 or 4 (3-5 years usually), one can learn the basic mechanics of music, while experiencing all genres.

After 3-5 years of lesson material, many students are teenagers and begin to develop their own tastes. I always say, “Teens want to play what they want to play.” They are coming of age. Because of this, I teach teens where they are at. I refuse to make a teenager choke down whatever music I want them to learn without first having their buy-in. To do otherwise, just won’t work.

 

Parents, let it be a comfort to you; if a student is playing music as a teen, they will somehow incorporate music into the rest of their life - perhaps as a hobby, but maybe only to introduce piano to their children, the next generation.

I’ve taught no less than 20,000 lessons in the past 22 years, and less than 1% of students actually do something professionally with it in their lifetime. My 1% is a music producer/professional musician and a band instructor.

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