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Getting It Wrong

I saw this posted on Facebook recently, and it really bugged me.

When children are learning there are often grey areas. In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.

While I get their point, what the whole thing says and implies really bothers me. For one, what grey areas are there when children learn in school? There’s no grey in math. How about history? Or science?

In fact, the one place where people could learn that things in life aren’t just black and white is music. That’s where there is room for expression, personalization at the very least. For instance, in a classical competition, everyone is playing the same piece, and assuming they all get it right, why are some judged to be better than others? It is because of the expression and interpretation that they put into the piece.

But my biggest problem with the statement is that it is exactly that attitude that keeps people from playing music. I don’t have an issue with “sustained effort,”  “hard work,” and “achieve excellence,” but I do have an issue with the idea that music has to be performed perfectly. People act like it’s life or death, but very few have died because they blew the entrance or missed a note. (I guess in this crazy world, someone might have died or gotten beaten or punished for such a thing, but let’s play the percentages, shall we?) So many people are terrific players, love music, love to play music, but they are deathly afraid to play in front of anybody. They are afraid they are going to make a mistake, that they will look foolish, that they simply aren’t good enough. Music should be used to teach the opposite, that despite the player’s uniqueness, despite the differences, despite the possible mistakes, we can all contribute, share, and have fun.

Posted 2011 11 15 at 12:27 PM

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