As a classically trained musician, I was taught a recipe—play the right notes and watch the conductor. I was not encouraged to experiment, improvise, or find my own creative voice; even in solo work, I was interpreting the music within strict parameters. As such, during Robert Duke’s presentation on tapping into the naturally improvisatory inclinations of children, I was simultaneously nodding in agreement and drawing a blank on how I could actually do this. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one. We teach how and what we were taught as students, and I believe that many teaching artists, though we recognize the importance of giving creative control to our students, find it challenging to implement it.
Fortunately, the conference did not abandon us. During the workshop day of Take A Stand, we observed master teachers of student‐driven music‐making, specifically Dan Trahey and Kathleen Turner, at work, and left Los Angeles with an array of rhythmic exercises and song‐writing techniques. In true spirit of experimentation, the fellows and other teaching artists applied these new tools the next day at a post‐conference workshop in Santa Barbara. In collaboration with the faculty at the Incredible Children’s Arts Network, we designed and executed student‐driven music‐making lessons with young musicians.
With continued collaboration around this topic, we will be closer to being liberated from the recipe of music‐making and raising the bar for the possibilities of music for students.
Clara Yang, Sistema Fellow '14