Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tennis Racquets, Flutes, and Symphonies

Just woke up from a school dream. First day, seminar kids, totally different classroom. I am telling them it will take me a while to "learn" them, that it takes me a little while, homework-wise, to find their sweet spot, to have patience and not be upset if the work is either too simplistic or a bit steep for them at first. A kid asks what a sweet spot is. "Who plays tennis?" I ask. A skinny pale boy with 4000 freckles raises his hand to explain, but as he begins, the bell rings.

Because it's a dream, he is suddenly a she, my former student V., and she is telling the class that if they want to know she'll tell them during break, but I ask her to please hold off until tomorrow so we can all be on the same page. And I wake up.

So I am obviously still concerned about meeting the needs of this special population.

It's true, too. To switch metaphors, each class is different and I need to learn how to coax the music out. Some classes are easy, like a piano: everything is laid out in order, black and white, straightforward. Others are like a drum: I have to really pound things and there's not much range. Others are a drum set, and there is so much to attend to! The worst are the flute classes where every little detail has to be perfect, lip position, breath amount and angle, breathing, nothing intuitive about the note production on the keys or about playing it at all, plus you have to hold your arms in an unnatural position the whole time--ugh.

(Really, things are even more complex--if you think about it, every kid is an instrument and the class is an orchestra. I am not just the conductor: I am a music teacher and a composer, too!)

Last year I was so panicky about teaching seminar kids; I suppose the dream (since I was in control, plus fully clothed!) shows I am not hyperventilating anymore. Guess I need to give myself a little grace when it comes to this crazy job. Conducting ain't as easy as it looks.

Jahja Ling, doing his thing

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