Saturday, March 19, 2011

Feel Success

Besides the "Regular Read" blogs having to do with music listed over on the right, there are some others I follow, one of which is that of Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. As far as I can tell, he's off the scale intelligent, and somehow driven to see things differently than the rest of us. Some posts have ideas over on the weird side of things, others are common sensical, and others are wonderfully "out of the box" thinking and very thought provoking.

In this post, "Happiness Engineering", he lists some of the things he does to make himself happy. One, in particular, caught my attention.

Feel Success - Make it a habit to often do things you do well. It doesn't matter if your best skill is golf or cooking or business or being a parent. Doing one thing well gives your ego some armor to handle all of the little things that don't go quite so well during the week.

That's a cornerstone of my approach to teaching music. My sense is that I spend far more time working with the client helping them "feel success" than music educators do. Rapid technical advancement is not the issue, whereas the client's enjoying making music is. For people not concerned with being first chair or competing with others, but who do want to learn enough to make music in a relaxing and enjoyable manner, that feeling of success sustains engagement and allows for building the motivation to take on more challenging technical issues as time goes on.

I realize educators are dealing with a different population with different natural skill levels and motivations, but one thing I've noticed in community band over the years is that we have never completely "owned" a piece as a group. We've brought pieces close to mastery, but never all the way. Once performed they go away and the sight reading and work on a new set of pieces begins. 

Part of the problem is that we have pro level players mixed in with beginners, and from what I can tell, the pro level folks get more attention when it comes to choosing repertoire. Another factor is that pieces arranged for school bands seem to always assume everyone is at the same skill level (which is logical). Then there's what seems to be "string envy" of the arrangers, so often giving the flutes and clarinets these busy string-like parts and very few gorgeous melodic lines in the middle range.

It seems there might be a niche for someone to arrange music for community bands that would balance things more towards a music therapy approach to music making, where "feeling success" would be more of a factor. The problem is you'd need to have a music educator's skill level at arranging, and they're all going to be much more interested in creating music for the educational environment. 

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