SAIIER 2012:Teaching music
To help students develop musical skills necessary to become proficient musicians, keeping in mind the pace of the individual.
To add to the cultural activity in and around Auroville.
Activities of the year
- Piano/Keyboard: students develop skills that will allow them to play music written specifically for the instrument, understanding the historical and cultural background in which it was composed, and they also develop skills to be able to play and write new music for the instrument.
- Chamber Music: by playing together one develops the capacity to listen and adjust to the other person; it involves great skill in widening the awareness and understanding and perceiving the other persons involved. A lot of music has been written involving many different combinations of instruments, and coming from different periods in history and different cultures.
- Acappella Ensemble: with this only-voice group we started to look into pieces written in the 20th century, and also music I specifically wrote for it. The coming together of 16 people as individuals and merging together into one harmonious result takes a lot of skill and work.
- Music Theory, Ear training, Composition lessons: all these generally come together to further develop the musician, and give a deeper understanding of the complexities of music making. Even though in general composition is something that has to flow out spontaneously from the musician, it needs a great skill, especially on the level of transcribing one's ideas and what one hears, the complex combination of rhythms, pitches, instruments, all coherently put together in a harmonic and meaningful structure, all this with great clarity for musicians to perform and listeners to perceive it.
- These techniques are developed first through musical and aural analysis of various musical pieces, then a development of the ear, then through various exercises that become more and more complex, to combining instruments and so forth. Each person is also free to bring in one’s own compositions which we look at together and discuss, giving advice, or help out in case of some difficulty.
- Vocal Training: training the voice to sing in a group, as in the Acappella ensemble.
- Piano performance, Ensemble playing and Collaborations: an activity that requires me spending many hours daily of constant training so that I am prepared to understand the training that students have to undergo to become musicians, as well as developing cultural activities in Auroville by performing either solo or in collaboration with other musicians (local or guest).
- Music compositions: it is important that an era or place has its own music and can be represented by it. This requires me to spend hours developing and writing new music materials that will be performed in the future. A lot of this material has been well received and there is a demand to have new music expressing our aims and aspirations.
- Instrument maintenance and repair: a lot of pianos in Auroville need to be repaired and there is also constant maintenance to be done. One needs to constantly call technicians or I myself am able to check and adjust a few things.
10 children and 4 adults participated in classes, and 16 adults in the Acappella Ensemble, which had individual personal voice training from me as well.
Music is a very vast subject, and it is at the same time very intimate, it speaks very near to our heart. It includes music already written and expressing ideas and concepts of its period and culture, and through the learning and understanding of these various musics and styles, one widens ones knowledge and consciousness, and has a better understanding of the world in which we live. It also includes music that can be played and composed at the moment, conveying messages of our innermost feelings, and develops further the understanding of ourselves.
Reflections on teaching piano
The skill involved in playing an instrument should, from my point of view, be approached in a very free and open-minded way, not limiting the possibilities of development but allowing a growth as wide and as integral as possible. My main objective is to teach piano through observation and understanding of each individual’s capacity, allowing for personal input on their side through small compositions and exercises, as well as a choice of pieces to study. Though I always aim at an utmost perfection, we try and cover the whole range of technical challenges with ease and enjoyment. My other objective is to give each student a better and quicker understanding of the technical principles of playing the piano, as well as an overall view of the piano repertoire and music in general, all of this taking into account each individual’s personal pace and capacities.
Playing in front of an audience is also encouraged (but not obliged) as that builds self-confidence and gives one the capacity of sharing one's work. I believe music to be a powerful means of expression, of sharing and unifying in one single emotional movement the listeners and the performers.
It is important to allow a lot of time for the student to get acquainted with the instrument by playing freely anything they want, improvising, listening to what they are playing, asking them to do it in class, and the teacher can, by observation, notice many things regarding the way the hands move, and the ear listens, and the creativeness of the student.
As for the notation, one should allow the student to start writing their own music down from the beginning. The connection of the hand to the ear is extremely helpful in understanding what need to be taken care of.
Allowing time to play with others is very important: it enhances the listening skills and playing skills, as one adapts to what the other person is playing and becomes involved with tempo, dynamics, and expression.
Even though I have a study programme and a clear outline of the skills that need to be developed (and generally I like a more wide range of knowledge than a specialised one), I believe in an active participation from the students where there is an interaction going on and an exchange of suggestions. I do not like to force or impose my ways, I try and allow each one of them in their own way to discover the amazing world of sound! Each one is special, and has personal qualities that need to be further developed.
At no moment should the student feel forced or the study of music become strenuous, though there should be a certain discipline in their study. When such moments occur, we should talk about it and see how to improve the situation together.
The goal should be of self-discovery through fun work. This should be always present!
The discipline of music being so complex and at the same time so personal, there should be no aim to arrive at a premature result by pushing. This is very important if the growth be taking into account each individual's pace. Thus I always try to give the feeling that there is all the time needed to learn a certain skill properly, and especially no rush. I have to stress that this unique opportunity is given in Auroville (and only here, that I know of) thanks to a supportive system – always keeping in agreement with the guidelines of education put down by The Mother and Sri Aurobindo – where time is not money (the students do not pay for classes, allowing a much more sincere relation with the instructor), and the education is not tainted by the demands of being successful or having to prove one’s progress and skills, which would hamper a learning in agreement with a truer inner development.