on balance, continued.

February 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Balance in Repertoire, part 2

“My name is K, and I am a logic puzzle addict.” But you won’t find me at a meeting of Sudoku Anonymous. I’m not a quitter. In fact, I revel in my addiction. I love stretching my mind and reasoning skills, and discovering new strategies through the process of elimination. The little red car in Rush Hour is my mascot; the tangram, my friend. There is a puzzle book of some sort in just about every purse and room of my house.

To make this puzzle penchant stranger, I have some personal expectations— if it takes me more than a few minutes to make any headway at all on it, I can’t be bothered. It loses its fun. But if I have a good start and manage to get something accomplished initially, I am likely to see things through with even the most malicious mind-bender.

Those other musical selections that balance the program I talked about in the last entry —the moderately challenging one and the easy one— have a lot of parallels to my logic problem philosophy. For if as an adult, I find something “too” challenging to be enjoyable, how must a child feel? A child, who —obvious talents and character aside— is still developing the basics of attention span and patience? (While we can have high expectations of children, we also need to be reasonable.)

For the “moderate” piece, the correlation is more obvious. When reading through a work of that level, the students find pride in what they can catch right out of the gate, excitement with what they’ve been entrusted with, and joy for what they will master yet in this piece. It’s not a sea of black dots and staves, but a respectable peer for them.

As for the “easy” piece, I suppose the “challenge” involved requires a bit of explanation. Yes, we could simply be satisfied as educators that they’ve done so well picking up notes, rhythms, bowings, etc. That appreciation of how far they’ve come could be the reward in and of itself… but is the ability to just get through the “easy” piece and “play all the notes” value enough? What if we used that piece to push their general musicianship? What if in a group with menial dynamic recognition, we made them the irrefutable rulers of piano and forte and everything in between? What if in the eyes-stuck-to-the-stand symphony, we used the composition as a venue for turning them into the eyes-glued-to-the-baton experts who “checked in” at every measure?

Sometimes we may find in doing the manageable very well —exceedingly well—the greatest of excellence in our students.

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