Shari G., Colorado
I just got off the phone with an adult that started learning traditionally and wants to try out SM. I let her know the various genres we teach, and she let me know she is not crazy about jazz or blues. I have had another student that felt similarly and after some time, even though she loved the method she did not continue with SM because she did not want to do the blues and jazz streams. I heard Neil say in the past year or two that SM was developing a Classical Stream. I am wondering where that program is developmentally, and if it even exists.
This woman could benefit so much from our method. I wish there were some alternatives for people who do not want to play jazz and blues.
Robin Keehn, Washington
Two years ago we started exploring how we might go about developing a Classical Track for students such as yours–those who have interest in learning more classical pieces for any reason. We worked with some teachers on getting some specific input on what it might look like (specific pieces, technique, etc). Because we really wanted it to serve teachers, we were committed to working very closely with teachers in its development.
Long story short….the project did not gain momentum. We are revisiting the project now and taking into consideration Nancy Reese’s Play With Ease program. We’d like to very thoughtfully create a program that integrates Nancy’s technique with select classical pieces.
As far as students with this requirement (to play more classical and less of something else), I let them know that we are going to be focusing on the entire SM curriculum (Foundation Levels 1-3, Composition and Improvisation, Arrangements and Accompaniment) the first year. Given that we can progress with purpose and momentum through Reading Rhythm and Reading Notes the following year, we can take on any classical music when the reading program is complete. Classical music can certainly become their emphasis.
Here is something that occurred to me about a month ago….it may be worth considering. Simply Music is a broad-based curriculum. It gives students exposure and experience in the areas of composition, improv, arranging, accompanying, various genres and reading. With that in mind, what if I only focused on one area and made it my priority. What if I downplayed or discounted the area of say, Accompaniment. What if, for even one student, that was actually the thing that would light them up and engage them as a musician? What an opportunity to have missed!
Let me give you an example. I had this student named Steve. When he came to me at age nine, he had dysgraphia. His fine motor skills were nearly nonexistent. He was in a group of four students, and he and his mom worked very hard and persevered. His motor skills improved over time. We worked on all areas from the beginning and I could see that playing chords was more comfortable for Steve than playing individual notes (melody lines). Steve was in lessons for five years with me. He is a very well rounded musician, capable of figuring out anything.
The important thing here for me is that Steve, because he was exposed to comp and improv, blues and jazz, arrangements, accompaniment and reading–all with equal exposure– has become one of the best improvisational players I know. He plays in eight bands and is one of the most sought after musicians in our town. His musical gift was in improv, arranging and accompanying. Had I chosen to ignore those components or emphasize another, we may have never discovered the “Key to Steve”. Steve may have bought that dirt bike instead of that Yamaha Motif Keyboard last summer!
I always encourage people to stick with the program (teachers and students). Who knows what this student may discover by playing the blues pieces? What light bulb will turn on because you require her to play a blues piece or an arrangement? What insights will students get from being “forced” to compose? Personally, I have had coaches and students thank me for not letting them only focus on what they initially preferred. The results are so remarkable–life changing, even. I don’t know what the “key” is to any student but the more areas we work in, the more likely it is that we can discover it and unlock all that potential.
Back to the Classical Stream…eventually we will have one and we will likely be soliciting input in 2013. In the meantime, get students through the Reading Program, work hard on your own generative skills and you’ll be ready to help them take on any classical music that they want to play.