Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making music

I think we've reached a turning point in Archer's musical education.  This past summer, after he became obsessed with chord structures, we re-enrolled him in piano lessons with the university's community school of music.  He's had a good semester, but he's not getting what he wants out of the lessons, I know.

It's a tough call.  Conventional music lessons emphasize technique and use the lure of melody -- the pleasure of playing a song.  Archer isn't as motivated by melody.  For him it's all about structure, especially harmonic structure.  And in conventional music lessons, that's not the first priority.  In fact, it's one of the last things you do at the basic level.

I don't think we can keep Archer motivated unless his lessons focus more on what interests him: the way notes combine to form chords, chords transform into other chords, and the sequences cycle endlessly in infinite variations.  What I'd like to do is to find an instructor who will feed that interest while getting him to pick up some technique and skill along the way.  I need a music theory teacher who will use the ideas inherent in musical structures to motivate Archer to learn to produce them and their associated musical forms.

Just as an example: Archer loves to transpose.  Imagine a teacher who would share that enthusiasm and use it to get Archer excited about performing a piece well, with the expectation that he could solve the puzzle of transposition once he'd mastered it.

I'm not sure I can use the community school of music system to find that teacher.  These are undergraduates and graduate students, not people who want to teach for the rest of their lives -- people making a little extra money while they pursue performance degrees.  I'm wondering if I need to try to find someone for private lessons, someone who is flexible and can work with Archer's particular mindset.  The advantage of the community school is that it's nearby and easy, a relatively low-pressure investment.  I'm hesitant to step out into the unknown and try to find someone on my own, but I'm also worried that another semester of standard instruction will leave Archer uninterested in further lessons at all.

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