Inspiring Creativity in the Music Lesson

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It is amazing how creativity can take many forms. The same can go for motivation. This post discusses how students of all ages engage in the many aspects of creativity and motivation in their own personal musical journey.

In my piano studio, I have the privilege of working with a variety of ages of music students. I work with young children as well as adults students; I also work with school-age students and teens. Each student is their own person, with their own feelings, their own ideas, their own needs, and their own dreams. Each student accepts the challenges that come with studying music in their own way. By doing this, students break free of playing “in a box”, they let their creativity take hold.

To illustrate the various areas of creativity that I experience in my music studio, I would like to share a story with you. The name of the music student has been changed to protect their privacy.

Jason is a very engaging and creative pianist. He just completed grade 7 in grade school. We are working on some difficult music, including pieces by modern composers. As a personal goal, I am encouraging Jason to work on music that encourages slow practice, he enjoys playing everything at a fast pace! In most cases, practicing only at a fast pace creates many mistakes and poor practice habits.

Jason enjoys working on materials that sound good, including pieces by the composer Yiruma. The piece that we are currently working on is River Flows in You, a lovely piece of music that has many emotional qualities within. To be successful at playing this piece, the musician must slow down and play with an expressive tone. If one only plays the notes, with no feeling, the piece becomes very boring very quickly.

At a recent lesson, Jason was playing the piece beautifully. We reached the final two lines of the piece in which the main theme returns in a simple fashion followed by a final deceptive cadence (the final chord is f-sharp minor in the key signature of A major). Most students, when they reach this area in the piece, offer some sort of comment. Upon reaching this spot, Jason plays through to the end, pauses on the final chord, and then finishes playing. He pauses in silence for a moment, and then turns to me. I think to myself, “Here we go, another comment on this final cadence.”

The comment that Jason makes surprises we. “The ending sounded strange to me, but in a melancholic way. I was expecting an ending that sounded complete (moving to A major chord at the end of the piece), yet the f-sharp minor chord creates a longing that fits with the rest of the piece of music. I would like to play the ending again and really capture this sense of longing within.”

Jason proceeds to play the final three lines of the piece once more. When he reaches the end of the piece, he slows down and plays the final cadence beautifully. I felt a sense of longing and a sense of the incomplete, the essence of the music that Yiruma intended. Jason had a big grin on his face and proclaimed, “That is much better, the ending fits well within in the music and is settled in my mind.”

To a professional musician, a cadence seems like a trivial matter. To the average listener, they may not realize that cadences exist in music. To Jason, this final cadence helped to personify to me the importance of taking in every detail of a piece of music. We must experiment with all aspects of what we play, this offers to us many joys of creativity, even if that joy comes between two chords at the end of a piece of music.

Here is a beautiful performance of “Kiss the Rain” by the composer, Yiruma.

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About mymuco1

Ian Green wears hats in many areas of the music industry including: co-founder of a technology start-up company that designs music education tools for mobile devices and the internet; music educator; music festival adjudicator; professional classical and jazz pianist; member in good standing of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of provincial council of Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association; member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators Association (C.M.F.A.A.) Thanks!
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