Transcending Right and Wrong

Do you recall being a student and always looking for the right answer to please the teacher? All of your effort was put towards finding the right answer. If you had the right answer, everything was good. If you had the wrong answer, you failed. Sound familiar?

In music lessons, there are only a few places where something is simply right or wrong. They are:

1. Notes
2. Rhythm

Music, however, is not found in notes and rhythm alone. It is found in the interpretation of those notes and rhythm, and that is where there is no one right answer.

As a student, it’s easy to get caught up in the notes and rhythm, and once you master them you think you’re done. Great musicians, however, take it a step further. Now that they can play the notes and rhythm with ease, they ask themselves, “What is the composer trying to say?” The articulation and dynamics come into play. Exactly how short is that staccato? Exactly how loud is that loud? When is it too much or not enough?

This is where it helps to be a human being with life experience. A rich life experience will give you more options on how to bring the music to life. Anyone can learn to play notes and rhythm, but it takes careful attention to detail, as well as experience in the full range of human emotion to bring a piece of music to life.

As a teacher, yes, I will correct students on notes and rhythm. However, when it comes to interpretation, I will show you how to go about deciding how to interpret a piece. There is no right or wrong answer, and oftentimes there are more questions than answers. This is the beauty of music. It is so much more than right and wrong. It is the audible expression of the full human experience, and what it means to be alive.

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