Kenley Kristofferson

Composer.

Tag: the music lesson

Music Ed Monday – A Flute Player’s Relationship With Music

Good afternoon!

Here is another essay from a Grade 11 Fundamentals of Music student describing her relationship with Music.  It’s very personal (but I have her permission to post it) and that’s its greatest strength: It’s authentic.

This reminds me how lucky I am to teach Music to young adults who are invested in this collaborative effort.  But while the ensemble is collaborative, there are individual rewards 🙂

(it’s quite long, but definitely worth the read!)

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My relationship with Music; there are so many ways to think about and describe it.  The way Music understands everything about me, the way Music takes care of me and doesn’t judge me, the way Music loves me and treats me kindly, and the way she makes me feel like I can put everything on the table for everyone to see without being afraid.

Lately, I have been stressed about my skills and techniques, my marks in my classes, and about getting into university.  I wasn’t dealing with the stress and I was certainly not aware of all the good things that were happening in the present, so I decided to go talk to my middle school band teacher, Ms. Lansky.  I realized that I hadn’t ever thanked her for motivating me to get to where I am today, so I started there and continued on about how I was and how school was going and in the midst of my little freak out, she stopped me and told me: “You can do anything if you set your mind to it and keep your confidence up.”  They were some of the few words she said, but that was all I needed to hear.  I later went home and played for hours and hours and I finally felt like my emotional connection had strengthened.  I had finally reached where I wanted to be all along.  I was upset the other day, so I put my flute together and played a song and I felt released from the anger almost immediately and sunk into a world of peace that I never wanted to leave.  Sometimes I fight the fear of opening up to Music and those are the times that playing turns into practicing, but this time I was completely vulnerable from the very start, at last.

I feel like Music really understands who I am, what I love and how I feel at the present moment.  Sometimes, she’s the only one able to cheer me up.  I feel unafraid to be judged by my Music because I know there will be no judging going on between us.  The way Music is so tender and loving makes me feel like I belong to something so great, so special and so wonderful, which of course I do! The soft and comforting sounds could ease me to sleep, calm me down or cheer me up.  The way her soothing sounds make me feel at rest, like a mother talking and hushing her baby to sleep.  I love Music and I was having my doubts about if this was really what I wanted to do with my life until I recently found the answer, which was a definite yes.

I think the reason why I love Music so much is that when I play, I can finally open up and show myself to everyone.  It can speak louder than my words ever could.  I love the feeling of being vulnerable but trusting in myself, and in Music, that I will be fine and, at that moment, nothing can hurt me because I won’t let it.

Playing with [Nikki] for the first time was an excellent moment for the both of us.  It was nice to open up to her and feel comfortable right away.  I loved playing with her, probably because of how she feels the same way about Music and how we can totally be ourselves around each other, knowing we won’t do any harm.  We had an instant connection this year.  Maybe our interests in Music, but I think there’s a stronger connection, something I don’t have with anyone else.  We had a really great conversation the other day, right after she suggested that we play together, about how other people can’t get in our way of being happy and in the way of what we want to do.  We gave each other hope and formed an even stronger connection between us.  She told me something that’ll stick for a long time: “If things get rough, just keep smiling and you’ll get through it.”  The conversation was so meaningful and inspirational for the both of us, leading us to create the wonderful experience we desired while playing together.  I would normally try and avoid playing with someone else because I’d be afraid of not being good enough or getting embarrassed, but with the relationship that we both have through Music, I don’t feel the weird or awkward sensation running through me making me nervous for no reason! I feel like I am finally able to express my full emotion and thoughts through the sound I create.  I love the way Music feels, reaching out and holding the hand that connects me to a different world than the one I’m used to.  I don’t know how someone couldn’t want to be a part of it! For a long time, I was afraid of that connection and going to that place, but when I did, I found that this was the place that would make me a different person, this was the place that would make me a musician.

I will always want Music to be my own, unique experience, my thoughts, my emotion, and if I don’t live it, it won’t come out of my instrument or my imagination! I am not sure what made me decide that I needed to write this all down, maybe my recent realizations of my strong, undying love for Music, my friendship with Music growing stronger with each day that passes by, or my experiences with other great musicians that I understand how I feel about everything.  All of this makes one of my favourite quotes come to mind:

“Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm, meaning, and happiness to life and to everything” – Unknown.

I guess you could say that I had a reawakening that made me realize all of this, but it helped me finally find what I’ve been looking for all this .  I finally found what it feels like to be a musician, and yet my journey has just begun.

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I love that.  An authentic and thoughtful connection with Music.  I feel so thankful to them for their openness, security and honesty.

Now, here’s this week’s assignment:

Ask your students to write 1/2 – 1 page about what Music means to them.  You could phrase this in a few different ways:

  • Describe your relationship with Music.
  • Explore how you connect with Music on a daily basis.
  • If Music was a person, how would you interact? Are you friends? Enemies? Lab Partners? One-Uppers?

But please include the caveat of be authentic and honest with yourself.  If you haven’t built a connection of openness and awareness between your students (because that certainly doesn’t happen over night), remind them that they will not be judged or assessed on their opinion/thoughts/feelings.  It’s personal and there is no right or wrong answer.

If you do it and want to alk about it, post how it went in the comments below!

Kenley

PS: [ ] imples the name has been changed.

Music Ed Mondays – The Music Lesson (Part 2)

So, how did your homework go? Could you see Music? What did he/she look like? How are you connected to him/her*?

This is one final essay and the student allowed me permission to use it.  It’s a long read, but I promise you, it’s worth it 🙂

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Music and I have a complex relationship.  There are times when we are inseparable, and times that we may fight.  Music is my best friend, my mother, and my shoulder to cry on when need it and always knows just what to say when I’m in a mood, because it sense my feelings and I also share my feelings with it.  It is a two-way street, just like every relationship, and it knows me better than I know myself.

I’ve had days where I really just miss my best friend, (name omitted), when we haven’t talked in a while and I miss her thoughts and the feeling of comfort that comes from an old friend.  I miss Music like I miss her.  On days where I’m too busy or just forget that to have a chat, I feel like there’s a person missing from my day.  My best friend, the one who wants to have a musical conversation with me about my angers and about things that make me smile, who will be my voice of reason and calm me down.  Music agrees with me and takes hold of my emotions; it goes past listening and creates with me.  I feel like Music knows me better than I know myself because there will be a day that we play and an emotion or feeling or thought will just come forward, and I was unaware of it before then.  Music makes me aware of all the things I’m feeling, always demanding that I open up and be myself with it.  But that doesn’t mean I always do.  Music and I have our fights, the days that I blame it as a cause of my frustrations and stresses.  The days that I practice music instead of play music and it tries to get me to open up and resist, and Music does not appreciate it.  It does not create beauty with me because I refuse to create beauty with it.  Those are the days that I have to walk away, instead of warring with it and causing more problems.  But somehow, we always work it out.  I realize that I can’t blame Music for being there for me and challenging my ideas and being my only escape from the world around me.  Because the world really does go away.  Music sends it to a place to be dealt with at a later date.  Time slows down for me while the world spins around us, so minutes turn into hours and worries evaporate into the air.  That is sometimes the reason why I blame Music for taking hours that I could have used to study, but our relationship is always stronger after those days because my mood is lighter from talking to my best friend.  And our connection is stronger and I realize that I needed those hours to sleep and, without it, I would be grumpy and unsettled for no apparent reason.  I shouldn’t resist it because it would be as silly as resisting sleep.  I try it sometimes, but it just leaves me in a bad state of mind.  Sometimes, that is why I feel like Music could be a motherly figure too.  It’s right a lot of the time, even when you don’t always want it to be.  It has a way of making you see things differently, as my mother always tells me to do.  It’s a warm hug when times are tough and I just need somebody to be there, telling me that it will all work out.  And I believe in Music because it believes in me.  It shows when I break through on something new that I felt I never would be able to do and, as I play, I feel my amazement and this sense of ease that says “I knew you could do it all along.”  It’s a confidence that Music gives me, not only in my musical studies, but in all other aspects of life.  The knowledge that I can do, create, and achieve when I simply apply myself and I don’t resist the improvement because it feels different, new or uncomfortable.  There should be no comfort zone in Music’s conversations.  No ‘too personal,’ ‘too different,’ or ‘too out of reach.’  There is only what you do when all limits and expectations go away and the pressures of life are gone.  Some of my best conversations are when the world feels like it’s about to crush me, and it takes me away.  I love it.  I always breath through and accomplish something in those moments, which is one of the reasons why it is unreasonable to blame Music because Music can only help me.  And that is why Music would be a mother or a best friend to me, really, it could be anybody who would love and support me and help me reach my full potential.  Father, teacher, sister… Music is them all.

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Isn’t that lovely? I just welled up when I read the awareness and thoughtfulness of this teen and their complex relationship to the art that they love.   I feel like Music knows me better than I know myself or I believe in Music because it believes in me.  Gush!

It’s amazing what kids will say if only you give them the opportunity to say it 🙂

Have a good week,
Kenley

*I feel badly in using “he/she” and “him/her” in a world of transgender awareness.  I know that sex isn’t totally binary, I just don’t know which pronouns or descriptors to use.  Help would be lovely, let me know!

Music Ed Mondays – The Music Lesson (Part 1)

In our course, “The Fundamentals of Music,” we teach a novel called The Music Lesson by world-renowned bassist, Victor Wooten.

There  are two provocative parts to that opening:

1) Fundamentals of Music? Yes, they take place in both Grade 11 and 12, split into Fundamentals I and II.  While they started as a theory and performance course (as a buffer to the performing ensembles), we’ve geared it more towards musical philosophy, ear training, responding to music… and yes, theory and harmony.  It is, probably, the strongest course in our Music program because really teaches students how all of the spokes of the Music wheel go together  – not just theoretically and not just in regards to performance, but in the cognitive and emotional elements as well.  If you want to talk about it, contact me and I can send you everything we have to make it run – I’m happy to share the love 🙂

2) Yes, novel study in Music.  Every program builds literacy: If it’s translating a word problem in Math, studying maps and legends in Geography or connecting with text in Music, literacy needs to be built from every angle because words (and their power to change the world)  are never, ever going away.   That’s a whole post in itself.

Anyway, The Music Lesson is about Victor learning the bass as he is just starting out in Nashville, where a mysterious man enters his apartment and challenges his views on all things music.  Each chapter is set as a musical element (i.e. Tone, Space, Key, Dynamics, etc.) and focuses on one thing for the reader to think about.  The text is very accessible and challenges some of the thoughts that we, as musicians and life-long learners of music, think about each element, which makes a great critical thinking resource for students.

While Michael Brandon teaches the Grade 11 section (where the book is taught), we’ve been building and constantly re-imagining the course for three years.  The final assessment is a reading response to the work, but one of the prompts is this: “If you were to personify music, what would your relationship to he/she be? Explore and describe that.”

I’ll upload a sample from one of our Grade 11 students, but for this week, let’s think about what you would write.  What is your relationship to Music” Remember: Music is a person!

Explore and good luck!
Kenley