Playing piano with my fingers, arms, legs, feet, heart, soul, and mind
This post is a bit different from my previous ones. This one is a bit more personal. I started playing piano as a teenager, mainly because I wanted to be a better singer. In the end, I came to love playing as much as singing, and today I do quite a bit of both. As a teacher, I often have to remind my students - while at the same time reminding myself - of exactly how one plays the piano. There are two ways that I reflect on these words. First, I take it in as a technical statement of playing piano with the whole body. Then, I take it in as an emotional statement of playing piano from the heart. If we are technically accurate, but lacking in heart, we are only halfway right.
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes the arms, back, legs, hands, feet, wrists, and elbows. It is a full-body experience just like running. Confession time - I am not much of a runner. If you see me running, you should run, too, because something is chasing me or the sky is falling, or there is free chocolate. I don't run for exercise or for fun, but I will also acknowledge that I probably should. Yet, as someone who has had to run (read here: PE class or running down the hall to let my kids in after lunch), I know that running is more than just moving my feet. It's a full-body experience that leaves me breathless when I'm done. Piano, and all music in general, should give that same breathless feeling when you finish. That's the only way to know that you have truly given your all to your instrument. Not to mention, it is good technique. Thankfully, no real running is required!
Piano takes more than fingers. It takes heart and soul. In a day and age of standardized testing, differentiated instruction, and documented student growth, it can be a challenge to make room for the heart of it all. When someone makes the statement "I love music because..." it is rarely followed up with something addressing a musical skill or technical sequence. It is usually followed by a mood, emotion, visual, image, or other abstract idea. As a music teacher, when I think about why I started teaching music, it has nothing to do with technique and everything to do with the feelings in, around, and throughout the music itself. I focus on technique because I honor the musical craft, but I honor music by playing with more than just my fingers - I play with my heart and soul as well.
Let me encourage us all to teach the techniques, teach the skills, and properly assess, but don't forget to show your students that you play piano with more than just your fingers.
What do you love about the piano? About music? About teaching music? Leave a comment and share your 'why' and how your students find their 'why' as well! Would love to hear it!
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