Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just Listen

I write stories to remind myself of moments when I did the right thing as a teacher, so (hopefully) I won’t blow it the next time.

Working with a 9-year-old at his piano lesson, I flipped through his book to find the next song to learn, while he poked around at the keys, letting his fingers land wherever they wanted. Playing two notes in each hand, he hit upon a very cool chord and began playing an interesting and complex rhythm, trading off between his hands. He kept it up for quite a while, with me still turning pages and thinking about what I should “teach” him. When I found a good song, I asked if he would like to hear me play it. I noticed that as I played, he wasn’t really listening. (Wow, that's never happened before!!) He was busy tapping his legs with the same rhythm he discovered earlier (obviously because he didn’t want to forget it.) Luckily, I stopped what I was doing, and had him play his idea again. "Can you teach it to me?" I asked. It was quite difficult for being basically a two-measure pattern, but he patiently stayed with me, breaking it down so I would understand it better.

When I finally had it down, I suggested he record himself playing, so that he could play along and come up with a melody over the rhythm. To demonstrate, I got him going on his rhythm again and I improvised with him, high on the keyboard. This went on pretty much until the end of the lesson – we were having so much fun. When his fingers finally tuckered out, I thanked him for teaching me his pattern, and said, “We made music today.” And he agreed.

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