Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Music for normal people

I just started teaching a new course at Boston Conservatory, the first they are offering for adults via their extension division.  It is one semester class, meeting once a week, called "Getting to Know the Piano Repertoire" and when I was explaining what I was doing to one of my undergraduate conservatory students, she helped me find the word to describe the students who would be enrolling in the course: "NORMAL people."  At a conservatory, I spend most of my time working with students who have studied piano music for most of their lives - (abnormal people?).  Even then I have to make an effort at times to imagine what it is like to hear about a piece for the first time, when I have performed it in concert 100 times.  That, of course, is what teachers do all of the time, in all sorts of fields. 

But it is always healthy for a performer, like myself, to come face to face not with musical colleagues but with the "normal people" who make up the audience of concerts.  What do they think about when they hear music?  What do they like or dislike?  The great artist is not, of course, supposed to play in a way that panders to the audience, but he does need to consider what is valuable to them - it is about striking a proper balance between entertaining and challenging.  

In any case, I enjoy helping opening people's eyes to things I already know and love.  I admire the "normal people" in this course, some who appear to be working, some possibly retired, but all challenging themselves to learn something new, rather than sitting in front of the TV and coasting through life on the education they acquired in high school or college.  In the last year or two I have begun to do more private teaching, including students who are 14 years old, and one who is over 70.  It has helped me to see clearly how valuable playing the piano and getting to know great music, intimately, is to everyone, not just professional musicians themselves. 


Stan said...

Hahaha, I finally found something normal about myself! Wish I could take that class. It's got to be challenging to get us geezers to appreciate some of the really contemporary stuff, but perhaps as an evolution of B-B-B etc it can seem more memorable and meaningful. I am perhaps a little more challenged than I want to be when I hear some really modern stuff.

Allcello said...

Sounds like a great class! Perhaps spending time with the "normal people" would help any professional musician, like myself, keep perspective on how their musical choices of repertoire and approach relate to the audiences today.

I recall a famous musician telling me not to play for other musicians in the concert hall, but for the general audience. Whether good or not, it's great to know that new audiences are being developed by musicians like you!