PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT IS LIKE A SUPERHERO QUEST
an interview with Meridee Winters
by Leah Young
--Do you think parents should make their kids practice?--
I never hear people saying that they resent their parents making them continue. But I hear a lot of stories that people think their parents should not have let them quit. I think there is something positive to be said about a parent who commits to music being a part of the child's education.
We're going to have peaks and valleys and oftentimes progress isn't linear. Progress usually stays level, breakthrough, then level up, pause, breakthrough... So, it's up to the parent and the teacher to provide high-quality instruction.
--What kinds of things do you start beginners out with?--
Well, there is an individualized component. One of our school's core principals is interest-based learning or free-range learning. So, if some students are more interested in rhythm, others are interested in improvisation or storytelling. We can do a lot based on their interest and individualize it. And we have a lot of material. It's not all on Amazon. I have 50 books and some of them are just only exclusive to the MW school right now. Some of them will come out over time. But the Super Start Piano Books are on Amazon and All-Star Piano Patterns which is a Core Crash Course for younger kids. Note Quest is a collection of drills for note reading.
The Super Start and All Star books are a small taste of what all of our teachers are trained at... encouraging improv and creativity right away. Part of what we do is just jam and explore on the piano or guitar. Let's explore, let's do it from day 1. Also, we start out with making our own storm just to teach that there is no wrong note. Let's crash, let's play high, let's play well. Let's have a freedom to sound terrible and make mistakes and creative freedom is established at the beginning.
Patterns are like the Legos of music. So, during training, we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the PB, is for pattern book where we're teaching patterns. And then jam, we're always doing some kind of jam. And the regular lesson books are just like bread. You got to have them, they're nice. But teaching only with lesson books is not well rounded. Repertoire and lesson books are the bread. So, what we're adding is the patterns and the jam which are essential. There are many lesson books to choose from. I don't like the older beginner lesson books because they move too fast. To learn to read, you just need frequent repetition and you want it to be easy. So, you could pick up any of the common lesson books that are out there. They all have flaws. They all have pros and cons.
But without teaching as a language, without the patterns and the empowerment, without the jamming, teaching just from lesson books is very low-level learning.
--The classical players I know mostly say the same thing. "I'm terrible in improvising. I'm terrible at jazz. It's so hard." I have a friend who is a phenomenal classical player. One day she asked me, "Is this a major chord or minor chord?" And it blew my mind that she could be so great, but yet doesn't know the difference between a major and a minor chord. Wow, how does that happen?--
Some people don't take too well to divergent thinking and it can lead to a little less confidence than joy. So, they have somebody celebrating that innovation and creativity and courage of not being afraid of playing a wrong note. Play is really crucial for those divergent thinkers.
The world needs creative solutions for a brighter future. We need people to be creative or at the very least understand and celebrate the creative process. You'll see many articles coming out now that say creativity is a crucial skill for the future. That's where the transformation comes in, with a safe space that allows opportunities for creativity.