Music is Transformative
Playing an Instrument is Like a Superhero Quest: An Interview With Meridee Winters
Meridee Winters is the owner of a distinguished music school in Philadelphia, and publishes a unique style of books for teaching music. She has an interesting and diverse history. She was formerly both a grade school teacher and owner of a Karate school. She is passionate about promoting creativity and self expression as an essential component of music education. Check her out on the web at MWschoolofmusic.com and MerideeWintersMusicMethod.com.
- - One of your core principals is that music is transformative. And I love your infographic on that, thank you for allowing me to post it. Would you speak on that topic a bit? - -
I think that when we're training to be a musician, especially a creative musician, it’s like superhero or Jedi master training. It's a challenging adventure. It is transformative and it's character building. We have the physical training, but there is a lot of mental training that goes with it too. Actually, I used to teach martial arts. That's how I put myself through music school, teaching karate. Music training is similar to martial arts training except the outcome isn't physical like self-defense – musicians are warriors of creativity.
Ninety-nine percent of the world thinks when they're learning music that they're learning a creative art. But when we look at how music is taught still today, 2020, most students are learning other people's songs and basically regurgitating music other people wrote. So, they're very much at the level of rote and recall and it's not a creative process at all.
I want to support the creative aspect of music. And one of my biggest passions that I advocate for is encouraging and developing creativity.
Music is a language and we're meant to communicate the truth of our own heart... our playfulness and our every emotion through the language of music. But really, the way we're learning music would be the equivalent of learning to type instead of learning to write your own story just typing in somebody else's story that you've copied. So, we can become robots and just uncreative people.
- - I feel that going through a music conservatory or a college music program in certain instances can even suck the creativity out of people. At least that's how I feel about my own journey of going to college for music. When I first became interested in music as a kid, I was really creative and made up songs and just kind of noodled around or picked up melodies by ear. And then by the time I was done with music school, I was playing classical music passages over and over and then beating myself up when I made a mistake. And then 10 years go by and where did my creativity go? So at that point I had to take a step back and reclaim my joy for music because it has become like a rote, repetition kind of practice somehow. - -
Your story is actually normal. That's the majority of people. You start out creative and then quickly become afraid of making a mistake. It's a big issue that you do become afraid of making that mistake. And then your skills are so high technically that you don't give yourself permission to create. It's a big deal. So part of the MW Teacher Training is about holding that safe space for kids to create and look at music as an art.
When you think of a child learning to paint: if they scribble something on a piece of paper and hand it to you, you might say "Well, that's amazing. Look at the colors." Then you might even ask "What was it?" Kids always have a story… this scribble means that and this means this and this means that. So, we can have these same finger-painting activities from day 1 with music students where they can plunk or tinkle or tinker and go, "Oh, this is the elephant in the sky on a star and this is that." Or whatever is happening. If they could articulate it and accept the safe space, then more and more musicality emerges over time.