When I was an undergraduate, practicing piano or flute was a drudgery that I could barely tolerate. I put in what I needed to put in to get through a performance, and, given that I was an adept reader of scores, that was pretty minimal. I can recall sitting in several Form and Analysis classes and wondering how the heck I could cut it without affecting my grade.
This winter, as I have begun to become reacquainted with my piano, I’ve been mentally revisiting those music analysis classes. And I’ve discovered that while I struggle to activate the muscle memory for reaches on keys that I used to be able to just do, I’ve missed some things. I have been so focused on playing the notes accurately I have missed the nuance.
When I finally reached a level of note-playing that I could pay attention to the meaning of the melodic line, it was very freeing. Suddenly (well that’s not the right word!) I could hear what the piece should sound like. I understood.
And isn’t that exactly what happens with readers and writers. Our struggling readers and writers do their best to decode and mimic the writing elements of a genre. We offer up mentor texts, but unless we can take the time to analyze these texts with depth (and rigor), the students can only uncover the basics.
I think we try to do too much too quickly these days. A mile wide and an inch deep should not be the curriculum model we aspire to. Students need time and guidance to understand and to write agilely.
My connection? Learning to play a piece of music, moving beyond simply playing the score accurately, is very much like reading and writing.