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And the Cellists Came to Blows Over a Grand Pause…

Well… They didn’t actually come to blows over the grand pause… But they were close. There were words, that is for sure!  Fighting words! And here’s the thing: I couldn’t decide if I was proud or angry with them. See, I have worked forever to build in my students a sense of musical freedom and ownership in what happens with music in orchestra. So we make many musical decisions democratically. Students will suggest different ways to perform the music and we will try them all. ALL of them (even if I, in my infinite wisdom, assume they will be terrible). I often find myself impressed by my students’ ability to think creatively and to contribute in a significant way to the musical interpretation of a work of music.

Yesterday, we were working on Grieg’s Two Norwegian Airs, and the students have recently fallen in love with the work. So we were at this lush triplet section (and you know how I feel about triplets…(well, if you don’t, I’ll just tell you that the facade of expanding time is one of my all time favorite musical techniques))… Anyways, so we were at this lush triplet moment of the piece, notes unraveling and spiraling down, and then there was a grand pause. But I didn’t cue a GRANDE pause… You know… I really gave them a mini grand pause… And one of my cellists started to explain that he wanted a GRANDE pause… “You know, like in one of the recordings” and he continued to explain why he wanted a GRANDE pause. Then another cellist disagree… And suddenly it was the entire cello section arguing about a grand vs. GRANDE pause.

I post about this not because I am interested in your input on this… I mean, I am, but that’s not the main reason I post about this. I post about this because I am so proud of my students’ passion for music. I am proud of building, together, a program in which students know it is safe to ask for musical changes and argue. I am proud of my students’ creativity and understanding of the different effect a grand pause can have versus a GRANDE pause. I hadn’t even thought about making the pause longer until this student requested it. And it was a great reminder of two things:

  1. Our students teach us so much if we will only encourage open dialogue and creativity.

  2. When we allow our students to contribute in significant ways to the musical execution within our ensembles, they are then invested and responsible. They are more likely to practice. Not because you ask them to turn in a practice log. Not because it’s for a grade. But because they know they are an important contributing member to something they love.

That’s all for tonight (I need to get back to dissertating), but I hope we will all continue to invest in our students’ creativity and build a generation of more confident and invested lovers of music ❤

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