Thursday, 23 March 2017

Ice cream and coffee

Quite a lively discussion in class this week, about how conservatories could change. One quick takeaway: That the Juilliard graduate students in my class would love to go to a school where the focus was on how students want to make music. And where music of all genres was talked about, taught, and played.

Here comes the ice cream!

But of the many ideas in the readings I gave them, and the videos I asked them to watch, there was one they most loved. An ideal music school "will have pour over coffee and ice cream readily available at all times. These things make people happy. Ice cream."

This came from a 2014 blog post called "My Pretend Music School," b y Ivan Trevino, a composer, percussionist, and drummer living in Austin. (Says his website.)

So why did my students love this idea so much? You could say it's frivolous, far less important than unleashing creativity, fostering student initiative, opening the doors to all the world's music. Or anything else that seems crucial.

But I don't think it's trivial at all. It cuts to the heart of what goes on at so many schools. Focus on work, focus on careers, focus on practicing. Pressure.

So if a school gives students ice cream, that's another message. Life is good! Have fun! Or, if you want to get formal, giving out ice cream strikes a blow for work/life balance, something all of us now are coming to understand is crucial for living well.

Giving out ice cream would say that the school cares for its students, loves them as whole human beings. And from that everything else could flow.

Elsewhere in the world…

As we talked about this, some of the students talked about tech companies, startups that make sure that working for them is fun.

One student had been in Google's New York office. She wistfully said they had game rooms there. And massages!

And, you know…conservatories really should offer massages. Everyone at these schools knows how physically demanding it is to play an instrument, how there's a danger (especially, I'd think, for string players) of repetitive strain injury.

So offer massages, all day long, to whoever might want them. Many students play for hours each day. Is this good for their bodies?

It's amazing…

What a revelation these simple ideas are. How much good they could do. How much they could relieve the tension many students feel, with all eyes on them to see how they d.

Thanks, Ivan Trevino!

And, to conclude, here's another idea he had. Open mic nights, where students can play. At Juilliard, as I'm sure at almost all conservatories, at least in the US, performances are formal. Produced by the school, following school guidelines.

How freeing, then — what a boost for students' creativity, for their pure love of music — to have performances the students themselves are in charge of.

Where anything could happen. Where students could make any music they wanted, including — of course! — things the school doesn't teach.

Here's the curriculum for my course, where you'll find the reading and videos I assigned the students for this class. Just scroll down to March 22.

And, related, because it's fun…an annual event at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music, where as a complement to an annual Bach festival, there's also a Beatles festival. Where each year one the Beatles' albums is given a complete live performance, by conservatory students and others. Here's a video from a past year, with the school's trumpet teacher nailing the trumpet solo in "Penny Lane."

Original Content: Ice cream and coffee

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