Updated: Jul 23, 2021
After completing several online collaborations with my elementary and teen students, I took the challenge of mentoring a duet for the early years group. Both of these students had their earlier experiences with another studio/teacher. Rewiring their existing habits and practices continues to be a work in progress. For this specific performance, our focused goal is to let these two kids play together by being sensitive to the steady or changing pulse of each other. Since this type of performance does not have a conductor, metronome, or teacher by their side, they just need to listen well to be in sync no matter what.
During the process, I wonder...
How can I make these young kids play in a well-coordinated performance?
How can I help them support each other, so they can keep the music going when either one or both misses?
How can parents support their childrens' musical performances?
Even in face-to-face music practices and performance, playing with a steady pulse does not come easy for most. One would need a lot of sensitivity and self-control to sync one's part with the other. It's like giving a young kid an ice cream in front of him, then asking him to just look at it but he cannot eat it. All throughout the performance, each would have to check and adjust their own pace and feelings to support the other and finish the music well together.
During home practices, it can be as easy as allowing them to practice with a set speed using the metronome. At times, recorded parts of the music can also help them get to the big picture. Listening to the other parts desensitizes our ears to the layers of sounds that we are hearing while we are weaving our own part into it.
Part of good musicianship is embracing the mistakes, and promptly responding to keep the music and one's partner going. For some students, it is but natural to stop and then go back from the beginning or parts that they know. This is a common practice often called "motor memory."This habit should be corrected earlier on so one can play his/her part at any specific time of the music. These two young kids practiced making mistakes, accepting them to be able to move forward.
Lastly, I continue to be grateful and value my parent community who mostly invests and enrolls their children in extra-curricular experiences like music. Treating them as partners, they should be actively involved in knowing how their children are progressing, and in what ways they can positively support their children to be successful. The extent of parents' involvement is not limited to enrolling them, settling monthly dues, or prompting them to practice. We all know that while these may be helpful, they may lead students to be less motivated, then prematurely quitting if they sense they are doing it on their own or find they find no purpose for pursuing such an opportunity. Parents need not be a musician themselves to extend the "just right kind" of support. That brief moment, that you sit by your child and listen to what they are doing speaks how valued they are.
Beyond the beauty of any performance are values that every parent would wish for their children: persistence, discipline, self-confidence. Children need support from their village on HOW they can achieve their goals and WHY WE are all doing this.