I SHOULD PREFACE THIS POST WITH A LITTLE NOTE. Yes, I’m in the music education business. No, I’m not writing this to guilt-trip you into keeping an unhappy child in lessons! There are certainly times to take a child out of music lessons, just like […]
What do you do when your child is taking music lessons, but you don’t consider yourself a “musical person?” How can you make sure your child is truly progressing? Miss Haleigh returns to the Learning Allegro Blog to tackle this common question. I grew […]
Are you struggling to keep music lessons fun and exciting during the summer? Here are five easy ways to jazz up your studies, keep learning, and make the summer months feel fresh. 1. EXPLORE A NEW GENRE OF MUSIC. Are you a classically trained […]
In last week’s post, I said that I did not start playing violin in a community-oriented way until I had been in private lessons for thirteen years. That’s a partial truth. My middle school and high school did not have onsite music programs, so until […]
This week, Miss Haleigh shares a little bit about the important role music plays in live theatre.
This spring, a number of the Learning Allegro teachers, myself included, have been playing in the pit for local theatres. If you’re not familiar, “playing in the pit” is a term we use to describe a small, live orchestra that plays for the actors in musical. Normally, pit musicians are literally seated in a pit in front of the stage, but that’s not always true. My “pit” for Titanic: the Musical at SALT Performing Arts was actually in a recording booth above the stage.
I’ve played in orchestras and wedding quartets before, but this was my first experience playing in a pit for live theatre. Here are a few of my observations.
MUSIC IS IMPORTANT. LIKE, SUPER IMPORTANT.
I often tell my Learning Allegro students that language is largely effective because of its musicality. I can say something as simple as “Yes, mom!” with many different tones behind it…and in my younger years, some of those tones might even have gotten me grounded! How we say something is often just as important as what we say.
Playing for a live show really underscores the musicality of simple speech (pardon the pun). It gives the actors an idea of what emotions to put into their words, and it gives the audience a framework for interpreting the mood of the story.
LIVE MUSICIANS HAVE A TOUGH JOB.
While the actors are delivering lines onstage, the pit musicians might have to speed up, slow down, or repeat segments of music to accommodate the speed of the actors’ conversations. The orchestra has to stay attuned to what’s happening onstage and be prepared for sudden changes.
In a normal orchestra setting, the music is the main event; in a pit, the story is the main event. That means the role of a pit musician is much more interactive than that of an orchestra violinist. You have to stay flexible and make sure the emphasis stays on the actors — all while playing beautifully.
FORMAL MUSICAL TRAINING HAS FAR MORE APPLICATIONS THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE.
Playing in the pit has reminded me how many ways a trained musician can truly use his or her skills. When we think of violinists, flutists, or cellists, we normally associate them with classical orchestras. We sometimes fail to remember that classical training will benefit a musician in tons of different performance situations. Wedding quartets need trained musicians. Pit orchestras need trained musicians. Cruise ships, black tie formals, big-shot recording artists, film scores, and even simple, local functions need trained musicians.
When we put our kids in private violin or piano lessons, I think we fail at times to remind them that their talents have applications beyond school band — applications that are fun and exciting! Which leads me to number four…
PLAYING IN A PIT ENCOURAGES COMMUNITY.
As a kid who grew up in music lessons, I almost never heard about community-oriented ways I could use my instrument. My middle and high schools did not have an onsite arts program. I took private lessons for 13 years before I ever got a chance to play in a group setting. And I have a feeling that many young students today have a similar experience. They know music academically, but have no idea how much fun it can be in a group setting.
In three short weeks of playing at SALT, our orchestra pit has become full of inside jokes, hilarious mishaps (that the actors hopefully didn’t hear!), and a general sense of community I never expected. I hope my students find that musical experience earlier in their careers than I did!
Thankfully, kids don’t have to wait until they’re orchestra-ready to see the community side of music. Sign your child up for a summer camp. Look into a youth orchestra. When your child insists that there’s nothing to do, encourage him to go write a song. There are many ways that you can convince your child to see music as fun and interactive. No pit required!
Learning Allegro offers fun, interactive summer camps for musicians of all ages. For more information, visit our main website.
Here’s what we’ve noticed at Learning Allegro when our students try out new instruments during summer break. In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge of students at Learning Allegro who try a new instrument over the summer. We don’t blame them! Here are […]
Many public schools treat art and music extracurriculars. In fact, the arts are often defunded before subjects that really are extracurriculars, like sports. Why? In the scheme of global history, we’re really the first era to downplay art education. Our ancestors treated the arts just as […]
It’s no big surprise that most kids love music, but hate practicing. We often sell practice negatively, whether we mean to or not. We paint it as work (which is true), but fail to emphasize the room for discovery, improvement and fun within that work.
Like any good habit, practicing won’t be fun or convenient every single time your child picks up his or her instrument. However, with the right attitude, it can be not only enjoyable, but a creative outlet, a stress reliever and a channel for personal growth!
Here are a few quick ideas to help your young musician stay on task.
1. SCHEDULE PRACTICE TIME ON YOUR FAMILY CALENDAR. We understand how busy a week can get, but don’t let practicing fall through the cracks! Writing something on the calendar reinforces the importance of practicing to your child. It will also remind you, the parent, to check in and keep your child accountable!
2. BUILD UP TO LONGER PRACTICE TIMES. Is your child a wiggle worm? Start by having them practice in small increments and build up the time as they become more self-motivated. Even ten minutes a day can make a big difference! As your child can handle more time, add five minutes to the clock. Can you build up to twenty minutes a day? Thirty?
3. ENCOURAGE THEM TO EXPLORE — AFTER THE WORK IS DONE. If your child is playing the same two or three songs in lessons, he or she might be getting bored. Help your child find something fun to learn on his or her own–maybe a pop song or a clip from a movie soundtrack. After they’ve practiced their assigned songs, let them play around with the “fun music.” You can even encourage them to make up their own tunes! A bit of creativity can make practicing more fun–and your child will be refining his or her technique along the way.
4. HANDLE “BURNOUT” CREATIVELY. Everybody’s brain checks out eventually. Would a healthy snack help your child focus? What about stretching beforehand? If your child has had a long day, maybe he or she needs a “wiggle break” in the middle of practice time. One of my students practices 20 minutes per day–ten when she gets home from school and ten after dinner. Her parents have found that when they split up her practice session, she spends more time focused on the music and less time watching the clock.
5. FRAME PRACTICE AS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A CHORE. Instead of “You have to practice more,” try saying, “You get to take a break from homework and play some music!” If you frame practicing as a break, reward, or enjoyable task instead of one more thing on the laundry list, your child may be more enthusiastic about that thirty-minute window.
6. BE A CHEERLEADER. Total disclosure–even music teachers get tired of hearing the same song 75 times a day. It can be easy to “check out” while your child is playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in her room for the seventh day in a row. But don’t! Instead, find honest ways to praise your child– “The song is much smoother now!” or “I like that melody!” A little bit of praise goes a long way!
7. TALK TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER. If you’re really struggling to “find a groove” for practicing at home, reach out to your child’s school instructor or private lessons instructor. Most teachers interact with dozens of students per week–including kids who don’t practice much. Ask those teachers for advice! I guarantee they can help.
At Learning Allegro, we encourage students to love music in every situation, including school bands, private lessons, and independent study. For more information about toddler music classes, private instrument lessons and art sessions at Learning Allegro, visit our website.