The Power of Music as a Language

I am strong believer in the power of music as a unifier. I have always felt it is the one true universal language, it is possible for people from around the world who speak different languages and cannot communicate in other way to come together over a piece of Music and create something bigger, better and more beautiful than they could by themselves. It is a unifying force, indiscriminate in its nature, Music crosses over all social classes and demographics, races, cultures, religions. It is an activity for a team, it helps build relationships, unifying people in a common goal and outcome where everyone wins and everyone plays an important role in the bigger picture. Music helps teach valuable life skills including problem solving, team work, discipline and commitment.

14480659_1242952775736748_5444989310490045892_oI had a recent experience that help confirm my thoughts and beliefs when I was contacted by a parent wanting some additional lessons for their daughter while they were on holidays. The family were from Taiwan and were out holidaying in Perth, their daughter, let’s call her Mary for the sake of this post, a talented young clarinetist…the catch is that she could not really speak or understand a great deal of English. It would prove especially difficult considering I’m an Australian who really does slur his words, speaks with a have Australian accent and at a million miles an hour.

The question was, how would I go about teaching her? How could we work together to bridge this language barrier so that she got the most out of this experience?

The answer actually proved quite simple, through modelling. Every elements of the lesson I made sure that I modelled first, we followed the principle, “if you want to become better, do as I do…follow my example” and this seemed to work really well. We managed to achieve considerable improvement in Mary’s sense of time, rhythmic concept and tone production in a short period of time.

Playing Music managed to bring us together and communicate on a higher level to achieve a tangible result. Not only this but Music managed to teach Mary life skills and musicianship skills to assist in her future development as she returned home to Taiwan.

I have continued to think on these lessons, I feel that I have learnt a lot out of these myself. My personal pedagogy has been effected. Why waste time with words in lessons or ensemble rehearsals when they are not needed…maybe more teachers need to follow the principle of “do as I do” and model the behaviours and skills to their students…after all, isn’t this why we became musicians and educators in the first place? To play music and inspire the next generation to follow and grow in their understanding of the world around them, to fully express themselves and impact the lives of others?

I am hoping to see Mary again in the future, if not for more lessons then hopefully on the world stage somewhere as a Concert Clarinetist inspiring other young women to follow in her footsteps.

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