2011 MTNA Conference – Wednesday Morning: Teaching the Artist Within Every Student

Joanne Haroutounian began by sharing that her most inspiring moment at the conference was visiting with a group of pedagogy students and hearing what they had learned and how they planned to implement it. She said it was the perfect introduction into the topic this morning that every student can be artistic.

The session began with an overview of Artistic Ways of Knowing. What does this mean?

  • Describes the artistic process of learning, step by step.
  • Enhance Students’ sensory awareness of the artistic process.
  • Explains artistic learning to those in academic areas or the general public.

There are five Artistic Ways of Knowing:

  1. Perceptual Awareness and Discrimination – to perceive through the senses with acute awareness
  2. Metaperception – to internally manipulate perceptions and emotions while making interpretive decisions
  3. Creative Interpretation – to rework and refine interpretive decisions, using elements of perceptual discrimination and metaperception
  4. Dynamic of Performance – to communicate a creative interpretation aesthetically through performance
  5. Critiquing – to evaluate oneself and others with artistic discrimination

Perceptual Awareness and Discrimination
Joanne showed a video clip from the beginning of an NYPD show and asked audience members to watch closely and be prepared for a short quiz afterward. She asked:
What was the show?
What overall does this clip describe?

Next, she assigned groups a specific task of something to watch for. One group was instructed to look at the people. Another group was to watch the words. Another group colors. Another group sounds. Another group was to count how many clips. The final person was instructed to time the duration of the segment. Each group was asked, in turn, to share information about their category. It was amazing the extra details that were brought out using this approach! After going through all of this, Joanne asked if we thought it was just put together randomly, or was it carefully crafted? Without hesitation everyone stated that it was carefully crafted.

We want to prepare our students to be able to craft this sort of thing in their generation. How do we do that?
Encourage careful listening for details during the lesson.
Peer performance groups – assign specific listening tasks to focus on.

Metaperception
The artistic counterpart to metacognition
The cognitive/perceptual functioning of a musician or any artist while making interpretive decisions.
Intermingling of perceptual and expressive elements.
Thinking about thinking.

Joanne discussed audiation. She had the audience internally audiate the song, Mary Had a Little Lamb, while she conducted. Everyone started together on the first note, then “sang” internally until the last note. After doing this, she asked us all to employ metaperception to think of a mood and sing it internally again without her conducting. A few audience members shared their version of the song and they were vastly different!

Joanne showed another video clip – this time of Yo Yo Ma and Mark Morris discussing choreography to accompany Yo Yo Ma’s cello performance. Mark’s metaperception during his contemplation of the choreography was obvious.

Metaperception in Your Studio:

  • Encourage inner awareness of sound as students work through interpretative ideas. So often we just do it.
  • Provide opportunities for students to develop their own interpretive ideas, solve problems. She suggests handing the students the pencil!
  • Deliberate practice – working through problems with goals in mind.
  • Creative Interpretation
    Provide opportunities for creative interpretation. Creative interpretation can be either a product or a performance. Students can employ it in original work or in the way the play the works of others. The next video clip was a young student playing drum beats in answer to the drum beats played by a teacher/researcher. She was permitted to be creative in her answers.

    Joanne encouraged us to teach students how to develop sensitivity to the music. How?
    Questioning Techniques – encourage higher levels of musical understanding. Pose a question and have the student answer musically.
    Analysis and Interpretation – students must understand what they are doing both aurally and visually. Incorporate personal ideas into the playing of the piece.
    Comparative Listening – make a copy of the music and listen to a professional pianist play the piece. Use a colored pen to make notes on the details of the performance. Use a different color to note the details of a different professional pianist. She said that YouTube diminishes the benefit of the aural because of the visual. When using YouTube for listening, don’t watch the performer.
    Engage Student Exploration of Ideas – don’t be hung up on “what the judges want.” Joanne shared a story of a student who wanted to write her own cadenza to play in a Mozart Sonata. She played it in a competition and the judge did not make one comment regarding her cadenza. Very disappointing.

    Dynamic of Performance
    Students create a “real performance/product.” Ensemble performances are a wonderful way to provide opportunities. Create a performance portfolio for a particular piece. Keep track of all performances of that piece, along with an evaluation of different aspects of the piece (e.g. Rhythm & Tempo, Melody, Technique, Musicality, Memory). Have the student make personal and specific notes of their performance of each area.

    Critiquing
    Fine tune with a precise musical vocabulary. Use descriptive words. When students critique others or themselves, require them to make specific remarks. One year Joanne decided to have all of her students learn a Chopin piece. She selected repertoire for each of them and had them learn it on their own and meet together regularly to learn from and instruct each other. It was so rewarding to watch them perform these pieces at a recital and provide affirmation for each other!

    She concluded her session with this quote from Picasso:
    “A painter transforms the sun into a yellow spot. An artist transforms a yellow spot into the sun.”

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