James Goldsworthy presents Keeping the First Lesson Open-Ended
Mr. Goldsworthy has posed a question, “What if you could start a new student and then four months later could start again?” He has experimented with this idea in his own teaching. In fact, he has even explored the possibility of “beginning three times.” He encourages teachers to think outside the box.
He is having the audience sing “Hot Cross Buns” with him. About 15 years ago, he determined that he wanted the student’s playing to be on their voice. He wanted them to go to their playing with their singing as the impetus. He has rewritten the melodic notes of “Hot Cross Buns” in a variety of rhythms to demonstrate one what that things can be done “outside the box.”
Mr. Goldsworthy discusses for several minutes the importance of having students take repeats. He says that this helps prepare them for the music of Bach or the first movements of the Classical sonatas. He also led the audience singing the song again, but this time incorporated an appogiatura on the second beat. He is emphasizing that many skills and techniques can be taught in the very first lesson even though the student is not consciously aware that it is taking place.
“We are not just teaching a piano lesson. We are teaching life.”
First thing Mr. Goldsworthy does with a group of students is sit down in a circle with everyone and begin introductions. He states and repeats names in a sing-songy rhythm. He shared an illustration to highlight the fact that teachers should maintain the flow in their groups, not being too eager to correct students for mistakes when in reality the student has responded correctly – perhaps it just wasn’t in line with the response the teacher expected.
Mr. Goldsworthy just introduced a term called “springing the scanscion” by saying that he no longer has trouble with his students playing dotted quarter followed by eighth notes. How is that possible? They feel the eighth note. He spoke a sentence (“Why are you crying?”), placing the inflection of his voice on a different word each time to show that there is the potential for 4 different meanings to the same words.
Einstein said, “The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and science. He who knows it not can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed out candle.”
Mr. Goldsworthy tells his university students “I’m not interested in answers. I’m interested in the possibilities.” “Because who knows the answers anyway?” He asks rhetorically. He added that he is convinced that one of these students could be the one who solves the Middle East crisis…or makes sure that people are no longer poor, etc. That’s why our teaching matters.
He goes on to discuss the theoretic elements contained in Hot Cross Buns. The most important notes in the key are: Do, Mi, Ti, Fa (in that order). These principles can be taught from the very first lesson. He performs an object lesson with coins, illustrating that what’s bigger is lower if it’s made from the same material. One of the first week assignments he gives his students is to drop two objects of differing sizes that are made of the same material and write down what they dropped and the resulting sounds. Nothing glass or sharp, he adds. If students understand this principle and see the different lengths of strings in the piano, they will more readily understand the concept of lower and higher sounds and ends of the keyboard.
As teachers we can create situations that make things come alive for our students.