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There are three actual actions to being a musician; listening, composing, and performing. True, not everyone will pick up the actual nomenclature that is the written musical language. Even truer is that fact that most people will not get on stage and perform a well rehearsed aria, ballad, or favorite pop song. But, everyone does LISTEN to music. Folks, that puts you in the game. As a matter of fact, when I want to know what is REALLY happening musically in a piece of music, the last person I ask is a musician. Trained musicians will give very articulate and accurate descriptions about meter, tempo, texture and the like. Ask a non-trained musician what they hear and they give much more important descriptions about emotions, colors, feelings and other connections that do not detract from the trained musicians.
In this vein I would like to share a story of one of my seventh grade music class students from about fifteen years ago. I was playing a piece of music for the class, probably Brahms or Beethoven, and was specifically looking for the listeners to describe the flow, the color and the overall sadness of the piece. Many students commented on the strings, the use of low brass and used words such as gray, black and other dark colors to describe what they thought the music was expressing. Then I got to the last student, a very shy student who never said too much. She said "when I hear this music I think of the color yellow." All of the heads turned and there were some rumblings in the class. I asked why she thought of yellow and she went on to explain that her family's bird had recently died and the bird had beautiful yellow feathers. When she was listening to this slow, lyrical, haunting piece she thought of the color yellow.
Her eloquent words and explanation jolted the class and taught everyone the most important thing about music: we apply our own feelings and experiences to every song, symphony or melody. We are not machines that do crazy things and feel crazy things because the music "makes us" feel that way. We are the feelings, the emotions and we celebrate our own interpretations of events and the arts. We are all musicians, we are human.
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