Our discussions about teaching music has led me to think a lot about creating safe learning and teaching environments, catering for both musically trained and untrained students, promoting self expression and creativity. Having been kind of obsessed with Malcom Gladwell since late last year, I came across an episode in his podcast about public speaking by Tim Harford who looked at MLJ and a jewellry franchise owner Gerald Ratner and their approaches to extemporaneous public speaking. In the talk Harford uses a preliminary reasearch study done by Charles Limb, MD who scanned, using fMRI, the brains of musicians as they improvised jazz. The podcast then argues that based on this study, the improvising brain is associated with the switching off of self-awareness, the filter that checks oneself, or the autobiographical conscience that often inhibits risk or free self-expression. Keith Jarret spoke of Miles Davis’ influence and how the latter taught him to “just be to be aware” the very teacher who described improvisation as “the freedom and space to hear things.” As a classical pianist with no jazz training and certainly terrified of improvisation I felt that students also may feel out of depth when asked to perform, compose or improvise. As I grappled with this I thought of hip-hop, and how words are at least part of students’ pre-exisiting competencies and word improvisation, or freestyle rap may be a bridge to allow that self detatchment in order to hear and not worry about the doing. I modeled my starter activity around this hoping that it facilitates a safe learning environment where a student feels comfortable expressing oneself and takes creative risks.


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