Mr. Loud: Play for enjoyment, and for life

[Originally posted September 3, 2009]

Q. WHAT I WANT MOST FOR THE KIDS THAT COME TO MY SCHOOL?

A. FOR THEM TO PLAY FOR ENJOYMENT, FOR LIFE

For that, sight reading is very important.  A person who picks up a book and can read easily, will carry on reading.  A person who struggles to understand the words – usually they will put down the book.

It is the same with music. If it is difficult to read the notes and play the song, mostly people will give up.

Teachers who teach badly always say: “This child is not talented.  He can’t learn, he can’t understand.”    I don’t believe.   A lot of beginners give up learning music because of lousy teachers.  They say the kids have to be talented, or gifted.  But I don’t believe.

Kindergarten – you need any talent?  High jump one or two feet – you need any talent? Come to very high level in music, I haven’t done any research and I’m not going to comment.  BUT UP TO INTERMEDIATE LEVEL, I BELIEVE EVERYONE IS A MUSICIAN.

You know why? If you go to a backward country, a poor country where they cannot dress themselves very well, they still can sing, can dance, can play some music. In the even MORE backward country, EVERYONE can dance, can sing, everyone can do some beating (of drums). All societies have some form of music.

So why, in our advanced societies, you find so many people say they, “cannot learn music”?

I say everyone can learn, everyone can be a musician. The only question is what level can be achieved.

But there are kids who come to a music school, and many of them leave, forever believing they can’t learn! We shut out the door of learning for the student!  It is so wrong to make them believe:  “I can’t learn music because I’m not talented!”

I always talk about the MINDSET.  If the mindset believes, “I cannot perform. I cannot learn music.” That is cruel!  Sometimes I find if a person does NOT have a teacher, he or she does NOT have that mindset! Because a lot of teachers can make the mindset worse!

When I meet people who play music for life, I ask them, Why?   A lot of the time it is linked with church (a lot of sight-reading), or when he was young, his father liked the oldies, so no choice, he had to play, play, lots of songs. Also, many of them are self-taught.  Many self-taught ones play for lifetime! Compared with many of those ones that have so-called teachers – when they stop lessons, they stop playing!

You know, at my first art lesson in college, when the teacher asked, “Those who can draw, raise up your hand.” My hand was like this (hidden).  She looked at me and said, “You cannot draw? OK, you are excused for this lesson.”  For this class, every week I was excused!

I draw in kindergarten, I draw in primary school, now I come to college and suddenly I cannot draw?  Why so many people say they cannot draw? Because the way of teaching makes you think you cannot do it. It’s a shame. Count the number of years you have been learning art and drawing and suddenly your answer is, “I CAN’T!”

At my school, we try to put everybody on stage, because stage performance is for everyone. It is NOT just for the selected ones. Performance is part of the education, is part of the learning. We make sure everybody can perform what they learn. BUT we must not expect that they are all great musicians! They just perform their maximum. We should offer every kid the chance to perform their maximum. That’s what I believe.

But does everybody believe this? That’s another question! Some teachers just put up their best students, because they are thinking of their own reputation. They are not thinking about the student’s learning experience.

Mr. Loud is a pseudonym for a music educator in Kota Kinabalu. He has strong opinions which I enjoyed listening to, and I got as many interviews as I could before it wasn’t convenient for him to meet anymore. He is Chinese educated, from Sabah, and I only edit for clarity. I don’t want to correct grammar. It’s his voice, so you can read it the way he tells it. His views do not represent Sabah Songs.

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