"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Resources: Banjo and Bass videos

I found these helpful for review & learning new stuff--maybe you will, too:

Examples of different styles of playing (useful if you're just starting and not sure how to do so)

and a good tune, taught here.

Bass-- There's a lot out there! This one is an entire series of short lessons--clear and concise. Covers everything from how to hold the instrument through both styles of bowing and more. Check it out,here.

Last but not least, if you're at all interesting in playing traditional tunes and learning social dances, check out the Fiddle and Dance Camp weeks at Ashokan. Wonderful place and amazing classes. See for yourself, here.

Good luck--and if this was helpful, or if you know of other good teaching videos out there, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!


Process and Product

Which matters more, process or product?

I've been playing upright Bass this summer: for the first time, working to improve simply by playing, rather than through endless hours of drills and theory.

It's working: I can hear progress.

Been thinking about how that process can be applied to the school year. As an educator whose medium is music, the product (concerts & student music journals, mostly) tends to be a primary focus.

What if it weren't? And what if the focus on end results simply leads to what Seth Godin calls 'cul de sacs'?

Immersion in theory and preparation, for me, has sometimes meant that my tools are quite sharp, but lacking in the comfortable usefulness that only experience can bring. Merlin Mann, writing for the site 43 folders, characterizes this particular cul de sac as "tool mastery vs. productivity....– Finding and learning the right tools for your work vs solely dicking around with the options for those tools is just so important, but also so different." (Read the entire article here--heads up, though: sometimes he uses strong language--not for the faint of heart. But a great article nonetheless, with some valuable insights. )

Too much 'hands on learning' leads to lack of foundational knowledge.
Too much 'theory' and talk leads to understanding without functional skills.

Both are needed--but it's not an easy balance, is it? Not in our own learning, not in our classrooms.

I've been mostly happy with leaning towards a classroom full of active musicians, with enough music theory to enable independent progress.

Somehow, though, that's been more difficult to attain in my own learning. Pushing past the comfort zone--in music, in using technology more effectively, whatever--can heighten the desire to postpone 'shipping' in favor of 'preparing'. --Something I'm definitely continuing to work on.

How about you? Where are you, in your classroom or in your own journey of learning?


Resources: TED talks on learning by making mistakes

Economist Tim Harford proposes a way to explore how to 'actually use a problem-solving technique that works" :'successful complex systems evolve through trial and error".

Harford begins with the insights of Dr. Archie Cochran, who--in the midst of WWII prison camps--found ways to improve the lives of the men under his care. Cochran "all his life, fought against a terrible affliction--he realized it was debilitating to individuals and it was corrosive to societies...he called it the God-complex".

How do we spot this kind of attitude in our own thinking? Harford says, "no matter how complicated the problem, you have an absolutely overwhelming belief that you are infallibly right in your solution...I see it around me all the time...people who, in the face of an incredibly complicated world, are nevertheless absolutely convinced that they understand the way the world works".

Perhaps this seems obvious: Harford encountered many people who told him so. His response? "I'll admit it's obvious when schools start teaching children that there are some problems that don't have a correct answer. Stop giving them lists of questions, every single one of which as an answer, and there's an authority figure in the corner behind the teacher's desk that knows all the answers--and if you can't find the answers, you must be lazy or stupid".

Relying upon the advice and analysis of so-called 'experts'? Teaching from mass, standardized, commercialized, bland textbooks? I'll stop before this becomes a rant, and end with Harford's suggestion: He calls for us to "try a bunch of stuff", to employ 'systematic way of determining what's working and what's not"....to keep trying, and to work on making mistakes which lead to solutions.

Or, in Daniel Coyle's words (The Talent Code), "Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways--operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes--makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them...end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it".

A great pairing with this talk is Diana Laufenberg's discussion on learning from mistakes , which has been featured in this blog before.
Laufenberg's take? "We won't get there with a standardized test and we won't get there with a culture of one correct answer".

Time to go try out a bunch of stuff of my own.