Sunday, March 16, 2008

Strictly Need To Know?

Last year I gave a clinic at the junior high school of one of my students. One of the drummers there was intrigued by the notion of 7/8 time. Now they are both in high school. My student (a girl) is the percussion section leader in her high school symphonic band and the student who was intrigued by 7/8 (a boy) is playing snare drum in the marching band. My student told me that the boy came to her the other day and said he just can't get that 7/8 thing down. It turns out he has a marching band piece in 7/8 and asked my student to help him out with it, which she did. I asked her if the boy was taking drum lessons and she said he is, but his teacher didn't feel that learning odd time signatures was important just now. There seems to be a school of thought among some drum teachers that the focus needs to be on rudiments and grooving before anything else. I could not disagree more and, at least in this case, it's apparent that understanding 7/8 time is extremely important if this kid is going to be able to play the piece his band director wants him to learn. Certainly a teacher needs to focus on rudiments and grooving, but it's just as important that a teacher teach music theory. Furthermore, I believe that it's extremely important for a teacher to teach what a student is interested in. This kid was intrigued by the concept of 7/8 time. Well, for god's sake use it! You've grabbed a kid's interest, that's a magnificent thing. If he's interested he'll think and try. If you squash that interest there's a good chance you'll loose him forever. Besides, who says you can't teach rudiments and grooving in 7/8? Be contemporary, be creative, be attentive, and tailor your teaching to the student's individual interests and characteristics. No two students learn the same way. Hell, I thought that was basic education theory. I'm inclined to think that kid needs a new teacher.

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