Thoughts on Musicality

I just had my recital with my private voice and piano students. It was a recital for only the children that I teach. As I listened to each student play or sing, I was thinking, what makes a musician? Is it technical prowess? Is it knowing all of the notes? Is it perfect tone? All of these qualities are good but they don't make me listen.

The music is not meaningful

Then a student sits down to play, takes a breath, smiles and makes music. How? They make the notes mean something. They use dynamics, they create an ebb and flow within the melody. The music breathes along with them. The music is them. They make use of tempo and phrasing, feeling where it's time to rest and time to push forward.

How do you reach this point? Well, I had a breakthrough with a student I wanted to share with you. I've been teaching her for 7 years. In recitals and in her lessons, she has had the tendency to play mechanically. Especially in performances, she rushed through every song and the notes were pretty much meaningless.

Until last night. She played with such musicality and tenderness that she just stunned me. And I knew she would. It was because a switch went off in her brain and I was there when it happened during her lesson 2 weeks ago. She said "Why does the song sound so much better when you play it? Aren't we playing the same notes?". She was right. I told her this and this was a "lightbulb" moment I will never forget. I said "It's because I'm playing the music my own way. I'm letting myself get out of the box of the notes and am playing it how I want to play it. . . making it my own". The student looked at me stunned as if this was a possibility she had never entertained nor thought she was capable of doing. She then played her song again and it was like magic. Suddenly, the music came to life and she gave the biggest smile.

She knew something had changed too. She had felt it. Felt the song in her body and soul. And this, to me, is what making music is all about.