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Bart Spanhove, renowned recorder teacher and member of the Flanders Recorder Quartet has been spending much of the last few years writing a book on practicing that will be published in 2011. Bart will share some of the results of this work at the 2011 Amherst Early Music Festival. I recently had a chance to talk with him about his project.
“There is a skill in practicing music. Many students believe that practicing is just playing through a piece from beginning to end. They do that a few times a day and think it will improve their playing. Unfortunately, it is never enough. Students must learn to practice, to analyze their playing: What am I doing wrong? Where are the problems? The student has to ask himself many questions and needs to learn to find solutions. There are often many solutions to a problem, and so many ways to work on a problem: varying patterns by changing accents, tempo, rhythms, silent practice, learning by heart, etc.
But even before all of this, students need motivation. This is the main job of the teacher - to inspire the students, play for them and show them how beautiful the music can be. Once the student is motivated, they can begin to learn how to practice. My goal is to reach as many recorder students as possible, to inspire them and show them how rewarding practicing can be.
Another interesting aspect to practicing is memorization. I teach my students that there are four types of memorization needed - aural memory, visual memory, intellectual memory, and muscle memory. Most students rely on muscle and aural memory. That is like running on automatic pilot - it can work great for a while, but if something unexpected comes up you need a backup plan. If you have the music memorized intellectually, visually, and aurally - then you will be secure.
I am excited to be coming to Amherst this summer so that I may share my insights and help motivate many recorder players of all levels about the joys and art of practicing. I believe that learning to practice is a valuable skill that can help people tremendously in their daily (non musical) lives.”
Bart will teach at the Amherst Early Music Festival from July 10-24, 2011. The Flanders Recorder Quartet will present two concerts at the festival; Venezia: Il paradiso di dolce suoni on Tuesday, July 12, and The Dark Lady on Monday, July 18.