I’ve begun devoting a significant portion of class time to listening. By now my students know the drill: no talking, no noise, focus on evaluating what you hear… and (often) close your eyes. Then I tell them, “Imagine that you’ve waited your whole life to be here, traveled a day’s journey on foot to hear this, and will never hear it again.”
Sometimes it works. Sometimes, if it has been the right kind of day and a piece will arrest their attention. I can always tell when it’s happening – not merely because the fidgeting stops. It’s the faces. Some go completely slack as if some hidden switch has been flipped off. Some take on the most comical expressions, looking like a moment frozen in time by a candid photo. And for a brief, wonderful moment, I can see it: they’re processing . . . and listening.
The moment quickly passes, reminding me again that I’m dealing with 13-year-olds. But I can’t shake the poignancy of those moments, and they daily prove to me the power of music to move the soul. They also remind me of an unavoidable reality: we have lost the ability to listen.
ChoralNet member Dan Kreider talks here about “listening.”
What’s the most powerful piece of music you’ve heard only once?