- April 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm #254340
Pamela BakerParticipantA few times I have had students hear a piece once or sightread it once and then say, ” I don’t like this piece!” or something similar in nature.How do you respond to this kind of statement?April 11, 2010 at 10:50 pm #254344
Stephen StompsParticipantAnd I quote, “too damn bad!“.Now, to get there, I have already performed enough pieces of worth which most of the singers do like or are willing to suspend judgement long enough to get the piece off the ground.By this time in the year, you should have the rapport established enough that the singers trust you.If that is not true for you, then you must make that happen before going further.If you can deliver this line with good will spirit: “One God, One Faith, One Director”! You will be a long way to success!SApril 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm #254347
Susan NaceParticipantI respond with,“I’ve felt that way, too, many times. But, if you really think about it, how can I dislike something I don’t know? Not all music reveals itself in the first hearing. Sometimes you have to have conversations with it to discover what it has to say to you. Sometimes, it takes not just rehearsing it, but performing it, and sometimes several times before it will reveal itself. Take the challenge. Suspend your judgment. Get to know the music . . . and let it get to know you!”Depending on the music, I might respond with,“Nadia Boulanger famously said something that, when I first read it, made me think. She said, ‘Nothing in music is difficult, just unexpected.’ Do you not like it because you think it is difficult? Then maybe it is music that is only ‘unexpected.'”Susan NaceThe Harker SchoolSan Jose, CAApril 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm #254349
Jerome HobermanParticipantPamela Baker asks how to respond to someone who, on first hearing or reading a piece, announces that s/he doesn’t like it.Otto Klemperer is reported to have responded to a similar complaint, when singers and/or players complained during the first rehearsal about his slow tempi in (I think) the St. Matthew Passion, by saying drily, “you will.”April 12, 2010 at 12:57 am #254352
Thomas SheetsParticipantDear Ms. Baker:Although the example I am going to cite happenedwith adults, the point of it applies to young people,too.I conducted a church choir in southern Californiafor fourteen years–from the outset I used a lot ofnew pieces–probably over 50%.After three or four years, one of my basses–a manwho had been somewhat problematic the entiretime–came up to me and used a phrase I havenever forgotten: “You have a marked propensityfor giving us pieces that we initially hate–whichturn out to be among our favorite pieces.”So unlike Mr. Stomps, I would suggest that yousmile, say something to the effect of “No kidding?!”and wait for the music and your teaching skillsto work some classroom magic–and see if theirattitudes don’t change.Best wishes.Cordially,Thomas Sheets, D.M.A.April 12, 2010 at 1:13 am #254353
Kentaro (Ken-P) SatoParticipant
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“I don’t like this piece!” holds the same weight as “I like this piece!” And both statements can surely used in a positive way in your classroom. It is certainly great chance for you to discuss about what makes certain piece likable or dislikable. Melody, text, harmony, singability, coolness, dullness and etc… It is great way to know how we think and what we consider important in music (or life in general).
We know that a performer can’t dislike a piece, if s/he is to perform the piece well (or convincingly). But don’t worry about “I don’t like” part at the initial stage, because most likely, unfamiliarity is causing it. At the end of the performance, ask the singer whether s/he still doesn’t like the piece. 8 or 9 out of 10, the person say either it was ok, or now s/he likes. 🙂
If s/he is still not liking the pieces (and if it happen rather a lot), it might be because s/he has an unborn “creator” inside. The minds of creators (like composers, writers and etc) are different from a performer or re-creator (like singers, actors, etc). In that case, although it would not be in the scope of choral class, you should kindly direct such minds to more of creative side of arts (or whatever). You might be looking at a next great composer. 🙂April 12, 2010 at 5:49 am #254359
Liz GarnettParticipantI’d be tempted along the lines of, ‘Well, I wasn’t sure I liked you on first acquaintance, but I find you’re growing on me over time.’ But I’d probably keep it at the level of fantasy unless I was very secure about the levels of trust and shared sense of humour…I could do that with my adult choir, maybe not with student age though.In real life, I’ve tended not to respond to the comment at the time, but to come back to it the next rehearsal having planned a session to deal with the particular issue the singer has said they didn’t like. Giving the singer’s viewpoint such public and respectful recognition usually gets them onside to cooperate if nothing else! And part of our job as directors is to help people find the value in the music we’ve chosen – so getting specific cues as to what they need for that can actually be helpful.Of course, people who say this kind of thing are generally doing it to act up – the musical response is probably genuine, but they’re choosing to verbalise it in order to see if they can score points against you. So that’s why my response tends to the strategy of ‘when someone pushes you, pull.’lizApril 12, 2010 at 6:41 am #254362
Michael SanflippoParticipantthis comment crops up in my church choir ocassionally. I assure them that they have not heard it yet and to keep an open mind until we know the music. I also remind them that we will not all like all the music all the time, and that’s OK….but I strongly encourage them not to decide what they like or dislike too hastily.Good luck!April 12, 2010 at 7:05 am #254363
David W. McCormickParticipantI usually quote Seth Bingham, who in the 50s was at Madison Ave Pres and Columbia University. He had a rule that choir members were not allowed to make a judgmental comment until they had experienced four rehearsals on an anthem.David McCormickApril 12, 2010 at 8:04 am #254367
I think the student’s reaction is not so unusual, especially for one who may not have had much experience singing new pieces or for that matter, doing anything new. With my top, mixed choir, we do a fair amount of recently composed music which often stretches the students. Most of the older students have been through the process of moving from that first encounter with a new piece to performance. Even if their first impression may not be favorable, they trust that with time they will grow to see the value and beauty in the music. Generally, I think they trust me to put music in front of them which is worthy of their time and effort, even if at first it may not seem so. It has been my experience that the piece or two which at first was not met with enthusiasm often turns out to be the student’s favorite piece.
If you have enough older students who have been through the wonderful process of discovery of a new piece (of any style or era), they can pass this wisdom on to the younger ones. And sometimes this needs a little coaching with even the experienced singers. So, my response would be an attempt to acknowledge that having such a reaction as this student’s is not such an unusual thing, but there is a better way to go about this. We only grow as human beings when we are willing to try new things, and be open to them without making judgments too quickly. When we first experience a piece, it’s not our job to separate musical sheep from goats — there may be a time for that, but not now. Also, inasmuch as one may have strong negative feelings about a new piece, it is probably the best to keep those thoughts to yourself. Choosing to have a good attitude about any task, including that first experience with a new piece, is a noble and mature thing to do. Perhaps you have an example that the students could relate to or have experienced themselves where they did not like something at first, but did later on. This may help them to trust the process.
Generally speaking, I would try to view this as an opportunity for a great teaching moment. Learning to trust the process, trust you, and trust themselves are a very valuable lessons. You might even be able to turn this particular student into one of your strongest allies.
Rick SowersApril 12, 2010 at 8:48 am #254369
Sig RosenParticipantOur friends, not students but experienced avocational sight-singers, often express similar opinions, but usually about editions or musica ficta- stopping the flow and not hearing the whole of the edition[usually of medieval music- where there may be legitimate controversy] before the reading is complete. This is a peeve- even if they may have a point. The sound world envisioned by the composer/editor is halted by micro- analysis- and often, upon further time-consuming back & forth, reverts back to the original markings.I would like to propose a RULE that no changes be proposed until the whole is heard as such; our problem is that we often just do one reading before picking another work. Oh well.SIR<www.renaissancechorus.org>April 12, 2010 at 9:22 am #254372
Welcome to the real world. Open your mind to a new piece of
music. There’s a whole new world right there ahead of you. Grow
into it — or get left behind.April 12, 2010 at 11:49 am #254385
R. Daniel EarlParticipantHi Pamela – You’ve gotten many wonderful responses and they all have merit. I remember……….way long ago…..when in high school, my director had us singing Samuel Barber’s ‘The Coolin’………..I didn’t say I didn’t like it, but I can remember how at first I struggled with it……………….of course it became a favorite and one I so enjoyed sharing with my kids over the years. It happens all the time. Smile and say something like – “I hope that in time, when you/we really know the piece you will change your mind. However until we know the piece please keep your opinions to yourself, because it make’s teaching it and learning it difficult for all of us however in the end you have the right to ‘like’ it or ‘not to like it’. But make sure that you can give specific reasons for not liking the piece.” Be assured that we’ve all been there and perhaps you have had the same reaction when ‘reading’ something for the first time. Well I did not intend to be so “long winded”. Keep the love of the Choral Art strong! DanApril 12, 2010 at 11:57 am #254387
Daniel McGarveyParticipantI would say, “I don’t like it either. But someone in the audience will, and we do conerts for them, first and foremost. We have a resonsibility to do all our music well, our own feelings about it aside.”April 12, 2010 at 12:56 pm #254396
Martin BannerParticipantDuring my tenure as a high school choir director, I inevitably heard moans and groans at the start of each semester upon handing out new music and reading through it, and of course there were many who immediately said “I don’t like this music”…to which I would always reply “When you say to me you don’t like this new music, you are really saying you don’t know this new music. You have every right not to like this music, but you may not have that right until after you have fully learned the piece AND performed it in concert to your greatest ability so that both you AND the audience can decide whether or not you and they liked or disliked the piece”. Inevitably, the piece that received the most negative comments by my singers at the beginning of the semester, usually received the highest praise by the time of the concert!Martin
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