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Daniela's Music

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Rebeka DeMatos at Daniela's Music Fall 2013 Recital
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at Harvard University: Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, MA
Large Ensembles Department 
Longy Conservatory Orchestra 
Julian Pellicano, conductor 
Anya Shemetyeva, violin (Longy Concerto Competition Winner) 
Daniela DeMatos, composer (Longy Composition Competition Winner)

Bedrich Smetana: Vltava: The Moldau (1874) 
Daniela DeMatos: Psalm 51 (2012) World Premiere 
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane (1924) (Anya Shemetyeva, violin) 
Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra (1943)
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Musical Language

Children don’t know that they know a lot about music. As a musician, I’ve naturally been singing to my daughter from day one. They are spontaneous little songs that have to do with daily life, from changing diapers to tickling. The melodies and harmonies are not complicated either. Many times, I will sing a question, and end on an active tone (one that wants to move to another note and not stay were it is.) And my daughter will naturally solve the musical conflict by singing back an answer that goes back to a resting tone, most often the tonic. We do all this without complicated musical jargon, of course. And this has become our custom, to sing to each other, where others would simply talk.

A child’s life should be surrounded by music. I don’t mean we have to take 10 extra steps to ensure they listen to a list of music daily. Just as children learn language by listening to the adults in their life talk for 1 to 2 years, so they learn musical language and rules by the music they listen and move to. It is no news that children learn from our own lifestyle and it is the same for music. This is the beginning of the musical learning process for the child, where (s)he learns the language of music. If the parent is not very musical themselves, they can enroll their child in a music and body-movement class such as Dalcroze Eurhythmics, wee-ballet, etc. before taking formal music lessons on an instrument.

When a child comes in for their first piano lesson with me, I try to connect the experience with what the child already knows. I search for the specific musical interests of the child and incorporate that into our lesson. Whether it is a “sound” that they like (going into music composition, they are in-tune with sounds they think is nice or happy or sad), or a chord progression they enjoy listening to or playing, or if they just love the reading part of it. Every child is different. And I believe it is the job of the music teacher to find that “hidden and un-tapped niche” and to help that child develop his/her niche.
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How many of us actually enjoy the nitty gritty of practicing? At the same time, how many of us can get by without it? From working out a difficult passage in a Sonata to just trying to keep your fingers on the keyboard, wouldn’t it be nice is we actually enjoyed the sometimes painful process of learning?

I don’t know about you, but I always tried to come up with a “shortcut” because I really hated the process. I would memorize as quickly as possible so that I didn’t have to look at the music anymore. I found that when I looked at my fingers, I could guide them much faster. But this became a crutch, a serious downfall, as I would simply freeze in front of new piece of music. Sightreading became a 7-headed monster because I became dependent on my sight to guide my fingers at all times. My shortcut was actually a long and winding bunny trail. There is a happy ending to my sad story. The secret is this: There are no shortcuts. The only way to mastering a piece is through correct practice…but practicing does not need to be tedious.

Enjoying the process is learned, and is in itself a process. It is taught to children by the little steps that are taken daily, and the patient endurance on the part of the teacher. Enjoying the process is built by balancing between the interests of the child and just the right amount of challenge in the areas where they are not so interested in. Both need to be done, as concentrating on only the interests will shortchange the child into mediocre playing capabilities. But concentrating only on the technical learning aspects, or whatever aspect the child is uninterested in, will only discourage them when they do not see signs of progression. A balance is needed.

As children learn that challenges have a beginning, middle, and end, they will learn to crave the satisfaction of the  completion of a task. As they grow older, this turns into endurance, because they have learned from experience that pressing through the challenge brings about completion and fulfillment. And so they will learn to enjoy the process because there is fulfillment in perseverance.

I wish there was another shortcut. But as my college piano instructor used to say…and probably still does…”Mozarts are one in a million. The rest of us have to work hard at it!”
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