It may come as some surprise, but the goal of most music teachers is not to jumpstart the professional instrumental or vocal careers of their students. Some music teachers come across students with exceptional ability and do their best to nurture their talents, but these circumstances are few and far between. Just as a chemistry teacher does not expect each student in their 10th grade lab period to develop super-resolved fluorescence microscopy (but rather, hopes their classes will have a better understanding and appreciation of the world around them), similar are a music teacher’s objectives. The goal of music education is to promote understanding of music, encourage music-making, and empower generations to create, perform, and respond to music.
A visible outcome of this type of arts education is the emergence of knowledgeable music consumers. Usually, consumers are audiences who purchase tickets to performances, volunteers who support performing arts organizations, community leaders who provide financial backing or serve on executive boards. Musically-educated people often exhibit a specific set of values that were fostered in the music classroom such as: interest in community collaboration, a spirit of accountability, promotion of diversity and individualism, and enthusiasm for innovation. It should come as no surprise that so many scientists, engineers, doctors, and people in equally challenging and creative professions can conjure memories of rehearsing in music ensembles.
I raise this topic because there are times in a music teacher’s life when they are pleasantly reminded of the impact they’ve had on students, and AVIVA Strings was hired to play for a wedding ceremony this weekend which served as a good example of how the groom’s childhood piano teacher continues to inspire him. Both the bride and groom work in scientific fields, but their ceremony repeatedly referenced their mutual love of music. The groom took it upon himself to compose music for their ceremony: three pieces for an octet of piano and strings.
When a gigging musician is told that they will be performing music written by an amateur musician/composer and recorded for posterity, the usual reaction is a mix of skepticism and dread. These situations can go terribly wrong, because the music is poor or unplayable, the parts might be handwritten and riddled with errors, the balance might be irreparably off compared to precise MIDI levels, or any number of other reasons. Luckily, this groom did a pretty good job! His three pieces, Tone Poem, Echoes of Synesthesia, and Contemporary March, were provided in neat musical typeface in advance (along with audio samples), they were relatively easy to put together, and — aside from their closer similarity to video game music than the normal wedding repertoire — were quite compelling. Because of the size of the ensemble and the shape of the event space at The Colonnade, I and the other musicians were situated in a blue room off to the side of the main ceremony, so we couldn’t actually see the people we were playing for. Despite not being able to view the couple’s nuptials, we got a pretty good sense of their connection to music through those compositions and their other, less traditional, classical music requests.