The wonder and discovery driven mind of a child is nothing less than inspiring. Those who have witnessed this know what I’m talking about. I’ve had the absolute joy of watching my almost 9 month old nephew for an extended time and I am amazed at how much curiosity is naturally instilled in his developing brain. This got me thinking, what if we learned from the example of children in our practicing? What if every note had a magic to it? What if every phrase was filled with wonder to discover the music that lies within the lines and dots on the page?
When a child is born, the world is their blank canvas full of possibilities. They have no limitations. They put no ceilings on their potential. As they grow older they learn from experiences and social interactions. Children are sponges and extremely observant. Have you ever noticed when a child falls, they look to an adult for how to react? They’re learning how to react in that instant.
The thing that makes children the best learners is they don’t assume they already know everything there is to know about a topic. They come to the subject with an open mind and a brain hungry to learn. We seem to have an understanding that we should learn off of our prior knowledge. This is true up to the point where our minds refuse to consider alternate options because of prior knowledge. Prior knowledge may also lead us to skim information and not think as deeply on a topic because we already know the information. So how can we learn from children in that aspect when it comes to practicing? We can put aside our previous knowledge of a piece and act as if you’re discovering the piece for the very first time.
How can we add that magic and wonder to every note and phrase? Once our minds are freed from preconceived notions of the piece it frees us up to experiment. Why? We no longer bear the weight of the right and wrong way of playing something. Music doesn’t typically have a simple black and white answer. When we wipe away preconceived notions, everything is fair game when it comes to interpretation of a piece. We impart on a journey to find the most authentic and matter of fact way of playing every single note on the page. When it comes to performing the piece, perform it as if you’re discovering the music for the first time with your audience. This creates an atmosphere of wonder for your listeners.
Many lessons can be learned just by observing a child. Their curiosity is endless. Their hunger to learn is admirable. Their open minded-ness is refreshing. If you approach a piece of music with a blank canvas, you give yourself an opportunity to bring the music to life in a truly authentic way. You get rid of barriers. You refuse to accept limitations. You take that childlike wonder and discover the deepest, most meaningful version of that piece of music. Take this approach and you may just discover things about yourself along the way.