I was chatting with a mother of a BMF piano student last night and she volunteered,”my daughter has so much fun in her lessons!” She may have not realized this, but there is really no higher compliment that can be bestowed on our curriculum or teachers. So I let her know how pleased I was to hear her say that. I then went on to ask if there was one word that came to mind when thinking of the BMF approach to learning. She said I can think of two, “meaningful fun.” Beautiful!
Here is the challenge we face today as educators. Every parent (wether they admit it or not) wants to be able to measure their child’s progress by some recognizable yardstick. We want to see a grade improve from B+ to A-, we want our child to get asked to join the next level of some select group, or we want our child (and here is a sticky one!) to do well on those standardized tests…we pretend to despise. It simply isn’t enough to just watch our child enjoy themselves in a learning environment. It is not enough to just have fun.
At BMF we believe that somewhere along the way, music education got derailed. It turned into a graded, measured, leveled extension of the rest of our academic life and as a result lost it’s essence, fun. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say, that more than just music education got derailed, quite possibly all the arts education at a grade school & middle school level (at least in the public system) has all lost it’s direction, it’s sense of purpose. The arts are meant to be social, fun, and ultimately a creative experience that inspires in us a deep need to unlock it’s mysteries. Music education, when done right, cultivates self motivated learners. It creates people that see the world as the wondrous place it is.
Sure we are proud when we get good grades, but that feeling only lasts for a while, it wears off pretty quickly and what happens when you get a perfect 100? Where do you go from there? And yup, it feels good to get asked to be in the ‘intermediate’ level band, but once you arrive, you are still you. And while everyone likes to graduate from one piano book to the next, eventually, the music is all roughly the same level and you start to see through the scam of graded piano books. The point being, we are motivated in the end by a deep desire to unlock the mysteries of the musical unknown. We are motivated by wanting to copy someone we see doing/showing us something really cool. In music that someone starts as our teacher and hopefully becomes a bandmate.
Why do we focus on ‘meaningful fun’ at Brooklyn Music Factory, because at the end of the day, that (and only that) is what gets any of us to want to get up and try it again the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.