We never cease to be inspired by the musicians with whom we work, be they fellow professionals, or youngsters just beginning their musical journey. Never was this truer than at our Tasty Bite workshops on Sunday 12th November.
The first session was aimed at players who may have had only a few lessons, and was designed to give them a taste of what playing in a group feels like, right from the start. They took to it like the proverbial ducks to water, and after three hours were able to perform two pieces, singing and playing their instruments whilst also marching and remembering to end with a flourish! The focus, teamwork and joy in music of these young musicians were truly inspiring.
Later in the afternoon, a new group of players joined us for a taste of folk music. Here, we were able to take apart two Irish tunes, to explore chord sequences, bowing articulations and ornamentation, using speech patterns and physical gestures to help. What impressed us was how each section of the group enthusiastically helped the others to learn their parts, supporting one another to make a great collective performance, full of life and energy.
This sense of shared endeavour, supportiveness and nurturing of our fellow musicians is exactly what we aim to promote at Bath Strings Academy. Learning an instrument can too often become just another activity for the CV, where youngsters strive to pass the next exam as an end in itself. At best, however, a musical education should encourage a love of playing and performing for its own sake, where we connect with others in a different way, to share our skills, ideas and emotions.
Our more experienced players who took on the role of Leaders and Mentors showed exactly how valuable this connection with others can be. They performed their roles with skill, generosity and great good humour. They were a great asset to the group and set a fantastic example to those less experienced than themselves.
The final session of the day, where our more advanced players studied a Haydn String Quartet, showed us again how music can bring people of different ages together (from ten to forty something) to share their passion and have fun. By the end of the evening, we performed two movements of the quartet to each other, seated as three quartets. At the beginning of the session we played as individuals; by the end, we were listening to one another, breathing together and becoming one unit. This is the joy of chamber music.
Throughout the day, my mind was drawn back to something that one of our eight year old beginner players had said in the morning session.
When asked which parts of our bodies we use when playing, we had all the expected answers: hands, fingers, eyes, ears, feet to be grounded and so on. We were delighted to get a mention for the brain, and suggestions that our whole bodies should be involved – YES! Then, an unprompted answer from one of our newest and least experienced musicians took our breath away:
“Your HEART, because that’s what makes it mean something and if you don’t care, then what’s the point?”
In all our musical endeavours, if we remember nothing else, THIS is what music is for.