“It’s a varied, relaxing and fun pastime. When you play the piano, you just think about the music, and other things in life doesn’t get to bother you. You can also release your feelings by playing the piano. ”
I am an artist and the arts are deep within me. Being an art educator is a major part of me. I love working with children and teens. Their growth as creative, strong, self-expressive people creates meaning for my work. For this article, I did a survey for my students about what music and playing means to them. The quotes included in the article are students ’responses. According to the students, playing and listening to music brings them joy and makes them feel good. Very many, including quite young students, mentioned music as a relaxing and soothing hobby. In hectic everyday life, music brings a place where you can focus on your own making and creating art in peace, enjoying the playing.
“It’s just so fun!”
It is very difficult for me to stay put, and I am always looking for new challenges in my work and life in general. Performances in various concert projects bring challenge and variety to everyday life. Lied music is close to my heart. I spent a few years in pop jazz classes, which introduced me to a whole new way of perceiving my instrument. Composing is my latest passion and once I get over the threshold, my passion only keeps growing. Extending teaching to new areas takes me to an area of discomfort for a while, but when it comes abound, it brings me joy as a teacher. My students have accepted all my experiments with an open mind and many of them have found a new enthusiasm for playing about my new “conquests”. I am lucky to be able to teach in a work place where I have always been given complete freedom to carry out my work. So nowadays, in addition to classical music, I teach a great deal of accompaniment with chords and pop music. As a teacher of classical music, teaching pop music seemed foreign at first, but when I saw how motivating it was for some of the students, it took over. The latest conquest, the teaching of composition in piano lessons, has once again brought a new spark to the lessons. Having taught for over twenty years, I get to be amazed every week at how wonderful and personal ideas my students have!
Students come to the class from very different backgrounds and with different wishes. While one is studying very purposefully and wants a profession from music, the other needs a moment in a week to play music and spend time with a safe adult. One likes to play classical music, the other pop music, the third enjoys making their own music. As a mother of three, I always wonder how I would like my own children to be met in their hobbies, and I strive to fulfill these desires in my own teaching as well. I hope music becomes a lifelong hobby for every musician.
“Music is important to me because it allows me to release creative thoughts and be able to break away from the rest of the world. Through music, I get a lot of confidence and strength. ”
I myself struggled with performance tension at a younger age. Playing with vibrating hands was painful and it was hard to be happy with my own performance. I had to go a long way to settle the matter. Fortunately, my studies included a variety of performance training. Someone advised me to imagine that the audience is heads of cabbage. I never understood why I would play for cabbage heads. Päivi Arjas’ intensive course to mental exercises finally brought help. Performance tension is also common for many young pianists. Adolescence in particular may raise the tension, even if performing at a younger age would have been easy. That’s what happened to me. My own struggle on the subject has given me ways to help my students. I think that overcoming the tension of performance is important for everyone, because performance is also commonplace in studies and working life. My methods have also worked. Almost all of my students want to perform in concerts and those who at some point for one reason or another have been nervous about appearances, too, have found a way to manage tension. So I always say that excitement and adrenaline are like fire: a good slave but a bad host.
“Music is for me a way to interpret myself and my feelings.”
Working as an art educator is a vocation for me. Lauri Järvilehto (2013, 24) says that vocation work requires three things to come true: freedom, flow and responsibility. I experience great freedom in my work. I get to plan a lesson for each student based on their interest. I can choose how I proceed with each student using his or her strengths and I also have time to ask ow my students are doing and listen to their thoughts. The ideas of positive pedagogy are brought to our elementary school, but they have been involved in piano lessons for a long time. In flow mode, a person learns best. There must be enough, but not too much, challenge in the task at hand. It should provide immediate feedback and give experiences of success. As a teacher, helping a student in a state of flow is central, but experiencing it is also important to me for myself. When playing the piano and composing, accessing the flow experience is reasonably easy for me, but also when teaching, I notice the work day rustling like a wing. Students bring their joy and energy to the lesson, which is very empowering for me as a teacher. My own worries and anxieties disappear when I’m making music with my students.
The third area of “responsibility” mentioned by Järvilhto requires that the work must be relevant to others. I have wondered if my work is relevant to the world. While I don’t concretely save anyone’s life, as a doctor or police officer do, for example, I make my contribution to society by supporting children’s growth. Today’s society, which emphasizes innovation, needs creative people who think boldly outside the box, which is best supported by the pursuit of the arts. On the other hand, burnout is becoming more common in every sector. Music always brings a place to calm down and work on emotions, and playing music in different groups prevents exclusion. I believe that without the input of art educators, our society would need significantly more doctors and police to be safe.
“If you work at something you truly love, you are never really working at all.” – Confucius
It is lucky to get the job you love. I am never anxious to go to work. As I teach, I don’t stare at the clock and wait for the workday to end, but I often wonder at the end of the teaching day how time flared up on the wings again. My love of making music with my students also catches on to them and I usually always see a happy, eager student coming to the classroom. Sometimes I get comments from students about how excited I am about a student song, for example. The comments are benevolent but contain the seed of my teaching philosophy. When I am excited and feel importance of the matter, I also draw my students with me to the same feeling. And what could be better?
“I go to piano classes because it’s so creative when you get to play what you want or can come up with your own songs. And then when you can play the piano, you can play almost any kind of music. ”
Järvilehto, Lauri 2013. Hyvää työtä. Balto print.