13. The Pros and Cons of Group Playing
School is the place where children are socialized. What can a teacher do when he needs to instruct an entire class at once? This is what playing in orchestras or singing in choirs is for. It’s not that bad, but we’re forgetting what’s important: each one of us, before anything else, is an individual. Our relationship to music, then, is very personal. Choirs and orchestras are convenient and easily accessible to educators. But if we’re talking about music education for the students’ sakes, we will need to think of something more productive.
Each person should develop at his own pace, at the level of his own abilities and desire to work. The worst thing for development is to hinder it by the collective. More importantly, the gradual processes of development should be observed. Playing in an orchestra in order to learn the language of music is like acting in plays in order to learn to read and write! It’s nonsensical! Children should first be taught to read and write, then can read the roles and music pieces aloud, and only after that can they play as a group.
The personal ability to play, to read a piece by notes or pick out a harmony for a melody is the reason that people study music in the first place. This is incomparably more important than participating in an orchestra. The most modest personal achievements in getting familiar with the language of music stay with a person for the rest of his life, being the crucial step for a motivated continuation of music study.
Playing in a group is the icing on the cake, the result of constant individual work. It is a setting in which a person can endorse his ability to play and hear everybody else. He is already using mastered skills, and can derive pleasure from this. Likewise, choir or orchestra is a result of individual development. By nature, the participants have to be skilled by default. Otherwise, a collective cacophony would be produced! This type of collective music education definitely inhibits the development of children with good musical gifts, and nothing is given to those that still need to hone their skills.
For this reason, nowadays the electronic keyboard (EK from this point on) can become the single acceptable music instrument in public schools. For group lessons, they are much more effective than singing in a choir of or playing a single-voiced instrument in an orchestra. They are quite suitable for teaching children the language of music. Headphones can be used, regulating the volume and timbre of the sound, making individual practice in a group setting possible. Never before have we had such an excellent opportunity to teach a group of children the skills of reading, playing on the piano and singing from notes. But this is all small fish. If an EK is connected to a computer, then there is the potential for effectiveness that the average educator couldn’t imagine in his wildest dreams!