August 10, 2006 at 8:10 AM
Years ago, when I was seeing a counselor to help me recover from my divorce, I complained that it was hard to find suitable bachelors. He said, “Maybe you’re being too selective. What are your criteria?” I told him that the hardest qualities to find in men are intellect and culture. He replied, “You’re down to 2% of the population.” “But this is the Washington DC metropolitan area,” I protested. “People here are supposed to be affluent and educated.” “OK. 4% of the population,” he said. I’m not sure whether his numbers were right, but sometimes I feel like I’m living in a cultural wasteland.
- I was discussing education in the public schools with a friend who is the mother of a six year old. I told her that classical music is in deep trouble in this country, and if kids don’t learn about music, especially classical music, in school, the art form may become extinct. I’d like to do some music teaching as a volunteer in a public school, and I enlisted her help. She said that six year olds are just not old enough to learn about classical music.
- Shar Music is asking people to share their thoughts on keeping young students motivated by teaching them alternative styles instead of classical music.
- A parent called me recently to ask about violin lessons for his daughter. He said that he and his wife don’t want their kid to study classical music; they want him to learn some music that’s fun.
- Another parent called me re violin lessons for her daughter, who has been taking private lessons for about three years. The daughter is losing motivation because classical music is so difficult to learn and requires so much practice and, besides, she doesn’t like to practice scales. She asked whether I could teach her daughter bluegrass music instead because it is easier and her daughter would not have to practice so much or learn scales.
- Someone asked me to recommend a good video to watch so that he can teach himself how to play violin. He knew he wouldn’t have much trouble because he taught himself how to play guitar. He thinks taking lessons from a teacher would be a waste of time.
- Someone else posted a question about chords on a folk music site. She said that she wanted to learn how to figure out which chords to play for a song, but she didn’t want to bother learning theory. Several of us tried to convince her that it’s easier if you do learn some basic theory, something as simple as the circle of fifths. Another woman told us, with great pride, about the tool she had constructed to enable her to figure out chords without learning theory. She made something that resembles a circular slide rule. It tells you which chords to play in a reference key. If the song is written in a different key, you rotate the center part of her invention so that the reference key is lined up with the key in which the song is written, and then all you have to do is read the chords in the new key. (I suppose she asks the band to pause before changing to a new chord so that she could rotate her tool and read the name of the new chord.)
- I met a man who I hoped would be “suitable” for me because he said that he loves folk music and likes to attend acoustic concerts in people’s homes. He recently heard a very good concert of folk music sung by Max Ox and his sister. I asked him how “Ox” is spelled, and he said, “O-X, just like the animal.” I still didn’t recognize the name of this folksinger, so he gave me an explanation. Max Ox wrote protest songs back in the 60s, and the songs are still relevant today, so Max and his sister keep singing them. Some of his songs, such as “There But for Fortune,” were recorded by Joan Baez.
- I asked someone on the staff at Barnes and Noble to help me find a certain recording of music by Bach. She was clueless, so I asked her if she knew who Bach was. “Sure,” she said, “but he’s dead, isn’t he?”
- Someone told me that he likes folk music because it is emotional, unlike classical music, which is strictly intellectual.
- Someone else told me that practicing scales is useless and it only takes time away from playing songs.
Getting Joshua Bell on Oprah’s show might help, but one appearance would not be enough.