At Brass for Beginners®, we believe that all students can learn to play brass, and in doing so, develop meaningful connections to our shared humanity through music. The essential components of our philosophy include:
- Learning for all
- Shared humanity through music
The major points that we have in common are:
- making the instrument fit the student
- Learning by-ear, like learning language (our curriculum even discusses this historically)
- All kids can learn- not only those who can do right away- no test required to take bfb since it is general music
- Playing from a young age (there is a myth out there that children shouldn't start brass until 4th or 5th grade)
- Need teachers to be trained in teaching this new approach with this instrument that has never been used in brass education before
- Memorization is key to being able to share what students learn through performance
- Practice to Perform! (It’s in the TE)
- Retaining and reviewing pieces that have been learned (it’s in the TE)
- Work towards performance in every class to make it a positive experience for students
- Playing in a group setting, with opportunities for students to interact and help each other- creating an environment of respect so students are free to develop
- Interdisciplinary approach
Give children a chance to develop meaningful connections to learning brass
Why provide brass in General Music:
While most any child can get a recorder, saxophone, to sound on the first try, the brass family of instruments poses unique challenges for the beginner to make a sound. There are some who will pick up a brass instrument and seem immediately capable, but the focus of facial muscles and use of airstream can be difficult for many students to coordinate at first. This doesn’t mean that they are unable, or don’t have talent to play brass; in fact, many students that seem to have a natural ability at first, tend to be quick to stop because they are used to being able to get things to happen on the first try. Those students that need to develop in order to play often are the ones with staying power and have a more personal connection to the experience. Also, facility in sound production is only one element of playing and it can be that some who can make a decent sound at first may be lacking in other areas. Varun (articulation),
Giving students an opportunity to discover their abilities/Continuation:
One of the most difficult issues educators face is how to instill an appreciation for learning when students have difficulty in a particular subject or activity. As our daily lives are subject to sound bites, instant everything, it makes it more and more difficult for young people to see how small steps in daily practice add up over time. For so many of our young people, if something isn’t easy at first, it is to be avoided.. “I’m bad at Math,” is the classic example. There are two ways that we can change this; one, by providing an opportunity for students to discover their abilities by giving them time to discover them (over the course of weeks/months), and two, by helping students make meaningful connections to the experience to give them a personal reason for investing their energies into development.
In many cases, students who struggle at first will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for playing brass than students who can get it on the first try. Furthermore, for the majority of students who don’t end up pursuing brass instruments after learning BFB, they now have an intimate understanding of what brass musicians do when they play, and a historical/cultural understanding that will last for a lifetime.
Students are more likely to choose an instrument that they have a meaningful experience with, and that very well might be an instrument that doesn’t come easily at first.
Of course, having pride in one’s abilities is a positive thing, that builds confidence and can lead to other areas, but Hasselbring found that many of the most talented students were the ones who didn’t want to work through problems they encountered, and that they often seemed the least curious about the music they were playing. So the question comes, how do we make learning music meaningful?