I had a moment of complete astonishment when teaching a lesson yesterday. My last student on Tuesday is a 14-year-old intermediate pianist. Last week I assigned him this piece that has a quote of “Danny Boy” in the middle. I gave him his end goal for this piece and he (and doubly his parents) were very pleased. In his lesson this week, I could tell that he had spent some real time on it and was pleased with the effort. After he had played it through for me, he turned to me and asked, “What is Danny Boy?” I could not hide my astonishment. It took me a moment and then I gave a brief explanation of the piece and why a quote was placed in the piece he was working on. He commented that “it sounds sad.”
I am not concerned about this student learning this piece. He has a good ear for the musicality required and is progressing nicely. My concern lies in what we are teaching the generations that follow us. There are so many traditional, cultural, and older songs and pieces that need to be taught. So much of the music that the rising generation knows is that which is played on the radio. I cannot express how sad that makes me. I enjoy, from time to time, listening to the current hits but there is so much more to music. Listen to Mozart, Chopin, Bach; but listen also to traditional music of such origins as Americana, Celtic, and Eastern Europe. Listen to the Top 40, but also listen to music from the early 1900s. It is important that we do not let the music that came before die when we have the power to help it live.
What music are we sharing? What music are we listening to? What can each of us do to ensure the best of the music lives on? I’ll do my part, will you do yours?