The Three Teachers
I couldn't help but notice that Mary was wearing one square earring and one circular, which I thought was an appropriate foreshadowing of her outside-the-box teaching methods. I sat at her bar-style counter surrounded by frog decor and marveled at how she was able to coordinate teaching, listening, and giving out materials with making us all dinner (bonus!) - a truly amazing show of multi-tasking.
The three women, Deborah, Cathy, and Amber, were high off of the body-mapping conference they were attending that weekend (where Mary both presented and led TaKeTiNa), and were absolute sponges for Mary's expertise.
The topics Mary covered included:
- Concepts of Music
- Helping the Student Who Has Difficulty Accessing Rhythm
- Conceptual Teaching
- Compound Note Values
- Ear Training
- Rhythm and Reading
It was fun to watch all three music teachers absorbing new ideas and getting very excited. When Mary demonstrated teaching solfège with hand signals, Amber had a light bulb moment:
“This is amazing because you're putting it all together. I teach group classes and I have to try to cover all this material and teach them ensemble music, and I haven't figured out how to do that. I can do this. Thank you Mary!"
Teaching With Kids, Not At Them
Though she does use method books, and her extensive knowledge of them was evident. She kept going up to her shelves pulling out out-of-print copies that she offers for sale, though not without an honest critique: “Oh, I can sell you the book, but the book is stupid. Well, it's so dated - you can just write the names of the songs down.” Though I think if you don't have the decades and decades of experience she has, the books might not seem so easy to live without – all the teachers were interested in getting a copy.
But besides going through methodology, Mary emphasized teaching with kids, not at them. Her experience of teaching kids, being with them, and letting them teach her allows her to pass on the range of kids' responses; what works and what doesn't.
“If you're not sure how to do something, ask the kids - they're powerful," she said. "One of my favorite questions is, 'How would you do it?' They say, 'This doesn't make sense to me,' and I say 'Oh, hmm. Well, how would you do it?' and then they tell me. And if they go 'I don't know,' well, in my studio 'I don't know' is not allowed. If you don't know, you make it up.”
Just from the stories, you can tell Mary respects kids. She involves them in their own learning; values their frustrations even if they still have to do whatever is frustrating. Probably my favorite of the stories to come out of the whole meeting:
“One student came in - very fine violinist now - and her mother said to her, 'Tell Mary what you feel' and so she said (holding up a piano book) 'I don't like this book. It's too hard and there's too much to do.' And I said, 'You know, I get that. Let's just stomp on it.' So we threw it down and stomped on it. And when we were done stomping and ranting and raving on the book, I picked it up and I put it on the piano and said, 'Okay, let's do number six.' And she did!” We were dying with laughter, so she gave us the moral while we were recovering, “So go with the student, and then go with your rule.”
Amber spoke of Mary's playful spirit and said, “She has a way of making everybody feel comfortable.” Deborah loved Mary's positivity, “She says she's lucky but I think she's the kind of person who makes her own luck. She's kind of unstoppable.” And Cathy immediately answered:
“Every time I'm around Mary, what I take away primarily is just the level of creativity that's available; the level of fun and creativity you can have with anything. Anything.”