from Anne-Marie Hildebrandt
Growing up as a "serious pianist," my piano teachers urged me to enroll in ear training, music theory, solfége, and composition classes from an early age. However, like so many other formally trained musicians, I wasn't able to figure out how this ability I had developed to identify intervals by ear, transpose a Schubert song, or analyze the harmonies of a piece of music helped me play any better. It wasn't until I started playing by ear and improvising after college that I really started to understand on a practical level how these "musicianship" skills apply to music making. Now these skills are at the core of how I make all kinds of music, from classical to folk to popular, whether I'm sight reading, playing by ear, improvising, composing, songwriting, or arranging. They enable and empower me to enjoy learning (devouring!) new repertoire, genres, and instruments, something I will continue finding joy in for the rest of my life.
The skill of playing by ear in particular has allowed me to rise above the debilitating performance anxiety I experienced during my college years. Some fabulous research has been done which suggests that the skill of playing by ear is fundamental to the other skills of sightreading, improvisation, and memorization, and I feel that in my own music making!
My practical approach to teaching musicianship skills is inspired by the epiphany I experienced when I finally learned to apply them to music making. So unlike the theory and ear training classes I took (which mostly featured me sitting at a desk writing chord symbols or listening to other students answer questions or sing), students at HSCM can be found developing musicianship skills while playing by ear, improvising, writing and arranging songs, singing, and transcribing.
As jazz great Charlie Parker famously said, "once I could play what I heard inside me, that's when I was born." Developing that freedom of expression is what Creative Musicianship is all about. Excelling in aural skills, keyboard, and theory classes is icing on the cake!
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