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!