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In 1982, Paul McCartney wrote a song called Ebony and Ivory that he recorded with Stevie Wonder. I remember hearing the song playing at summer camp: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony…” I also remember one of my friends hearing the words and saying that he thought it was a lie.
What I find funny is that, if he’d listened to the next line of the song, he would have seen that McCartney actually agreed with him. The song continues “…side by side on my piano keyboard. Oh Lord, why can’t we?” In other words, McCartney wasn’t saying black and white get along, he was saying they only get along on the piano keyboard!
I, like my students, may make decisions before I have all the information. This can be a serious issue in music instruction, because students often come to inaccurate conclusions about their ability based on their observations in the moment. They may be in a hurry because they are attempting to reinforce something they already believe, or to challenge something they don’t want to believe.
There are several ways they may jump the gun. First of all, they may decide how good they are at something based on what they are currently able to do. They mistake skill for potential and assume that because they can’t do it, they don’t have what it takes to do it.
They ignore the possibility that their full abilities may be blocked or dormant. If they are blocked, they can very well be unblocked with attentive instruction. If they are dormant, they may need to mature before they can use all the resources they have.
That leads me to the second thing, which is that such development takes time. Imagine agreeing with a four-year old that they will never be able to look at the top shelf of the refrigerator. In the realm of development, time may change things so radically that what was impossible at one time is possible at another.
Finally, our ability to achieve is not entirely in our control. It may depend on a relationship or interaction with a person or group of people. I may find that, when I play music in my band, I am ruining the groove, and I probably ought to give it up.
But the groove comes from the interaction between people in the band. It may be that, were I to change bands, I would have a completely different experience. Perhaps the problem wasn’t my lack of groove, but something about the way I and another musician play together.
We can be forgiven for making decisions based on what we can currently see. That’s really all we ever have to go on. However, we might at least be prepared to hold off on such decisions for as long as possible, or at least change them in light of new information.
What did you think this blog was going to be about? Had you made up your mind what the answer was before you read it? Do you think it might be wise to take your time when answering that question?