Palm trees are surprising me this week. Since last February’s polar vortex froze Houston’s palms into kindling, I have been waiting for them to be chopped down altogether, or to dwindle into sticks as their dried leaves fall. Instead, I see small tufts of green sprouting from their tops near my home on Houston’s East Side and as far away as Katy. This moves me because of what I know about these tree-ish grasses: everything underneath the top of a palm tree is not really living anymore in a strict sense… it’s just there to carry water to the life on top.
I’ve been watching these grass-mopped poles from my highway commute for four months … enough time for a new elementary-aged student to grasp the basics of reading music. Enough time for a seasoned student to learn a few new songs or write a couple of their own. Enough time for me to write a new piano-learning book. Enough time for me to get used to living off of social media.
As I teach piano, voice and music theory in my playful, mindful music practice week after week, I don’t always notice incremental changes that are happening. Sure, I do a happy dance inside every time a student understands something that may have felt really new before, and I enjoy the pieces my students create on their own. It delights me when students express their emotions or tell me about their days by playing songs to paint their moods.
But sometimes when I see a student reading music with much greater ease than before, or when a parent tells me how much their children are enjoying playing piano between our lessons, it amazes me like new growth on a frost-burnt plant. But my students’ love for learning music is no miracle: it grows from the nurturing support of a teacher and parent team that makes time for rehearsal (aka home play), processing and exploration.
Elisabeth C. Swim
Playful Mindful Music Guide