Our quest for Musicianship

Whilst Ben & I keep exploring different elements of Musicianship in more depth in this blog (and I will pitch in later on!), I wanted to give you a bit more rounded take on the purpose of this project.

1. Defining Musicianship

What we are looking for in the Loving & Living Music project is a definition or a description of musicianship that includes all aspects of musicianship across all genres and instruments. Having this definition will enable discussion of musicianship to take place on a wider scale than is possible today.

Talking to people we know or have met and looking around the web reveals all kinds of opinions on what musicianship is, including things such as musical phrasing, creating a beautiful tone, being able to play by ear, or being able to imagine music without hearing it first. In addition, most people approach the subject from their own background, leading to differences in the way that, say, a classical musician and a jazz musician think about musicianship.

There are also differences between instruments; for example, a pop drummer’s idea of musicianship may be skewed towards rhythmic accuracy and dynamics, while a classical flautist may be more interested in tone and expression. And of course even all this is just our own interpretation!

The questions we are asking in order to find Musicianship:

  1. What is musicianship?
  2. Why is musicianship important?
  3. What’s the impact of having it & not having it?
  4. What would be a good way of teaching musicianship?
  5. What are you own strengths & weaknesses in terms of musicianship?

2. Musicianship in Education

We see a gap in the way that music is commonly taught. With the Loving & Living Music project we are looking to provoke awareness and discussion among the music education sector about how Musicianship is and could be taught.

For many students, particular beginners, the measurement of success in musical performance is often skewed towards simply getting the notes right. This is, perhaps, natural for the beginner student, who may feel overwhelmed by the new information and practice required to get to grips with their instrument. It is also natural to focus on the aspects of performance, such as playing the right notes, that are easily measured, rather than measure our success with more subjective indicators. However, such measurement is vital to a rounded musician, as it requires the player to have an opinion about the sound they want to make, as well as listening carefully to make sure that their goals are being reached.

Encouraging students to listen and form opinions in this way not only raises their ability to make a good sound, but transforms the act of music-making from one of the mechanical playing of pre-determined notes into one of active engagement with the music on an aesthetic and emotional level.

Why do we care?

In our respective professions (musician, coach) we see the difference that communication skills have on people’s professional and personal conduct and fulfilment, on stage & off stage. Even though we come into the concept of musicianship from different angles, the effects of having or not having it play an important part in the work that we both do.

In a nutshell, this is our way of being a contribution to the things we love and care about the most: music and people.

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