Knowing is Half the Battle
I recently received a master’s degree in music. That means I am qualified to tell you how to play bassoon, how to construct different musical forms, or what was going on in the world when Shostakovich wrote his ninth symphony. Most of the topics that I can ramble on about are boring and irrelevant to a listener or friend that has not gotten his or her own sparkly master’s degree in bassoon performance. I’m sure anyone with a specialized degree has felt the cold, hard wall that seems to exist between people of different specialties and interests. And when we are asked to talk about our specialty in front of a group that does not share the same base of information that we do, we can sometimes make the mistake of pandering or talking down to the audience and adding more bricks to the wall. The concept I’d like to explore is based on my eye-opening first year working with Fifth House Ensemble: communicating one’s knowledge effectively.
I’ve had some great mentors along the way that have helped me tap into the idea of connecting my musical knowledge to my other interests in order to make the way I talk about music more engaging to a wider audience. Eric Snoza is Fifth House’s double bass player, photographer, website designer, and fashion consultant, and I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side with him in the classroom. Watching him make eloquent off-the-cuff connections between various musical concepts and relating them all back to the main point has encouraged me to begin using my own knowledge to make connections while teaching. To test whether the explanation of a concept or activity is effective or not, Fifth House Ensemble asks the following: “could you describe it to your grandma?” This was a foreign concept to me – contrasting the academic approach that I was accustomed to from my schooling – because now the goal of explanation had shifted from defending myself intellectually, to sharing knowledge efficiently; grandma doesn’t have time to listen to me say “pivot-modulation” again.
I can’t wait to continue my work with Fifth House Ensemble in the Chicago Public School classrooms this fall, and I strive to synthesize my knowledge of music and TV shows like Adventure Time and the G.I. Joe Public Service Announcements to better engage and teach students. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is communicating.
– Eric “Deuce” Heidbreder