Clavier Companion - May/June 2015 - 60
An inspirational approach to
There has been a lot of talk in our profession (including much in this
magazine) about the value and importance of teaching creativity.
Many teachers agree that this is an important and essential part of
what we should be teaching, but many of us were not taught this
way in traditional piano lessons. This often raises the question: How
do you teach creativity? There are many answers, perhaps an infinite
number. Here's one inspirational approach.
by Lee Evans
hen I was a sixteen-year-old
student at New York City's High
School of Music and Art, I took a
couple of courses with a teacher
named Ruth Coleman Bilchick. One day she
introduced our music theory class to a lovely poem by
William Wordsworth, and we were each charged with
setting the words to music. That was her novel way to
get us to be familiar and comfortable with writing music
notation; this was a creative approach that I adopted
years later in my own teaching. She also recommended
a simple and effective method for accomplishing this
task. Here is the poem:
each of us perceived it to be. After deciding on the
poem's meter and internal rhythms, the challenge of
actually composing melodic lines and harmonies that
fit the rhythms was to be the final step.
In the poem, as I understood it, the poet marvels at
the beauty of nature. The natural world, he realizes, was
always there and will still be there even after his own
life ends. If this were not the case, then he doesn't see
the point of living at all. In addition to actual life on this
earth, Wordsworth also alludes to the spiritual life, and
he speaks in the poem about the importance of the
connection of his adulthood to his childhood.
Based on these ideas, I first devised the following meter structure and rhythms to fit the words of the poem:
My Heart Leaps Up
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
Ms. Bilchick instructed us to first determine the poem's meaning, then to scan
it for its potential rhythmic content as