“Unless I’m willing to be changed by you,
I’m probably not really listening.” — Alan Alda
I went to a singing teachers conference last week and learned more about listening than singing.
One session I attended was called “Children Will Listen” and covered the topic of teaching children between the ages of 5-12, a demographic I don’t usually work with, at least not before the age of 11. That title comes from the song of the same name from Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, Into the Woods.
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see
The point of this session was that children are going to sing anyway, so we might as well know their anatomy and development so that we can help them do it as healthfully and appropriately as we can.
Another session that dealt with listening was “The Curse of Knowledge,” which was about how we forget what it’s like to be a beginner, and sometimes talk over our students’ heads in language and with concepts that they aren’t ready to grasp. I was guilty of that very early in my teaching. Everyone would get all the information I had to give them in the very first lesson. And their heads would explode.
I think I’m better at it now, but there’s always more information I can take in.
I talked a little about these both in my previous blogpost, I Learned Something Today.
And then, I happened upon a site that told me that next Saturday, July 18, is World Listening Day. I’d heard about World Voice Day before (and I intend for us to celebrate it next year as a studio), but this was new to me. This is a day that was created to honor the birthday of Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, who founded a movement called acoustic ecology.
Next Saturday, spend some time doing some active listening.
- Listen to the sounds of nature when you go on a walk. What do you hear?
- Listen to music. Not while you’re doing housework, or talking to someone in the house, but just on your own. What do you hear? What instruments? What rhythms? Especially if it’s a live performance, what do you hear besides the music being played? Do you hear people breathing? Coughing? Feet tapping? Chairs creaking?
- Listen to others. What are they saying? What are you learning from them? Are they listening to you?
Are you really listening or are you just waiting for your turn to speak?
Are you willing to be changed by what you are hearing?