I received an enquiry over the phone yesterday, from a parent who was anxious about her daughter’s lack of theory knowledge and preparation for her ABRSM Theory Examinations approaching at the end of October 2010.
The mother was quite perturbed as she had paid many years of lessons for her daughter, but only a few of her daughter's teachers taught theory as part of their private lessons. This mother wondered shouldn’t her daughter get more theory training than this to get her ready for the exams? What has she been investing all these money and time for?
This conversation really got me thinking about our responsibilities as teachers and music advocators. I have blogged about the importance of music theory and music before, but after this conversation, I feel that I should reiterate the benefits of music theory. A student who has very little background in theory is missing out on a wealth of knowledge in terms of understanding and appreciating how music works.
We as teachers have the responsibility to give our students a well rounded music education. The parents and students may not necessarily know what is considered a good music education but we are entrusted to decide what is to be taught during lesson time as we are supposedly qualified in that area.
Music theory forms an integral part of music education. It is our responsibilities as teachers to teach how music works, how to read and make music on an instrument. To say that music theory is not important is like a chemistry teacher saying that you don’t need to know the periodic table of elements. Theory and music must go hand in hand. A teacher who does not incorporate theory in his/her lesson is sending a WRONG message to students that theory is not important as long as you can play on the instrument.
The saying goes; “A good musician is one who understands how the music works. A good teacher is one who teaches how the music works”
Many teachers either do not teach theory or say that they do not have enough time during lessons. Music theory is important, so do make time for it. You can teach theory through the students’ pieces, to help them to understand what they are playing, or you can assign exercises or worksheet from a theory book.
Make time for theory and you will soon see the benefits of the students’ progress.