I said in my last post I'd be setting myself some new musical goals for the rest of the year, so here's the first one! I did my Grade 1 clarinet exam in July and straight afterwards I had a renewed burst of enthusiasm for playing it more. But I have to admit that initial burst faded a bit over the summer, and when I picked it up again the other week, it felt like really hard work! Like any skill, learning an instrument benefits from being practised little and often, far more than doing a big stint now and then. Last week I realised that the end of the year was twenty weeks away, or 140 days. Now, being realistic, I'm not going to practise the clarinet every single day (I don't expect my students to do that either - as with sports training, the odd 'rest day' is actually really beneficial) - some days I'm out of the house from 8.30am to 8.30pm! But five days out of every seven sounds pretty reasonable, and conveniently that makes a nice round 100 days between now (well, last week) and the end of the year. They might not always be long practices - I've just squeezed in ten minutes before writing this post - but that little and often approach is more likely to build up the right muscles gradually, whereas the occasional 'blow out' is more likely to just damage them - a bit like doing short jogs regularly, rather than just running a marathon once a month. Interestingly, my dissertation research found quite a few comparisons between music practice and sports training - I'll fill you in on them next time. In the meantime, I'm going to have another quick play through my current favourite clarinet study, James Rae's Tumbledown Blues, before heading out to teach...
(practices so far = 2)
Yesterday, I submitted my MA dissertation online. Today the hard copy is being bound and tomorrow I'll post that off to the department. So I've reached the end... sort of. Although I've no more work to do on the Masters, I will be waiting (slightly anxiously, as mentioned previously, I'm not good at waiting for results!) until October for the final mark. Then graduation is in December so after that it's definitely, really finished! The last few weeks of bringing it all together have been stressful, but also hugely enjoyable to see it take its final shape. Despite times when I thought it would never turn into anything resembling a dissertation, I've found the whole process incredibly fulfilling. I have to say a big thank you to my wonderful supervisor, Dr Julia Gillen, for her guidance, enthusiasm for the project, listening to me rambling on (when you're a distance learning students the odd occasions when you actually get to visit your University and talk about your research are terribly exciting!*) and for giving me the confidence that I could actually do this thing!
It does feel very strange to be at the end - I've done the course part-time over three years and the dissertation has been slowly growing from an embryo of an idea early last year, so it has occupied my brain for quite a long time! I don't, however, feel like I'm finished with the research yet. The final product only used about half of my original plan - who'd have thought that a 12,500 word limit actually isn't that much! So while I did look at how adult learners talk about being 'older' and how that affects their learning, and what they say about music exams, music teachers and their families' involvement/ impact on music learning, there are whole areas which I started looking at but couldn't cover in detail - how they talk about being 'musicians' or not, whether there are any patterns in how they use modality (e.g. will vs might), what other grammatical patterns there are and what these might imply. I've covered how emotions are portrayed around exams and teachers, but there is so much more to say about that, including looking at how emoticons are used in the online text to portray moods and emotional reactions. I'd like to look at text written by teachers about adult learners and see how that compares under the same sort of analyses - what discourses are evident in that and are they the same as the ones that came out of my corpus of text written by adult learners themselves? (I suspect they won't match up completely - I certainly found from my survey that teachers talked about 'skills' needed to teach adults, whereas in the corpus adults described the 'qualities' of their teachers). I'm interested to find out how different the concerns of adult learners are to younger learners. I wan't to know what it is that makes some adults more motivated, or more independent at learning - are there any connections with their previous musical experiences (learning as a child or not, etc), or the style of music they're learning? Are there different discourses of adult music learners in different cultures or countries?
Is this starting to sound like a lifetime's work to follow up all these loose ends? I suspect it is! For now though, while the research is all still very fresh in my mind, I'm looking at trying to take some of my research out there into the big wide world - as a poster or presentation at conferences, hopefully at some point as an article somewhere. I will be putting it online once it's marked, and discussing my findings a bit more on here too. I'd like it to reach the people it actually makes a difference to - adult learners themselves, teachers and the people who train teachers - so will be thinking about how to share it with them too.
And since I now have a little bit more spare time, I'll be setting myself a few new musical goals... watch this space!
(*I would also like to thank all the other people who have patiently listened to me rambling on about it over the last year, whether they were really interested or not. You know who you are!)
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