I always thought flossing was a teeth cleaning exercise. That was until I was playing for a school choir practice and the teacher in charge of crowd control said firmly at the beginning “No Flossing!”
I discovered it to be the latest fad that everyone at school was quickly learning. Children were in the playground in various stages of learning it: some with a friend showing them the movements slowly, so they could get it carefully and accurately; others had the movement right but were working on getting it faster; still others had clearly been doing it a while and were very fast.
I asked one of my pupils to show me what involved and I watched and learned. It looks more like a hip wrecking exercise, so I can’t say I’ve taken to it! It definitely qualifies as a fad. This girl got 5 million views on Youtube!
So what can we learn from fads?
Reaching across the generations is not a bad thing. Just taking an interest can build rapport. Being taught by my own pupil made a point of connection for me. She was tickled, I think, that I was curious about it. As music teachers, taking an interest in the things that our pupils are passionate about says something about how much we are really interested in them. It might give them reason to be interested in what we have to say, and what we are passionate about. As my sister reminded me this week, ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
It is clear that with flossing one has to start really slowly at first to get the movements in the right order before getting faster. If you get faster before doing that, it will take longer to learn them. Similarly, I have seen my pupils struggle to get something right. Often I have observed that they have to come to the realisation their own way that ‘the quicker they learn to play it slowly, the faster they’ll get it.’ (Not that I haven’t told them – I’m a stuck record on that one!)
Peer pressure dictates an urgency to use whatever means possible to learn well. You don’t want to be the slowest person in the group doing that new thing! The sense of belonging that comes from peer pressure can be positive for those in the group. If the group is doing something useful and positive, all the better. Being part of a music group that is playing cool music is going to make everyone want to be there even when they don’t have to be. Last week a good number of school orchestra members that I teach were up late the night before, performing with the school choir at a local music festival. As a result, they were permitted to miss the first part of school next day. This would mean about half the orchestra would be missing the weekly rehearsal that starts before school. Imagine my delight to find that (with the exception of 1) they were all there. Maybe they didn’t want to miss anything.
Fads can produce some great music. I have a pupil learning music from the very popular Lord of the Rings motion picture series filmed here in New Zealand. The connection to the movies is a great motivator for her to work through tricky melodies and harmonies that she might not necessarily get to in the regular instrument tutor book.
Pictures we took at Mt Sunday – the film location for Rohan, from Lord of the Rings, a couple of hours from here.
When people who are deemed cool start something new, suddenly everyone wants to follow the leader. Thus a fad is born. Every generation needs musicians who do this to keep the world of beautiful music fresh and vital. This works for both new compositions and also for classics reimagined. Vanessa May with her rock approach and Nigel Kennedy with his raw sense of humour and personality brought a reawakening of violin playing to their generation and inspired a wave of new young violinists. More recently, Lindsey Stirling, dancing in music story videos as she plays her violin, is doing that for today’s young people.
This is great for orchestral instruments. At the same time there seem to be endless numbers of children wanting to learn the guitar because of the influence of popular music, rock bands etc. No problem with that. I hope they learn well and enjoy playing. I also hope they get a broad appreciation of the range of beautiful guitar music that is out there, once they get past ‘Smoke on the Water.’
I have a lovely example in mind because this weekend the orchestra I play in is performing a beautiful guitar concerto written by Ulrik Neumann arr: Andersson. Our soloist is Matthew Marshall, reputedly one of NZ’s finest guitarists. I didn’t know this work until I heard it on Youtube and I think it is delightful.
So, fads come and go, but if we utilize what they teach us while they are here, we might learn to incorporate something in our learning that will become as regular as flossing. I’ll leave it up to whatever generation you are in as to which kind of flossing that might be.