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‘It’s about playing, not performing’: Mark Applebaum on joy and creativity in learning music

November 20, 2017
When it comes to music, breaking the rules can be just as important as technical proficiency, says Stanford music pro
When it comes to learning an instrument, breaking the rules can be just as important as technical proficiency, says Stanford music professor Mark Applebaum. (Photo: gbrundin/Getty Images)
A Stanford music professor encourages a sense of playfulness for students of all ages.

Stanford music professor Mark Applebaum says that when he was a kid, practicing the piano involved a lot of arguments with his parents.

“I’m grateful to them for making it possible for me to take piano lessons,” he said in this episode of School’s In. “But looking back, most of the tears in my household surrounded practicing. I'm not one of those musical athletes—I practiced probably 45 minutes a day. And some of the tears were from hearing, ‘That sounds like playing, not practicing.’ ”

Applebaum joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope in the studio to talk about the challenges and benefits of learning music, his own path to becoming a composer and performer, and how students can recapture the joy of learning music at any age.

“I’m trying to rehabilitate a kind of childlike state which is about playing, not performing,” he said. “As kids, we say, ‘I play the piano,’ ‘I play the drums,’ ‘I play the guitar.’ As adults, we really think, ‘I perform on the piano,’ ‘I perform on the drums,’ ‘I perform on the guitar.’ ”

Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.