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The Importance of Chamber Music for Children by Meredith Kufchak

 

Meredith - CMC

Meredith with one of her earliest chamber groups

I have been playing chamber music ever since I started playing the viola when I was 4 years old. By the time I was able to play short little songs, I was playing in ensembles with my older siblings and learning how to play with others. At age 7, I started going to a weekly chamber music program, which I attended until I graduated high school. Chamber music was what defined my pre-college musical education, and my love of chamber music was my deciding factor in choosing music as a career path.

For many kids, practicing isn’t a lot of fun. If kids aren’t having fun practicing, chances are their whole outlook on playing music is that they would rather be doing something else, like hanging out with their friends or watching TV. Chamber music is a great combination of playing music and spending time with friends. Some of my best friends growing up were the ones that I played chamber music with, because playing in an ensemble builds such a close bond. Besides the fun parts of playing with friends, students are encouraged by their peers and also strive to meet the expectations of their peers to avoid dragging down an ensemble. Students feel a sense of responsibility to practice their parts and play as well as they can.

An important skill that students learn through chamber music is how to rehearse. If students are only exposed to private practice and lessons, they miss out on learning valuable rehearsal techniques and etiquette and figuring out how to verbally express and negotiate musical ideas. Playing chamber music is a very intimate and personal experience, and students learn to emotionally relate to one another. Students are familiar with how to be taught by their private teachers, but one thing that is less common is for students to learn how to teach themselves and others. In chamber music rehearsals, they learn to critique others, while still being respectful of each other and other’s ideas. This provides a strong basis for being able to teach others and also teach themselves.

Students who play chamber music learn valuable skills that serve them well for the rest of their musical lives. They learn simple things, like listening and watching each other and learning to play perfectly together. They learn more complex things, like the functions of harmonies and how the note they are playing functions within a chord and how that will affect how they play each individual note. One of the most important things they learn is how to communicate their musical intention through movement. They learn to lead others and be proactive about playing their part. They learn to see the big picture of a piece of music and understand how all of the parts fit together to create the whole work.

Kufchak Quartet Photo

Communicating through movement is a valuable skill learned by playing chamber music

By playing chamber music, students learn vital skills that will benefit them greatly should they choose to pursue a career in music. These skills are applicable to all areas of music, not just chamber ensembles. Clear communication is essential if you’re playing a solo piece with an accompanist. Even if you’re playing solo Bach, movement helps communicate the music to the audience. In orchestral settings, it’s amazing what a difference movement and leading from within a section can make. Even simple things like looking up from the music to watch the conductor, concertmaster, or section leader are so important, yet happen far too little.

Chamber music is such a rewarding experience for students. They have so much fun playing in ensembles with their friends and develop a deeper appreciation of music once they’re doing more than just practicing. Chamber music is an essential part of a music student’s education because it creates such strong musicians.


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