The Value of Making Musical Connections

Take two notes. Play the two notes. Played like that, those two notes might seem unremarkable, but what if those notes had some connection?

You see, the relationships we have, and connections we make with other people are very much like those two notes. Sometimes, we might know someone as a very distant connection: we know each other, but only in the same way as two notes both played staccato. Sometimes, we might have a much closer connection, just in the same way we might slur notes together. There are even times when we might make such a close connection with someone we form a creative partnership, just in the way we might tie two notes together.

I’ve just spent two days at this year’s Music & Drama Education Expo at London’s Olympia. You may be surprised to hear that the thing which draws me back, year on year aren’t the instruments, or the sheet music, or the resources. In fact, it’s not even the talks and workshops. My primary motivation for going, is to meet friends and colleagues, and to make new friends. I refuse to call it ‘networking’ which I consider to be terrible word; one which suggests that we can somehow engineer these connections on an artificial basis.

We live in a world where it’s never been easier to write and publish you own music, to sell your own resources, and even to set up a support group or organisation. Overall, there are many positives to be had from these opportunities, but nevertheless, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially as teachers, by the sheer quantity of material out there.

This got me thinking about how I choose what to use, join and play, not just as a teacher, but as a musician. Thinking about this more closely made me realise that those things I use most, aren’t the things with the biggest adverts, best offers and the celebrity endorsement. They’re the things where there’s some kind of personal connection. That might be knowing a composer or publisher, or it might come from being part of an organisation or support group.

You see, the thing is, just as it’s easy to get me to buy your thing, or subscribe to your site, it’s also easy to lose me too. I feel strongly (and this isn’t just related to music and music education) that I want more than to be just purchasing a miscellaneous commodity, as if picking it up from a bland supermarket shelf. Publishers who know what I teach and the music I use are like gold dust: there’s a connection. Same with exam boards too. Contrast at the Expo, the two I use: one where I’m recognised and my opinions are sought and valued; and one where I’m just another miscellaneous number of thousands.

When I wrote this post (in my head whilst out for my evening walk), there was probably a really good punchline…but it escapes me now!

But, I truly believe that these personal connections and relationships matter. We live in a world where we’re connecting with multiple people and places at the same time, but you see, quantity isn’t always better than quality. Just as they do in the music we play, connections between individuals, organisations and companies matter too.