<< -- 2 -- Jenna Orkin REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PASSED AND FAILED
The Socratic method would be an indispensable tool in this process. Instead of imparting information, I could ask questions. Of course I'd have to know where the conversation was going. Then again, maybe not. The ultimate goal of the Socratic method is for the students to ask their own questions while the teacher does nothing at all, disappearing like the Cheshire cat, with a grin and a wave.
Armed with a volume of Beethoven Sonatas, I greeted my first class with enough questions to fuel an hour and a quarter's discussion. I hoped.
'Was Beethoven a revolutionary?' I began.
It was 9.05am. (Five minutes down to take attendance. Seventy minutes to go.) The class looked back blankly.
'Let's say, in the harmonies he used.'
'Yeah, OK,' the looks said. 'Harmonies, whatever. So, tell us. Was he a revolutionary or not?'
'Well, let's see,' I went on with mounting dread. 'Open your scores to Opus 2 No 2. What's the relationship between the key at the beginning of the movement and the key at the beginning of the development?'
Someone shifted in his chair. I looked sharply in the direction of the sound.
But no, it had been just that; someone shifting in a chair. The class stared back like two rows of tombstones.
'Well, what is the key at the opening of the movement? Hello? Anybody home?' I felt like an explorer trying to humor his captors who don't speak the same language.
'A Major,' a voice offered and it seemed indiscreet to try to identify it.
'Oh, I get it,' somebody else said, 'it's a mediant relationship?'
There is a God.
'Wait a second, isn't it supposed to be dominant?'
We were talking about the far-flung keys within the development when I asked for a volunteer to play the piece.
The joyful noise of Youth At Work stopped. The pianists looked down at their shirt cuffs. ('Who, me? I play tuba.')
'Let's see ... My cards tell me ... Hei-Kyung Park, you're a pianist?'
'Would you like to try sight-reading this?'
'I have tendonitis.'
'And who is ... Robert Greene?'
A boy in the back row raised his left arm with a smile of faux regret and underlying triumph. The arm was in a cast.
There was nothing for it but to read the work myself.
I'd practised for such an emergency. But one of the reasons I'd left Juilliard as a student was the minor problem of rampant stagefright. My hands shook or segued into alien keys as in a nightmare.
Performing in a class at Juilliard wasn't a gentle first step in overcoming fear. Juilliard students do not make a merciful audience.
Copyright © 24 May 2005
Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA