SOPP520: How to get young kids to be more excited during organ demonstrations and willing to try things that maybe are difficult for them?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 520 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. A few weeks ago was quite a difficult trip to Vabalninkas for me to demonstrate pipe organ to bunch of 8th graders and 9th graders. And from that trip the most difficult thing was to get them to play this 19th century organ. They were very shy. Too shy, I should say… So, Ausra, this is my question. Right? How to get young kids to be more excited during such events and willing to try things that maybe are difficult for them, or overcome their fear of other teenagers, their friends.
A: You know, the question that I have raised in my head while reading your question was, “why are they so shy?” And I think that the answer might be smartphones.
V: You mean they are not accustomed to be active socially with normal people?
A: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. I remember last night we were driving your car and were stuck in a traffic jam, and I noticed there was a bus station nearby, and I could observe those people for a few minutes. There were like maybe 12 people standing and waiting for a bus. All the young ones were holding their smartphones and surfing through them, not paying any attention to the outside world.
V: But this is Vilnius! This is the capitol! This is the center of Europe, maybe!
A: Well, do you think that kids, let’s say in a province, are much different than kids in Vilnius? I don’t think so! They also have this dependence on modern technologies.
V: It might make sense, so, maybe eliminate phones from their lives? Maybe that would be the solution?
A: Well, yes, but I think unfortunately it’s impossible to do. It was just a dream. But what I’m thinking, is that probably for the youth, all these demonstrations should, if we want to attract them, they should be probably more technologically based.
V: Oh, I see!
A: Yeah, and interactive. That’s probably what modern kids would understand better.
V: Interactive. You mean that kids should be a part of that lecture/performance/storytelling event right from the beginning, not at the end, right?
A: Yes, plus I think you should involve the modern technologies more into your demonstrations.
V: What kind of technologies, Ausra?
A: Well, at least PowerPoint.
V: Ah, visual material.
V: But it’s strange… they are already seeing what I am talking about in front of them. It’s not like I’m talking to the blind audience...
A: Well, I think because it’s not on the screen, it’s not affecting them.
V: But how do you explain the fact that in my other demonstrations, kids were more active, more engaged?
A: Well, what about age difference? Were they the same age?
V: I’ve done most of my demonstrations for kids—for very little kids—or for adults. For Kindergarten or primary school, elementary school kids. But for teenagers, I’ve done a few, not so much. But I’ve done recently from Vilnius International School. One teacher brought me English speaking kids. So they were very active and willing to play four-hands and even 6-hands at one time.
A: Well, let’s face it; it’s a big difference between Lithuanian province teenagers and kids from the International School. Basically, kids in the International School have a very different background. They have much bigger interests in life, and much bigger expectations in life, because I think the kids in our province are basically abused kids in many ways.
A: And I think that for many of them, the closest friend, the biggest friend is their mobile phone.
V: Very interesting.
A: That’s my guess. And when you are, for example, giving a performance and demonstration for kindergarten kids, they are still curious about things. They are still not so much affected by all the negative things and technological things, because usually parents strive to avoid their kids using too much technology at very early age.
V: So, for example, you, Ausra, if you had an opportunity to go to Vabalninkas before me a few weeks ago, and you knew this would happen ahead of time, very shy kids, perhaps, not so engaged… even then, the question is, “Is there any way that you could engage them with the means that you have at hand?” You will not be able to bring a PowerPoint there, right, probably?
A: Sure. But you know, I still don’t know why they didn’t want to try that organ so badly. Maybe their teacher just scared them before the event and told them just to be very quiet and polite.
V: Could be! Yeah, the teacher might be one of the reasons, too. We don’t know.
A: Were they noisy during your demonstration or were they very quiet?
V: No, quiet! Quiet. There were one or two instances when they maybe wanted to engage with themselves a little bit, but not that this would be a disturbance of the demonstration.
A: Another thing is that probably that in the teenager years, your social life is organized in some sort of gangs. Yes, it’s like in wolves!
V: A wolf pack.
A: A wolf pack, yes. They have one leader and everybody follows the rules, and everybody plays their role in this sort of gathering. So maybe that’s the same with those kids.
V: I needed to identify the alpha male?
A: Yes, maybe the leader just said, “This is all bullshit, don’t do it!” And nobody could do it because maybe they didn’t want that others would laugh at them all alone. That’s my best guess, but maybe I am wrong. I don’t know.
V: But why did two people from one group and one person from another group play the organ, then?
A: Well, there are all these people who do not fit into those groups. They are basically outsiders—losers, probably others would call them.
V: Hmm… Strange. Okay, that makes sense of course. In one group, one boy was encouraged to play by the music teacher, and then she said, “You are very gifted, show off yourself.” And then, he played. But in the first group, two friends played four hands, and not badly at all. They explored the sounds and made some rhythmical arrangements of a popular song they knew. It was interesting.
A: So, this case also shows that they sort of lack better musical education! Because those two kids who played the duet, and another kid whose teacher encouraged him to play had some musical training. Extra musical training, compared to the other ones. And maybe they just felt too shy to play anything, because they knew that they couldn’t do it.
V: Yeah, lots of things to think about.
A: And well, you know, if you are not well educated musically, then you don’t have interest in that thing because you cannot enjoy it. Because, let’s face it. To enjoy music, you still have to have some sort of musical pitch, and at least some kind of musical training. Because the things that you cannot understand and comprehend, they usually don’t attract yourself.
V: Or, it has to be very interesting and engaging technologically for that kind of age group.
A: Yes. Yes, I think so. Some sort of thing like… I don’t know… the keyboard that plays itself… nowadays, there are things like this.
V: I have some hope about the paper organ when it arrives next year in February, and maybe if this project gets funded and Wolfram Kampffmeyer produces this instrument, it’s like a modular kit organ you can assemble your several pipes with a balloon and the balloon blows air, it’s really fun from the video that he produced. So maybe this kind of small, basically game instrument, would be fun to show them in addition to the real thing.
A: Yes, that might help.
V: To get them more engaged. You know?
V: They would play with their hand on the paper organ, and maybe on the real thing afterwards.
V: And break my paper organ!
A: That might happen, because a paper organ is so fragile.
V: Right. Excellent, guys. Alright, we’ll see in the future how it goes next time. Thanks for your questions… well, that was my question.
A: Thank you for this question.
V: Excellent. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. Do you like helping me grow, Ausra?
A: Yes. Very much.
V: And remember; when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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