Taming The Savage Beast - Or, The Magic of Group

"I don't get so mad," one of my students said, "when I play in group." 

 I was surprised to hear this. This student has a history of drama and overreaction when making mistakes. 

“What do you mean?” I asked. “I dunno,” he said, thoughtfully. “I guess it is because when I make a mistake in group, we just go on.”

When children give us drama - tantrums, anger, crying, rolling around on the floor, slap-happiness, physical silliness - it can make us feel like we want to tear our hair out.

In frustration we want to demand that they stop the ridiculous behavior. We want them to understand the rules, and have the will-power and self control to follow them. We try to reason with them and often find that only increases the silliness.

Why does drama happen, and how can we address it?

Children don't realize they are doing something irrational, and when they are doing it, often they are feeling something so physically in their bodies that they cannot hear or communicate in any other way than through a dramatic display of physicality or emotion.

Understand: when children become overdramatic, they are often not capable of rationally "deciding" to change and behave differently. They will not change until an outside stimulus prompts them to change. 

We make it worse because we are trying to change the inner state of child, instead of changing their environment.

Enter Group Class

Girl and Boy.jpg

The magic of group class is that it supplies just the right environmental shift for students to be able to get past their own individual motivational walls.  Playing with other students is a way to modulate the many moods and reactions that can come over a child when practicing.

The student who gets mad at her own mistakes is a perfectionist. She wants things to come out perfectly the first time, and reacts angrily when they don't. She fixates on mistakes and has trouble following through on practice sessions when she starts making errors. And of course this emotional state produces more errors.

But this downward spiral of negative emotion dissolves when it occurs while the child is nested in group.

The group is like a big barge floating down the river. It may hit an individual rock, or tree branch, but it will adjust around it and keep going. Psychologically this releases pressure from the individual child. Not only are they out of the spotlight, they cannot fixate and get mired in their own mistakes.

Group class provides the environment where a successful performance is possible, even though any particular individual may not be able to play 100% successfully. It gives each child a vision of a larger whole, into which they can fit themselves with a better sense of proportion.

Everyone feels better after group. Mistakes are mended, moods are soothed, and the music gets to have its effect on even the most intractable child.

The next time you want to put your savage beast in a cage, take him to group class!



More Focus, More Harmony - How Adults Can Benefit From Playing The Violin

We don't have enough focus. We don't see eye to eye.

You've heard these two phrases, or something similar, spoken at work or in an organization you volunteer for.

Lack of focus, and lack of interpersonal harmony, are two of the biggest reasons we don't take action in our places of work, our social organizations, our churches, and our governing boards, on the things that could move us forward.

Think about your work, both professional and volunteer. Do these two issues come up?

You can probably think of several reasons why there is lack of focus or disharmony. A lot of the causes seem like they are "out there" somewhere. Institutional problems, politics, bad attitudes, outdated regulations, that guy who is nothing but a windbag in meetings, the out-of-touch manager. There are a million different things that cause us to get off track with our focus, and a million more that can get in the way of us getting along.

The problem is, we can't control the external environment. We can't change other people. However, there is something we can control, and that is our own brain. We can change ourselves.

Executive Function and Social Synchrony

There are two Right Brain characteristics brought forward by playing music that will help you with achieving focus and harmony. They are outlined in the journal "Frontiers in Neuroscience":

"The notion of executive function refers to the cognitive processes orchestrated by the prefrontal cortex that allow us to stay focused on means and goals, and to willfully (with conscious control) alter our behaviors in response to changes in the environment (Banich, 2009). They include cognitive control (attention and inhibition), working memory and cognitive flexibility (task switching)."

"Furthermore, musical activities are often social. Indeed, it has been proposed that the evolutionary function of music has always been to increase cooperation, coordination, communication, co-pathy, contact, social cognition and cohesion between the members of a group (Koelsch, 2010). It seems that one of these effects is the fact that a certain form of social synchronization is instilled, implying the respect of and adaptation to each other. In fact, in empirical studies it has often been described that acting in synchrony with a partner may increase prosocial commitment (Kokal et al., 2011), social affiliation (Hove and Risen, 2009), trust (Launay et al., 2013), cooperation (Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009) and feelings of compassion (Valdesolo et al., 2010; Valdesolo and Desteno, 2011). When playing music in a group one has to automatically synchronize to the other musicians. The state of synchrony is therefore generated naturally."

Could your life improve if you played a musical instrument? When you look around and see a need for more focus, when you experience a lot of negative, argumentative meetings, consider this: music might just be the solution you've been missing.

When our children take music lessons, we're glad to know they are getting this kind of brain training. Staying focused on means and goals combined with the ability to create social affiliation are important developmental areas for children. 

But let's expand our thinking to our adult world: a great deal of problem solving could be accomplished if we all had better executive function and social synchrony.

Who would have thought? Playing violin could be the thing that helps you develop professionally. If this rings true for you, don't wait to inquire. It could be life changing.

Talk with Edward about adult lessons


Source: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10....