Instilling a love of music for people of all ages
Among the many programs offered by the Beacon of Hope is the Monday night Musical Experience from 6-7 for people of all ages.
According to Warren and Gregory Van Kirk, who direct the Musical Experience, it’s not called a classroom for a very specific reason. “It’s not like we’re teaching music theory,” said Warren, “it’s more like getting someone to sit at the piano and play something they enjoy and then we try to help them understand what they’re doing because no matter what they do they’re doing something.”
In the endeavor to toss out convention and help people create a spark that will ignite a love for music, the brothers are on a mission to help partakers find their own voice musically.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they’ve actually been discouraged by their teacher,” Warren said. “If you’re trying to pass a class where everything has to be perfect, then it’s understandable that a teacher would ask you to play perfectly, but if you just want to treat music like a form of art, you don’t need any formal training for that.”
Although the brothers choose not to call what they’re doing on Monday nights teaching, they admit that they often put an instrument in someone’s hands and let them attempt to play it unreservedly. For instance, Warren said, if someone says they can play piano by ear, he might give them a xylophone and ask them to find some of the same notes.
Gregory said his favorite part of doing the Monday night Musical Experience is when the door opens for someone musically and he recognizes it in their eyes.
“I’m hoping as I’m talking that it will make sense to someone, and I can tell when it does — it’s like I can see something awakened in them,” Gregory said. “That’s the coolest thing for me … when somebody has an understanding.”
He said the whole world of music begins to make sense if people are willing to take the time to explore it. Not unlike mathematics, he likens it to someone first understanding 2+2 on their way to learning the concept of PI.
“I would rather teach someone how to teach themselves, rather than having to go over every single note and scale,” Gregory said. “I can give you these building blocks and then you can go home and learn all the modes of that scale.”
They also both agree that music in a band or with a group is not supposed to be a competition where each player is vying for attention to their instrument, but rather one voice through those many instruments, in which each musician has found their own place on the stage.
“It takes everybody to make the music sound good,” said Gregory, adding that a great musician can play something simple that makes even the most inexperienced player sound good.
According to the brothers Van Kirk, the landscape of music changes when there is no wrong note or key, but simply an artist’s own expression through any instrument. What may be considered incomprehensible to a student of Julliard may well become the highlight of some Monday night get-together at the Beacon.