“I realized that my job is to awaken possibility in others.”

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Bach: Gavotte in G minor

Interpretation Class
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Oakville Suzuki Association

Pierre Gagnon (director)

EJ Kim, piano

Be more at ease in the world. The world is a wonderful place for you to be playing. I don’t mean just playing the violin. I mean playing life. Smile, enjoy yourself and be free.

— Benjamin Zander

Video Transcript

Pierre Gagnon: So, my name is Pierre Gagnon. I’m the violin teacher with Oakville Suzuki Association and we will present for you Overture Gavotte by Bach. Ready? Eyes this side. All right. There you go.

Ben Zander: Beautiful, Well done. Has anybody seen my glasses? I had a pair of glasses and I put them down somewhere. And if I had them, I could see something. They’re just sitting. Do you know where it was? There’s nothing here. Is that okay? Well, if somebody finds the glasses, let me know. First of all, Pierre, right?

Pierre Gagnon: It is.

Ben Zander: Pierre. Beautiful. You’re a beautiful musician and you made the arrangement which is lovely and you’re a very musical conductor. You understand about shape, which is very good. I just want to spend Ah, wonderful. Nirvana. I want to say some because I don’t believe that many of these people understand what Suzuki is. And I just want to spend Suzuki is one of the great social miracles of modern times. This is how it happened. Suzuki was a violin teacher in Japan, and he was visiting France and he was on the Gare du Nord in Paris. And there were a number of children around him, all speaking French, which he found totally amazing because they were French children.

Ben Zander: So he shouldn’t have been surprised. But he said to himself in one of those brilliant insights into life, if they can speak French, if all these children can speak French, surely they can all play the violin. And so he came up with the idea that he could teach everybody to play the violin. And he had 150,000 students himself. And he taught them in vast numbers. He had classes of 2000 children at a time and he came up with his brilliant idea, the string player as well, understand what I’m about to say, instead of playing with the whole bow, they just played with the middle of the bow.

Ben Zander: And then, which is easy to do to go through the whole bow is very difficult. And that was his genius idea. And the result, the other thing he did, was he made everybody play from memory. He didn’t want people to develop bad habits, looking at music. So everybody in the Suzuki method plays from memory, develops their ear and it enables them to play with freedom and with grandeur. Some of you look as though you are actually playing from the music. In other words, not with the kind of joy and exuberance that you might play for memory. So I think it’s really important to know it’s one of the great breakthroughs in human development. The idea that I have a form of that, I say everybody loves classical music. They just haven’t heard about it, haven’t discovered it yet. Right? Everybody in the world loves classical music.

Ben Zander: And I know that and I’m proving it because 18 million people have seen my Ted talk and you ain’t seen nothing yet. Right? So it’s on the way eventually everybody’s going to play music. I just invented that. It probably isn’t going to happen, but it’s a nice thing to think about. So now here’s, I have two things to say to you and also to the group. If you could pretend that you are having a good time, it would be really good. There’s one of you who’s having a really good time. And that’s this young lady here she’s having a good time, right from the very beginning. And she’s one of the youngest and one of the smallest, but she could teach you all something, which is, it’s a joy to make music and she’s allowing her body to shape. And that’s my aim, is to get everybody to look as they’re having a wonderful time. Do you enjoy playing?

EJ Kim: Yes.

Ben Zander: Yes. Do you enjoy playing?

EJ Kim: Yes.

Ben Zander: Okay. Do you enjoy playing?

EJ Kim: Yes.

Ben Zander: No. Yeah. Okay. So now the trick is to inform your face that you are having a good time. All right. Now the second thing I have to say, and this is a little tricky because you’ve taught them to play it a certain way and I’m going to suggest something else. And it may cause a little trouble. Because this is Gavotte, it’s a dance and a dance in two. So, how fascinating. That’s what we say when we make a mistake. We just say, “How fascinating.” So could we just try it without causing too much disruption, that you play it in two and will shape it a little differently? Because at the moment it has very little shape because it’s too slow to have shape and you know that. Can we go for it?

Pierre Gagnon: Go for it.

Ben Zander: Right. Very different. Let me just show you by asking our pianists to play. Do you have the whole thing there? Yes and so An elegant 18th-century dance, should we try that? Would that be fun? All right, here we go. 1 and 2 and 1

Ben Zander: In the that’s much isn’t that it’s it much, it dances much more beautifully. It’s a little more difficult, but not much. And in those times, do you know how they were dressed? They had a wig. The man had a beautiful silver wig. The girls had beautiful long dresses. The men had buckles on their shoes and they looked very elegant and everybody moved like this. That’s how they moved. And when they stopped still, they were in the first position. Right? So this is an elegant 18th-century dance. Can we try and create that here? Can you imagine your cells in beautiful dresses and elegant wigs? And let’s go back to the beginning again. We’ll do it together. Should we? Sure. So the conductor has to create the image of the 18th-century nobleman that would’ve led this. So we’re going to go ready two and one and two, one. And can you move with your body? So that, that the upbeat, just play it again in 1. Just imitate that. 1, 2, 1. And

Ben Zander: The rest of it takes care of itself if you’ve done nothing pulse. Should we try again? 1, ready? 1 and

Ben Zander: Now, look. In order to make it really work, the second phrase has to end a little quietly. Let me show you. 1.

Ben Zander: You see, how this one is It’ll virtually come to a standstill. It’s so quiet. Do it once again in 1, and If you could kick with your foot on, I won’t ask you to do that, but that’s the age. That’s right. Exactly. Are you ready? Once again? 1 and 2

Ben Zander: That’s hard. That’s hard to do, but they have to do it all together. So you have to look at the conductor, look at each other, feel it together. Let’s try one more time. It’s coming. Some of you have not quite understood that playing the violin and dancing are the same thing, playing the violin and dancing are the same things. This is a dance. So, if you could do

Ben Zander: This little girl at the end is there for some and seems to understand, do you study dance? You do? That explains it. Now, do you study dance? No. No. So there’s a problem. The girls are learning to dance and the guys say, “No, it’s not for me.” But in those days, the boys, the guys loved to dance. That was what they did. That was part of their training. From a young age, everybody learned to dance. All the people in the aristocracy, not the farmers, didn’t. They also did another kind of dancing, farm dancing. Exactly. All right. Are you ready for the beginning? We’re getting again and take a big breath and So, I would suggest you can do it any way you want, you know how to do it. But what I would do is 1, 2, 1. Right! Like that.

Ben Zander: A moment. Pierre? You are giving each one.

Pierre Gagnon: Yeah. If you notice, I don’t give each one. I just launch the phrase, do it 1. Isn’t that interesting? You don’t need to. Once again, 1 and 2 and

Ben Zander: Good. That’s beautiful. That’s on the way. Now to play that way is more difficult than to play the way they were playing before because before it was absolutely mechanical and therefore people didn’t have to think, they just played according to the routine. I would say that to train them, to feel it the same way is the next stage is what’s next for this group. It’s going to make it more difficult. Because some are going to follow it better than others. Should we do it because that’s no role? Let’s go on. Second part. Right? Should we go on? It’s very good. It’s much better than it was. I’d be very interested to know if you put your violins down mode, let’s just see something. Can you do that again and see whether they can sing it. Let’s see whether we sing it. And 1,2 and 1

Ben Zander: I see some of you don’t sing. I tell you, human beings were born to sing and dance and then came intellectual stuff later. But singing and dancing in the beginning. So I would encourage them all to sing. And if they sing it well and they sing it confidently, that’ll help them play it. No question about it, but that’s another stage and you haven’t thought about doing that, but when you are taking a bath or a shower, do you sing ever? No, never, never sing. What are we going to do about humanity? It’s forgotten to sing. Because you know, there are certain cultures where people sing all the time, in Hungary, for instance. Every child learns to sing, every child inquires. It’s a serious part of their education. As important as mathematics as important And Plato, bless his heart. Said there were three essential things in the training of a musician, 1, athletics. 2, mathematics. 3, Music. Three parts of the human psyche, the body for athletics, the mind for mathematics, the soul for music, right?

Ben Zander: Without one of those, we are not fully human. So if we could just make it part of our life every day, never a day goes by which I don’t sing. I mean, not necessarily people want to hear it, but I would encourage it. We’re on the way, but it’s a new path and the body, the movement of the body so that the body is moving with spirit and with love and with energy and with the fullness of life. That’s why we dance. It’s to make us more fully alive. So we try one more time and we’re going to go from the beginning and this time we’re going to imagine it’s the last time you’ll ever do it because the ceiling’s going to fall down and crash over your head and that’ll be the end, but at least do it with spirit the last time. All right, are you going to get it? Here we go. So a little faster. It’ll be easier. 1,2 and 1

Ben Zander: Look, beautiful. It’s coming along. It’s very much coming along. I have one line. I have one last request. Most of you look really miserable cause you’re having a terrible time. Actually, you are creating a lot of pleasure and joy. Could you pretend that you are having a good time? Let’s do it one more time and see if I can get a little bit of a smile out of some of you. Are you able to smile? Let’s try. Why? Why are they so unhappy?

Pierre Gagnon: They’re too serious.

Ben Zander: What?

Pierre Gagnon: They’re too serious.

Ben Zander: Too serious? Don’t be serious. This is just a dance. Oh, here’s a smile. I got a smile. I’m going to see how many smiles. My life is about creating shining eyes and my measurement of success is shining eyes. Most people measure success in wealth, fame, and power. Those are the three main measures of success. How much money you have, how much influence you have, and how much fame you have. I measure success only in terms of how many shining eyes I have around me. Right? So let’s see how many shining eyes we can get. Always have some shining eyes. Great. So if we played a little faster, we might get a little, a few more shine. She’s great. She’s got fabulous shining eyes. From 1, 2, 1, 2, 1. You’ve got to wait for 1. 1, 2, 1 and

Ben Zander: Go on. Good. I think it’s enough. Well done.

Ben Zander: One of the things that Suzuki gave us, do you know the age at which Suzuki always said was the ideal age to start-

Pierre Gagnon: Bach?

Ben Zander: What?

Pierre Gagnon: Bach?

Ben Zander: No. He was much more directive than that. No, he said 4.

Pierre Gagnon: 4. Yes.

Ben Zander: And the reason why 4 is that four-year-olds are very obedient and they will do exactly what their mothers say and what he’d devise a very clever solution, which was the mother has to learn together with the child. So the four-year-old child and the mother is perfect unit. At five, the child starts being a problem. Too late, as the lovely story of Piatigorsky, the great cellist Piatigorsky. A kid came to play for him, Rococo variations, Tchaikovsky. Very difficult. And Piatigorsky said, “How old is he?” And the mother said, “Seven.” He said, “Oh, what a shame! Too late.” So the reason what Suzuki has given us is a discipline called Suzuki violin, which involves the way they hold the violin. The way they stand, the way they bow with respect. Beautiful things, things of great value in our culture.

Ben Zander: And we’ve all learned a lot from the Japanese culture and from Suzuki. And what you see in front of you is beautifully trained Suzuki players. What is missing, is joy. What missing is love, is enthusiasm, is gaiety. Music is intended to make us feel joyful and some of you actually have some problem with that. And I would suggest to you, you are all old enough to think about this. Don’t take yourself so seriously, be more at ease in the world. The world is a wonderful place for you to play. I don’t mean just playing the violin. I mean play life and smiling and enjoying yourself and being free physically, is a huge contribution to the people around you. So if you can take that on and make this as well as a dutiful activity, also a joyous and contributory activity where people love you for what you are giving the world, that would be terrific. Thank you so much.

Pierre Gagnon: Thank you very much.

Ben Zander: Beautiful work.

Kathleen Fredette
'Ben Zander—-oh how I appreciate your comment about shining eyes. It’s how I coach and encourage all the educators I work with.'
Ms Pea
'So glad to see Benjamin working with a teacher. I've often thought that he should have classes for teachers. Too many emphasize intonation, and let interpretation lapse. So when the students play for Zander, he has to draw the feeling out of them. More teachers need to stress the importance of imparting the composers meaning, not just the notes they wrote.'
Justus Verus Libertas
'Benjamin Zander: You made my eyes shine! :-) I was so amazed, I started to clap my hands in front of the monitor'
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