H-LOCAL SPOTLIGHT

Aug 16, 2013 1:27 PM by Dan Shadwell

"School of Rock" teacher says her students learn instruments and perfect pitch

You've probably heard... and maybe you know first-hand that learning an instrument requires dedication, practice, and probably at least some natural ability.
So the idea of learning music informally, with a group of friends, and in a fun environment, may seem almost too good to be true.
Not according to the instructors at the Tvelde "School of Rock" in San Luis Obispo.
"They come in and every day for a half an hour," explains school owner, Bonnie Tvelde, "...and they focus on one instrument they've never played and we just learn one rock song... one basic, 4/5 song. By the end of two weeks, they're playing four instruments and singing."
Tvelde says once the kids group up, a sort of synthesis begins. "They all know how to listen to each other, keep the same beat, and they can hear which note they're supposed to play in relation to what everybody else is supposed to play."
She says part of that process is learning "perfect pitch"--the ability to identify a specific note upon hearing it played. She says when her students hear a note, they're told to visualize a color.
Arun Pinkering sits in a room with a piano, while a fellow student randomly hits keys. Each time, Arun, correctly identifies the note. "Orange is 'F.' 'G' is green. 'A' would be purple and 'B' would be kind of like a forest green and then we'd be back to 'C,'" he explains, "....and then all the black notes are yellow."
I'm unclear on how that association works, so I ask. "Okay, I'm probably going to sound really stupid to you, but what does that have to do with anything? The colors? How does that help you?" I ask.
Arun pauses. "I have no idea. That's really weird," he says.
Tvelde says it's like linking two languages. She says when kids associate a color with a note, it locks in an address for the note, so each one becomes distinct.
"You see a color, you know what it is. When we hear a note, we know what it is. It's exactly the same type of memory. They can then listen to, say a song on the radio, and they can play it immediately. They know what notes are in that song and they can go to a piano and they can just play it."
Then, she says, it's just a matter of practice making perfect.
There is no shortage of skeptics, though. Many music educators say perfect pitch cannot be taught. They say you're either born with it, or you're not.
But several of the kids I spoke to at Tvelde Music say they learned it.
"School of rock" is wrapping up this month, but there are more classes starting--both group and private.
For more information, just log onto ksby.com and click on "links."

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