I was recently hired to help bring together a virtual orchestra for a local school district. While I have the technical skills to do this, I’m not a big fan of them. I question their educational value unless the students are doing most of the work. In this case, I felt a lot better about the project after talking to the teacher about how we would accomplish the task. Through the conversation, we talked about how in so many technical solutions, the process is what really drives things. He said he frequently reminds himself on so many tasks that “It’s about the process, not the Product.”
I have been recording for a local community choir for a couple decades now. I got the gig because I used to sing with them. Over the past year or so, I was also hired to help support their website and intra-choir communications efforts. In discussions with their managing director amid the pandemic, we have talked a lot about what community music groups will look like going forward. She told me that choir surveys have confirmed that belonging to the choir is overwhelmingly more about the rehearsals, not the concerts.
In most of the performing arts, a significantly greater amount of time goes into preparation than in the actual performance. Perhaps when it comes to long show runs and tours, the time in performance overtakes the rehearsal time – but if you include from the call time until exiting the building, the time on stage barely surpasses 50%. Even then, the amount of personal preparation required to get to that point is overwhelming compared to the actual amount of time performing.
We wouldn’t perform if we didn’t enjoy the rest of it. We don’t take road trips to get to the destination. Life certainly isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. I can only assume that cultural aversion to “technology” makes everyone chase after quick answers and rote instructions. I often wonder why people are so proud when they announce “Oh, I’m really bad at math” or “I’m no good with computers.”
When we start learning music, we might begin as a child with rote memorization of simple tunes, but before long we are playing scales or paradiddles. In fact, in most areas of learning, we spend a fair amount of time on fundamental building blocks. Why, then do we ignore the process when it comes to technology?
My overall advice when using technology is rather simple: Slow down. Don’t be in such a hurry to get to the end result. When we take a little longer to ask “how?” and “why?” and not just “where do I click?” the time you invest in learning (beyond just memorizing) our efforts are returned in orders of magnitude. In our Teaching Music Online classes so far, there seemed to be an overwhelming desire to learn “how to become a YouTuber.” While preparing a presentation on it, I realized that a lot more of the content was on planning than mechanics. (Shameless plug time: We are now offering two separate two-session workshops on the processes for Audio for Online Learning and Video for Online Learning).
Before we can teach (or learn) something, the first step is figuring out what it is we want to teach (or learn). The second step is asking “Why does it matter?” One of the reasons there are so many “how to” videos on “how to do x” is because there are so many ways to get from A to B. Unfortunately, so many of them try to address very specific A’s and B’s. By approaching technology with curiosity and taking time to learn not just step one, two, and three but why we are going from one to three through two, we empower ourselves with the knowledge to adapt to new permutations – like the next time our software updates.