Speaking About Reading Out Loud

Updated: Oct 18

When I ask the general question, “Do you read music?” I get a variety of answers. Often they go somewhere along the lines of something that Good Boys Find After the Cat Eats Grass…and treble clef and hole notes and those other ones. Some have learned piano or guitar from watching YouTube and many love to sing. Singing is cool because you always have your instrument with you and absolutely everyone CAN sing (although some have been told or will say that they “can’t”).


We ALL love music, in one form or another. We may appreciate an artist or a style or have a broader, more eclectic approach, but there is something for all of us. Isn’t that amazing? I posted a letter that Helen Keller wrote about “listening” to Beethoven. Incredible the depth of appreciation she had for the nuances of voicing and the complexity of the rhythms. Worth reading!


To participate in music, whether singing along with a recording, or responding with movement is so innate and universal. I call that God-given. It’s a part of us. Music is not a thing that “some people do,” or that “some have a talent for.” It is a part of our very soul. Many great books have been written that explore these depths and I’m not even trying to summarize those works. I’m heading somewhere else.


We communicate through spoken and written words and even body language. Why? Because we are not “made” to live alone. Whether we are “good” at speaking or “talented” as a writer, we ALL “speak” and “write” (even if it’s with our thumbs or pictures). If music is so universal, does it not make sense that we can benefit by more clearly understanding some of the layers and participating in the communication?


I’m going to dive right into our "little choir that could" as a prime example right now. We have a wide range of ages and “abilities” walk through the door and look at the coded dots and lines on a page that are accompanied (usually) by words. Each person is asked to follow along and have a part in producing a sound that together makes something we couldn’t do separately. We hope the group sound is pleasant and that the result is more than satisfying to the ear. Sometimes what we produce is less than perfect and might even be worth a good laugh (which happens a lot, actually). But we are working and learning together. It’s like having a guided conversation about a wide range of topics. At times we choose to share what we’ve done with others, and sometimes we just keep it to ourselves.


No one is required to understand all the code and we don’t have a lot of time to teach it during our group conversations (aka rehearsal). But the more you “speak” and “listen” the more you understand. You might even feel compelled to learn some things on your own so that you could deepen your understanding of what’s taking place.


We can help you with that. Maybe you don’t live near here, don’t have the time or already know your “ABCs.” That’s fine. Maybe you’d like to try out this choir thing but don’t want to do an extra class. That’s fine. Maybe you don’t want anything to do with anything that has to do with music, or singing, or even more specifically, Talents Unleashed. That’s fine, too. Really. Our Creator has provided so many options. Just be aware of them!


So - to make you more aware of our little world, I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets. 1) Although “Talent” implies a certain level of skill, each and every person can take what they’re given and do more with it.* You can increase your spoken and written vocabulary, and you can do so with music as well. 2) This writer/director doesn’t know everything. 3) The basics of music reading can be taught in a day - even in an hour, and the deepening of understanding will continue with a lifetime of “practice” (just like you practice speaking and reading every day).


This music teacher used to be known as a good sight reader - on piano. You could put a piece of music in front of me and I could get through it pretty well. The code went straight through from the paper into my fingers. However, when it came time to graduate UCF with a degree in music education, I FAILED the sight-singing test. Although I had sung in choirs and performing groups for years (often holding onto the harder 2nd soprano part) and could sing solfege intervals (DO-RE-MIs) in vocal warmups, I had not practiced seeing the code on the paper and producing the right sound on sight. It’s all about what I did with my time. Yes, it’s embarrassing to share this. It was like I could read silently, or have a conversation, but could not read out loud. How did I get through? I had to get some music and practice singing the notes I saw out loud.


Back to the little choir example: Young folks might think it’s for old people who can’t do the more rigorous work of singing with choreography like we often do at Talents Unleashed. And that might be true in some instances! Older people might think that participating in music is something that young people should do as part of some rite of passage, or as part of their general education. You know what I’m going to say now, don’t you? What if there’s a place where we can have a conversation with a broad range of ages about a broad range of topics and end up agreeing in harmony that we have something important to share? If in the process someone wants to increase their vocabulary in order to go more in depth, they might take our “music intensive” or find some ongoing music reading classes.


If not local (or even if you are), you could consider other alternatives, of course. But we’d be honored if you’d consider our modest offerings (oh, I’m sounding like an ad again). That’s OK. To advertise is just to let you know what’s available. You are the consumer and can take it or leave it. But appreciate the access, the process, the talent* that you have been given. Take whatever you have and do more with it - wherever you are, whatever the circumstance. Join us if you can, if you will, or find others and have that conversation.

*There is a story that Jesus told that you can find in chapter 25 of the book of Matthew. Maybe I’ll ramble about that on another day. It’s a good read - and the principle applies. Maybe practice reading it out loud and thinking about applying it to music.