Ep. 139 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson. And this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. My guest today is joining me from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Anthony Molinaro is a professional musician, teacher and fellow podcaster. He spent 15 years as a classroom teacher. He holds the Dalcroze certificate and is the Eurhythmics instructor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Preparatory Academy. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Anthony.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:00:31] Thanks, Mindy. I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:33] My pleasure. I’m really looking forward to our conversation because I’m sort of tangentially aware of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. I’ve heard a lot of other music teachers mention it down through the years, always in a very positive light, but I really don’t know a whole lot about it. You’re an advocate for Dalcroze education. You serve as the board chair of the Dalcroze Society of America, and you’re a national presenter on Dalcroze pedagogy. So tell us, what is Dalcroze Eurhythmics? How do you explain it to someone who’s not familiar?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:01:10] This is like the the you know, the time honored tradition of the Eurhythmics teacher is trying to explain it to people in an elevator pitch. It’s a difficult thing to do because it’s so experiential. It is something that is way better to experience. So with that in mind, I’ll endeavor to give you a pitch. So first of all, I like to point out that the Dalcroze method is 100 years old, over 100 years old. You know, it’s hard to put an exact date on it, but Emile Dalcroze was lecturing about his methods for teaching music in the early 1900s, like 1910, 1911, 1912, something like that. And he’s a he was a Swiss teacher who the history of it is that he was a teacher at the conservatory in Geneva, Switzerland. And he had noticed that he was kind of unsatisfied with his students, sort of natural instincts for music and felt they were just way thinking way too much and not feeling enough. And so he started to develop exercises that were physical, that involves movement. It was at the time in the early 1900s, you know, extremely unheard of. I mean, this kind of thing was not training that was ever done. And so it was really cutting edge and even to this day still remains to be pretty ahead of its time. And so that’s the genesis of the method, and it involves learning and knowing music through physical experience. There’s a series of movement activities and exercises that we do that help us to sort of connect to musical elements through this embodied experience. I myself was trained as a Delarosa and from a very young age. I started these classes when I was five years old. Oh, really? So yeah, I really had a rare opportunity to kind of really be oriented to it fundamentally. And even most Eurhythmics teachers don’t have that luxury. Even most Eurhythmics teachers came to it later. But I came to it from a very young age, and and it’s really informed primarily my own musicianship and then from there my teaching.

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:11] Aha. Well, you when you started the explanation, you said it’s easiest to understand when you experience it because it is so experiential. And immediately I thought of a video that’s on your website that shows a class in various aspects of learning in this way. So I think the very first segment of the video, so students kind of skipping in different patterns depending on what rhythmic pattern they’re hearing you play on the piano. And then I think the second segment is the students listening to, I think, the same rhythms. And instead of skipping the different rhythms, they’re notating them on individual little white boards. And so it shows sort of different aspects of how students are learning through this method or using these principles. And it really does help to grasp and understand a little bit more of the method itself in terms of just describing it verbally, which is what we have to work with today in our podcast. And I’ll certainly include a link to that video to in the show notes though, so listeners can certainly go and check that out. But in terms of describing it some more verbally, Velcro is Eurhythmics incorporates the basic elements of music, rhythm, melody, harmony with body movement. So it’s this multidimensional approach to learning music. And I think there’s no real set.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:04:42] Curriculum, right? Yeah. That’s one of the things about Dalcroze Eurhythmics that is a big differentiator between it and some of the other methods is that there’s not a sequence really that was like agreed upon in the Dalcroze community. We we sort of have this idea of, I call it an inside out approach where we start with. What you can experience and then bring it up into a level of understanding, conscious understanding, right? So whatever concept it is, however, we can get you to experience it physically. So let’s say we’re talking about meter. I think meters are really clear when to describe. So if I’m talking about if something’s in three, four time or four, four time, I never use the numbers to describe it ever. What I use to describe it is the feeling of it, right? So this one would be maybe I might call it a down out pattern or a circle pattern. That’s a three pattern. It’s got a certain feeling to it and and d to. Right. It’s got this feeling of three. We don’t count it, we feel the three. And then when we go to notate it, then we’re operating from that supposition that we’re first able to experience what that is and then give it a name. And so all of the concepts, any concept can be done this way. So I think about the sequence thing more like you would think about it in like a yoga class, right? So like, you know, you, you know, there’s not a certain set number of poses you have to learn in yoga in some particular order. Obviously there’s ones that are easier that you start with, but you know, it’s just about getting a really strong musical workout and getting stronger and all of these different concepts and being able to bring about that realization on each one in its own time through the experience. So it’s, it’s really, it’s very individual for each student. And depending on what kind of room I walk into and what level the students are at, then that’s where I’ll start.

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:33] Well, you mentioned one of the benefits of this method, just when you’re talking about its inception, its genesis, and Dalcroze, the teacher, was looking for a method of teaching that would make music more intuitive to us. Yes. And he was concerned that they were a little bit too in their head and not really feeling it and being approaching it from a more intuitive perspective. And I could see that being fantastic because I’m totally that way. Like I totally overthink things and need to just sometimes go with my gut more or just experience something more. I could also see this method being really helpful though for. For students who tend to learn in a more kinesthetic type of a way. I mean, schools tend to be set up for people like me who are very visual learners, and you kind of feel bad for those kids that just that’s not their primary mode of learning. That’s not necessarily where they thrive. And so I could see this method of learning being really helpful for them. Do you see that with some of the different styles of learning.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:07:39] In students.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:39] That come into your class?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:07:41] Yeah. I mean, you know, as teachers were encouraged to be multimodal. Right. And I think often the one that gets the short end of the stick there is that kinesthetic learning. In our public school system, I mean, I comment all the time about how our children are sitting in desks way too much. And in my room we don’t even have any desks. So, you know, the the children come in and we’re very physical the whole time. And I would say that in music classes it’s very helpful. The kids have a great time. It’s very freeing and natural. And like I sometimes I tell a story, I’m not sure how much I want to get into it. But, you know, if you ask 100 people if they like music, just ask 100 people on the street. If they like music, how many of them say yes?

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:25] Like most, if not all. Yeah.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:08:27] Yeah. And ask that same hundred people if they like music class or practicing.

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:32] Yeah.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:08:33] And and you get a different answer. You know, I’m not, you know, depending on what their experience was. And that’s kind of a shame because if we have a subject matter that’s that popular, right? How is it that we’re not able to make it more enjoyable? And I kind of compare it to like if you had a class called ice cream class, imagine that you had this class called ice cream class. And but then the kids come and, you know, you don’t actually give them any ice cream. You talk about ice cream. Maybe you learn the history of ice cream. Maybe they watch you eat ice cream a little bit, you know. But that would be frustrating, wouldn’t it? You know, so so the point the beautiful thing about Eurhythmics is that I can give the students a very robust, full musical experience without the barrier of them having to learn how to play an instrument or having them to learn how to match, pitch or sing with a great tone. They can get it just the instrument is their body and they can gain that beautiful musical experience through these movement exercises, sustained flow through these things. Like, you know, it’s one thing to sing a song that’s kind of fun and that’s nice and then it’s over. But like, the exercise is just flow on and on and the students get lost in it and it is like it’s very, very compelling for them. They really enjoy it. Not because it’s silly playtime, not because I’m such a funny teacher or something, or I wear silly costumes or that the lights are particularly bright or whatever. It’s because the musical experience is so rich. They enjoy it. And that’s why I’ve been sold on this method for so long, because it helps me make music the center of my class.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:06] Wow. That’s pretty powerful. I mean, it really is sort of it taps into that natural playfulness of students in a way, and it’s also sort of taps into that inability of a lot of young kids to sit still, kind of like those that there was a trend for a while in school classrooms to replace desk chairs with those walls, you know, because it kind of like they have this energy that they need to sort of use. And the ball’s tapped into that. And AC Delco is kind of doing that too. Or it gets kids moving. They’re not expected to sit still on a bench and just sit and listen to an adult speak. Yeah. Are the dull crow’s classes just for kids or are they for.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:10:46] No, no, no, no, no, no. In fact, you know, so Emile Dalcroze, you know, made his method for adults. Right? So that’s an important distinction as well. Like, you know, he he was dealing with college students and, you know, professionals. And then he learned how to take what he found down to and use with children. And I would say a majority of Eurhythmics teachers actually teach at the collegiate level. There’s a strong group of us who are who teach children. I tend to specialize in children, although I’m doing more work with teacher training on older students as well. But you know, my specialty is definitely the young ones, but the yeah, it’s certainly not just for kids. In fact, you know, I still will take a Eurhythmics class and feel like I gained something myself as a musician. You know, it’s still informs my musicianship to this day. So it’s very powerful.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:36] Does it style? The style and the principles of the method lend itself more to say preschool children who might be too young to take a more traditional, say, piano lesson class, I think?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:11:49] Well, there’s a there’s a lot of discussion in the diverse community about this topic in that it is a great selling point of it in that it’s a great primer for for instrumental practice. But I would say that because the principles are so strong, it does work really, really well for preschool kids. But I wouldn’t say that it is. Better necessarily for preschool kids than it is for upper elementary kids. I mean, I feel like at every level there’s a way that these principals really create a lot of joy and a lot of musical experience. I think the the great selling point of the preschool child is that it kind of works around what our like theoretical understanding of music is or like literacy or these things. It kind of doesn’t end around around these things. So it allows you to, you know, things like it doesn’t you can do it without a lot of fine motor coordination. Right? It’s gross. It’s all gross motor stuff or can be. So we can really tap into things like bilateral movement that are like, you know, developmentally for a preschool kid, just that like idea of reaching across their body is sort of like, ooh, and that’s like a developmental section. And we can start to kind of see that emerge in the Crows work. Things like that are really interesting. And, you know, I think it’s powerful for all levels. I think if you’re a preschool teacher, it should definitely be something you should think about incorporating. I think if you’re teaching elementary, if you’re teaching college all the way up to the work that it’s being done with senior citizens, with it actually, which is actually some of the most exciting work that’s being done right now.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:28] Yeah. I definitely want to save some time to talk about that. When you said bilateral movement, that reminds me, I hear a lot about that with kids who have autism. So I can imagine that this is really helpful for kids who have autism, too. Well, the Velcro approach, it trains the body in rhythm and dynamics. Does it also use sulfides?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:13:48] Yeah. Yeah. So there’s a whole, you know, branch of this of the methods that sucrose and sulfate and I’m I have become more and more facile with it in my own practice like I’m using it more and more in my own teaching. It’s very cool because it’s the same principle. It’s about experiencing what is the experience of, you know, the harmony, what is the experience of the tonality, and how can we kind of capture that in a physical way? It’s very, very interesting. And again, it kind of gamified everything, too. So it makes everything very engaging in a way because of the way that the method is so good at being playful or these like these sulfate exercises are extremely playful and extremely powerful in their ability to internalize the sensation of these things. Instead of just thinking about it as this sort of cognitive exercise you’re training, right? It’s like about actually training the body to attenuate to these sort of concepts of pitch and harmony. So it’s very, very cool stuff. And I encourage anybody who’s who’s interested in this stuff to follow up and do some more research. You’ll see. I mean, it’s very it’s very interesting to see how it unfolds. Now, a caveat I usually give is that, you know, these things are so experiential. I said this at the beginning to it’s even if you go look at some videos, sometimes you’re looking at it and it’s hard to tell what’s going on. And something is like my project these days is figuring out how to make these concepts more accessible to people via online platforms. And so if people are following my work, they’ll see that this is the endeavor that I’m on is to try to figure out how to make these concepts work in these platforms. And it’s very interesting to see these challenges.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:37] I think one of the other key aspects of the Dalcroze approach is improv. Is that right?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:15:44] Yes, absolutely.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:45] Yeah. And that kind of plays into that whole concept of making this a full body holistic integration of music rather than just a cerebral cognitive exercise. But talk to us about the role that improvisation plays in the Delgado’s approach.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:16:01] Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s one of the things that people see right on the front, on the surface of it, when they watch a Dalcroze teacher or they watch a class or they take a class, it’s like, Oh, this is there’s so much improvisation happening. And it’s true. I mean, I think Emile Jacques found that improvisation was a great avenue to gaining fluency as a musician. So think about it in terms of language. You learn to speak basically by improvising, actually first a little bit by echoing, and then and then eventually you just start improvising your speech and then eventually you learn to read it and then and speak speak what you’re reading and then what you would endeavor to do when you were like maybe reading fluently from a, from a passage would be to speak it in a way that was extemporaneous, right? To speak it in a way as if it was improv, improvised. Right. And in music, we sort of it can follow a similar trajectory, right? If you can learn how to improvise convincingly in naturally and expressively in your own way, whenever you play a Beethoven piece, it should sound as if it’s just coming off the top of your head. It should sound so fluid and so fluent as if it’s your expression. You know somebody who comes from a background where improvisation was. Part of my sort of upbringing as a musician and a big part of my life as a professional musician. That training that I received in the Dalcroze method, it makes improvisation very natural and sort of scary because again, we can improvise just through our physical movements in ways that are very natural and very unassuming. So before you know it, you’re improvising something you didn’t even realize it was happening. You know, instead of sitting down at the piano and being like, make up some music, like, that’s like extremely intimidating, you know? But the Dalcroze brings it about in a very gradual way that makes it extremely natural.

Mindy Peterson: [00:17:47] Yeah, well, you use the word somewhere in there of expression, and I could see this really being helpful in developing that skill within students of allowing them to play with expression or sing with expression just because of how they’re being taught and how they’re going about learning this and this holistic, full body way. Do students learn how to read a musical score using this method?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:18:13] Absolutely. Yeah. And again, it kind of comes about in the same way we think about literacy in language. You know, we start with the experience of it like so for instance, if you when you learn to read, write, you learned first you learn to say like, Hey, I want an apple and your mom gave you an apple because it’s so cute. You said apple. Here you go. Here’s an apple. And then eventually, you know, somebody said, well, here’s how you spell apple, right? And usually there was like a picture of an apple next to it. And then I get it. And then you kind of figure that out, right? And so music is like kind of a similar trajectory. First, we might be improvising a pattern, a rhythmic pattern or a melodic pattern. We might be using it out of context. And then eventually you sort of abstractly put it up onto a staff. I usually start with like a one line staff, so it’s just like Do-Re-Mi and then, you know, just make a very simple little pattern and like, I mean the students pick it up so fast if you simplify it and then before you know what they’re reading on the one line staff, you add a line. Now it’s a two line staff and three lines that by the time they’re in third or fourth grade, they’re reading all five lines. And I didn’t even ever have to tell them any. Every good boy does fine any of that stuff. Kind of like those kind of shortcuts that we use. That’s all cerebral stuff, that’s like abstract, right? It’s like the idea of experiential growth. It’s like, well, of course, that’s how you would write that. That makes sense.

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:31] It’s a very organic type of a progression.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:19:33] Yeah, it’s.

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:34] Interesting. Well, let’s go back to what you said about using Dalcroze Eurhythmics with the elderly, with senior citizens, and tell us about what’s going on with that. I want to I’m excited to hear about that.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:19:45] Yeah, well, it’s a big movement actually in Switzerland, which is still the institute. Jacques Dalcroze in Switzerland is still very active. It’s still the if you are going to be certified in Eurhythmics, that means that you have at some point studied with somebody who studied at the Institute in Geneva. Right. So they still have a very strong connection to things and they’ve really been doing a lot of work. There’s a researcher up there called Redox Lessig, and he has a study that pretty definitively shows that Eurhythmics reduces, falls for the elderly and increases their balance in their flexibility in their joints. And actually, it’s so definitive that insurance companies in Switzerland are paying for for their take Eurhythmics, because the benefits have been so clearly shown through research. Yeah, but there’s.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:35] Also a way. Are we from that here?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:20:37] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, we don’t have enough practitioners to do it on that level, but we certainly have people doing this work. There’s a good friend of mine named Leslie Upchurch in New York City. I’m sure she’ll listen to this. And she is doing she’s one of the kind of premier people in the States for this sort of work. And she she talks about it in lectures. I’ve seen her do several demos with it. It’s fantastic. And there’s cognitive benefits and, you know, just like emotional benefits, you know, I mean, like, I mean, obviously, music therapy is something that we’ve known about for a long time as having benefits. And I wish there was more buy in for music therapy in general. But Eurhythmics, as a as a sort of branch of music therapy, is showing a lot of promise. And, you know, that’s part of the reason I’m here, Mindy, is to to tell people to do some do look into getting some training, look into this stuff because the work is so powerful, we can do so much with it. I’m a big believer in these sort of benefits, but the work being done with the elderly is so important and I think it could be a game changer.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:37] Yeah, well, I’ll definitely include any links that you can send me on what’s going on in terms of research and application of this method in those therapeutic uses, any other therapeutic applications that you want to talk about in terms of how Velcro is being used to promote wellness through social emotional learning and mindfulness, anything like that?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:22:00] You know, it’s so funny. At my school, they they bought this cell curriculum for the whole school called Mind Up, which I’m not necessarily shilling for it, but that is what that curriculum was called and. They came to me and they said, Hey, there’s some lessons here that are like music. I’m not sure what they are like. And they looked at him and you know what they were. They were Dalcroze lessons like exactly like I do them. And I was like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Because they they get it. Because it involves such integration of the body and the mind, and it’s meditative in a certain way. And it’s very much requires, like, awareness. You know, awareness is a big thing. I talk about a lot and these ideas that if you are conscious of your own internal feelings and also sensitive to the people around you. Right. This is like a synergy that happens in a Eurhythmics class. It encourages empathy and it normalizes vulnerability. And it’s it’s so great for children and teenagers and young adults to be practicing as they are kind of navigating the you know, the trying times that we have, you know, how much stuff is happening in virtual space. And that’s and I’m working on how to how to make Eurhythmics work better in virtual spaces because I think that’s the way things are going. But boy, it’s so nice to be in a physical moment with somebody you know and present in that way. And Eurhythmics just requires that of you, which is really interesting.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:26] What kind of growth are you seeing in Dell Crowe’s practice in terms of awareness, interest, attention and the scientific community?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:23:34] Sure. You know, obviously it’s 100 year old method, so it’s had its peaks and valleys throughout the years. There was a big renaissance in the 1980s. That’s kind of I was born in 1980. And so I sort of got swept up in whatever kind of push was happening in the 1980s. That’s how I got oriented to it. And we’re really seeing a nice upward trajectory for the practice right now. You know, as I recently termed out as the board chair of the Doctor Society of America, although I am, I am still heavily involved in it. So just earlier in the thing in my bio, yeah, that just on July 1st I termed out but still definitely around there. But you know, we’re seeing our membership increase rapidly. We’re seeing a younger, more active, more vibrant community embracing this these ideas. I just was able to coordinate basically a roundtable discussion with like the leadership of all of the other major music education organizations in the states to start a conversation about how we can help each other on our common cause. We’re seeing, you know, not only music education, I think, on the ascendant, but I think, you know, Eurhythmics is in a lot of ways, you know, leading the way in sort of becoming more unified with our with our as a practice of music education. So, you know, I think that Eurhythmics is, you know, the Dalcroze practice is ascendant and we are excited about the future.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:59] How can listeners find out what kind of programming is available in their area?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:25:05] The Dalcroze and Dalcroze USAR org is the Dalcroze Society of America website, and that would have like your biggest sort of aggregate of all of the training centers that are endorsed. But I definitely recommend people to check out my substack I’m writing it’s at music substack dot com. That’s the main resource I’m getting behind right now. I think it’s the best way for me to sort of share these ideas and kind of direct people where we need to go and get to know the community a bit. And it’s a free subscribe, but people should subscribe to that substack if they really want to kind of get educated in this stuff. That’s really my, my main project right now is, is writing on that substack and I think it’s a great way to initiate people into the community.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:48] Sure. Yeah, I’ll definitely have a link to that. In the show notes, you also have a website, you have a podcast.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:25:54] And a New York. Roseann is the podcast. That’s a great podcast I co-hosted with Lauren Hodson and that’s a great way if people are listening to this, they’re already into podcasts. Just look up the New Dalcrozian. And that one is we are we’re always putting out well, we’re sporadically putting out episodes, I’ll say. But but they are they’re they’re great interviews with some of the world’s leading doctors, practitioners.

Mindy Peterson: [00:26:14] And the other information that you want listeners to know about the resources that you offer or any additional resources that you want listeners to know.

Anthony Molinaro: [00:26:22] About. Yeah. I mean, there’s a there’s a lot of interesting stuff. And because of the nature of your podcast, I’ve listened to several of your episodes. People should also check out what’s called the International Conference of Crows Studies. So Dalcroze studies is this sort of this organization that’s interested in research based sort of crossover with neuroscience, crossover with music therapy, crossover with a lot of different histories. And, you know, how do how does the Crows method fit into these other disciplines? It’s very, very interesting stuff. In fact, our the conference in 2023 will be at Carnegie Mellon, where I am on faculty. So it’ll be a really interesting experience. But you know, there is some great work being done to sort of quantify some of the benefits of. Gross method scientifically. And, you know, this is I don’t think Emile could have ever foreseen that that would have been possible. And a lot of the things he’s intuited 100 years ago were finding are able to be backed up with research, which is super interesting.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:28] Yeah, well, this has been great. I am really fascinated by this whole method now and want to dig in some more. I’ll definitely include, like I said, lots of links in the show notes for other listeners who want to do the same thing. Anthony I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending a coda by sharing song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or a story that you can share with us today?

Anthony Molinaro: [00:27:54] Sure. Yeah. So there’s a song. My wife is a wonderful songwriter and singer and we’ve collaborated on many projects and we’ve been working on a project recently called Qualia, which is just a collection of her songs. And so this one’s a rough mix of one of her more recent songs, which is like, I think this beautiful exploration of sort of the arc of life. I think, you know, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t want to tell her story too much, but it has to do with a relative of hers who sort of died tragically. And it was had to do with, like, this whole arc of, you know, birth and then struggle and then the release of death, which is pretty heavy to talk about right now. But I would say that this is exactly the kind of statement we can make with music, the kind of thing we can communicate with music that is makes it so powerful and rich. So I’d like to share this song. It’s called The Ground.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai