Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

The art of sight-reading

40 Reflections: 40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season

No. 16

Last night we watched our son play with his high school Wind Symphony. The talent kids have these days is astounding. He sat smack in the center of the group holding his saxophone and playing effortlessly. He’s not one of those students who comes home and practices endlessly or rather, at all. But I’m sure the nearly two-hour class every day gives him time to run through Shuman’s poignant “When Jesus Wept” with his bandmates.

After they played last night, they moved to a band room where they were tasked with showing their sight-reading skills. The families watched as the wind symphony sat with new music and used their sight-reading skills to mentally prepare themselves to play.

The process of sight-reading intrigued me.

In music, sight-reading also called a prima vista (Italian meaning “at first sight”), is the practice of reading and performing a piece in a music notation that the performer has not seen or learned before.

I love the idea of mentally preparing for a task. Like warming up in the bullpen before pitching (I’m at a baseball game) or planning your dinners for the week. My husband constantly says, “preparation wins championships”.

If you ever have the opportunity to watch a sight-reading session, take it. According to the University of Connecticut’s Visions of Research in Music Education Journal, sight-reading is a critical skill for musicians, enhances every aspect of music-making, and creates the complete musician.

Here’s the process:

  • Clap/Tap to a steady beat
  • Say letter names in tempo
  • Say finger numbers (strings)
  • Pizzicato (strings); Vocalize with syllables (ta/ti)
  • Finger with sizzle
  • Play

After six minutes, they played something that did not sound like a first try. If only we all stopped and did some mental sight-reading before we spoke or emailed or interacted…maybe kindness would prevail.

I love that my kids have been part of bands, orchestras, and teams. Being a small cog in a wheel that makes beautiful music, wins a game, or stumbles together and recovers is priceless.

Please pray for Ukraine.

When Jesus wept, the falling tear

in mercy flowed beyond all bound;
when Jesus mourned, a trembling fear

seized all the guilty world around.

William Billings (1770)

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