Stories and Testimonials
Most teachers revel at watching "the light bulb go on." Stephanie Arrigotti, Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company director and WNC professor of music, knows what they mean. "When I walk students through a Bach fugue, I love it when they hear the melody embedded in the intricate counterpoint and blurt, "There it is! I get it now," she said.
Most of the time, though, she doesn't deal with these cerebral light bulbs. The light she's searching for is much deeper.
What happens when an adult sets hands on piano keys for the first time? That moment marks more than an intellectual journey: it is an artistic adventure. And it is the beginning of a relationship of trust with his teacher. Somehow, playing wrong notes on an instrument or singing badly in front of a teacher is far more humiliating than making a mistake in math. Think about it. Could you stand up and sing at a public meeting without feeling completely vulnerable? Why is that?
Because creating music involves far more than the intellect. It probes emotions. It reveals creativity. At best, it releases the spirit. And your teacher is the person you trust to guide you through this journey, correcting your technique, encouraging your development, inspiring you to improve and always accepting whatever singularity has shaped your performance.
"I feel deeply privileged to be entrusted to open that unexplored and thrilling world to my students," Arrigotti said. "I coach my piano students in accurate rhythm, proper hand position and well-articulated phrases. I walk my musical theatre students through stagings, vocal technique and dramatic expression. But all that is just hollow structure. Art happens when they breathe life into that medium. Their life."
It is an experience different from any other. Play music and anger is melted, irritation is soothed, and nerves are calmed. What's truly extraordinary about this process, though, is that the intellect is also strengthened - and not just in music. The mental development that accompanies musical study extends into math and reading. Areas of the brain are developed such that music students often become the top scorers in mathematics.
What's more, this mental acuity continues throughout life. Neuroscientists are postulating that studying a musical instrument may actually change the way the brain is wired, staving off dementia in the elderly.
Success extends into the business world as well. Theatrical performers typically approach job interviews with confidence. They speak with clarity, humor, candor and a timing that holds interest - all qualities developed in their stage performances. While the final chip played is control of the subject matter, the hand is ultimately won by delivery.
The value of artistic performance is exponentially increased because the experience is often shared with an audience. The response to a fine performance is powerful. "I am honored that thousands of people repeatedly travel to our productions year after year from all around California and Nevada because they value this experience so much," she adds. "Some families plan their family reunions around our productions. One audience member from New York told me he planned his business trips around our shows. These performances create a magnet that binds the college with a much larger society. In a way, my teaching responsibilities entrust me with affecting the consciousness of a very large community."
"It is no wonder that any creditable institution of higher learning has a fine arts requirement," Arrigotti said. "These classes may, indeed, be the most vital courses taken in an academic career, developing students intellectually as well as personally and artistically. Performing arts is the heart of the institution, the lifeblood that binds students with each other and with the community. It is a powerful expression of intellect, will, and spirit. That is why I teach."
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