The Center for Musical Arts is proud to work with knowledgeable faculty with unique backgrounds. In this interview with Music in Motion instructor Katie Couch, we explore the goals behind Dalcroze Eurhythmics and how it helps kids learn music through movement. Watch or read the interview below.
Center for Musical Arts: Hello! My name is Erica Reid, I’m the Marketing Manager at the Center for Musical Arts, and we are continuing our series of interviews with Center faculty to learn all about the different classes and offerings that we have at the Center. Today, we are talking to Katie Couch. How are you doing, Katie?
Katie Couch: I’m great, thanks. How are you?
Center: Wonderful. Katie, if you could just start us off, give us the lay of the land, how long have you been with the Center and what do you teach?
Katie: Sure. I’ve been on the faculty since 2013, I believe. Either 2012 or ’13. I teach Dalcroze Eurhythmics classes, which is called “Music in Motion.” I also teach piano and I have been an accompanist for choirs, and right now I’m accompanying the cello studio.
Center: Okay, fantastic. So tell us a little bit more about Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Music in Motion. I’ve never been to one of these classes, so what takes place in one?
Katie: Dalcroze Eurhythmics is a type of music learning that involves experiencing music through your whole body in gross motor. So, whereas we usually typically learn music seated at an instrument, or at a desk with some worksheets, in Dalcroze we’re learning music theory concepts and music expressive devices through moving through a large space. Whether that’s walking with the music, or skipping, or running, or pretending that you’re a bird and flying, it involves a lot of kinesthetic activity.
Center: So tell me about the kind of student who might benefit from a class like that. Is there an age range? Is there an ability range?
Katie: That’s a great question. We teach these classes to people of all ages, kids up through seniors. In my experience, kids ages four to six especially benefit and love this class, benefit from this class. I think kids that are that young have a lot of energy and this class draws upon their natural energy and tricks them into learning, but they think that they’re playing games like it’s a gym class.
Center: Okay, so it’s mostly on the kids end then?
Katie: Yes. I also teach an adult class and adults like it too. It takes a certain kind of adult, one who’s willing to put themselves out there. You can’t be too reserved, because we ask you to do a lot of expressive movement and that takes a lot of courage, but–
Center: Be a six-year-old at heart.
Katie: Yes, exactly.
Center: What would you say is your teaching philosophy? Or put another way, what drew you to this style of teaching?
Katie: Well, personally, I took classes in college, my oral skills class was taught by a Dalcroze teacher and I really connected with the new ways of understanding music through the movement. Rather than making it all intellectual, it became physical. As I studied more, after that class was done, I kept studying with this teacher, and the further I got into my studies in Dalcroze, I was able to learn so much more about how to play the piano expressively. Whereas before, it’s always the piano teacher telling you how to make it sound beautiful, how to make it sound longing.
Once you can experience the music through your own muscle motions, the ability to be expressive just becomes more innate. So personally, that’s why I got into this, it really unlocked a whole level of musicality for me.
Center: What drew you to piano, then? And are there connections between this method of study and the way that you play piano?
Katie: Yes. That’s a great question. Well, I played piano my whole life, so that’s just always been part of my identity since I was a little kid. How Dalcroze classes are taught is through the piano, someone is improvising music at the piano, so it’s very piano centric. When you’re teaching a class through improvised music, you can really return to little concepts that your students, in that moment, need, as opposed to using recorded music or music that’s been notated on a score.
Center: I see. That’s really interesting. Did you say that you play the improvised piano?
Center: That’s got to be an interesting little skill on its own.
Katie: Yes, definitely. I think, as a classical pianist, whenever I would go visit people and they’d say, “Oh, play me something.” “I don’t have my music, I can’t play anything.” But it’s like, “I’ve played piano my whole life, how come I can’t just sit down and play?” Now being able to improvise, it is, it’s a lot more freeing, you can just sit down and play.
Center: Oh, interesting. So when you’re not teaching Dalcroze Eurhythmics/Music in Motion, you’re not playing piano, you’re not accompanying piano, what else is filling your life these days?
Katie: Well, I have two very high energy toddlers, so they take up most of my brain space. They like music too, so we do a lot of music activities.
Center: Do they? What kind of music activities are they into right now?
Katie: Well, they like banging on the piano.
Center: Who doesn’t? [laughs]
Katie: Or “playing piano.” Yes. My husband’s a percussionist, so they love the percussion instruments too. They love dancing and singing.
Center: Okay, wonderful. Is there anything that we haven’t covered here that you think somebody who is interested in one of your classes, or thinks that their kid might be a fit for that, might need to know, that we haven’t talked about yet?
Katie: I would say Dalcroze classes are very fun. I think, especially with kids, like I’ve said before. I think it’s a really engaging way for kids to learn. It’s very different from how kids are taught throughout their day, asking them to move through a large space, to run and to jump and to skip. Usually kids are told to sit still.
Also, I don’t talk to the kids that much. I feel like, especially as a parent, you’re always yapping at your kids to do something, and in Dalcroze the piano talks to them, so it engages them in a few different ways. If you’re interested, I encourage you to try it.
Center: Oh, that’s really interesting. Well, thank you so much. I might have to be one of those brave adults coming to your class and being a kid again, it sounds really fun.
Katie: I’d love that. Yes.
Center: All right. Thanks so much for talking to me today.
Katie: Thank you.