Tracy Silverman teaches Missouri Youth Orchestra how to jam at MU

Silverman spent two hours helping prepare the Missouri Youth Orchestra for their upcoming concert.

World-renowned electric violin player Tracy Silverman taught the children of the Missouri Youth Orchestra ‘How to Jam’ on Saturday morning in Waters Auditorium.

The children of the Missouri Youth Orchestra, an organization run by MU’s School of Music, seemed astounded by his unique style of playing; he created the beat and melody for the song by “chopping” the strings with his bow. Part of his lesson plan for the day was to teach the children his method and style so that they could gain inspiration from it and expand their knowledge in musical theory.

“There’s more to music than just playing the melody,” Silverman said to the 25 students of the Missouri Youth Orchestra.

His topics for the day varied from “grooving” to the blues, which two main components of "jamming" and music in general, which served as a way to relax the students and prepare them for their upcoming concert.

With an upcoming CD scheduled for release in October 2012, a 90-minute collaboration between a singer, artist and puppeteer that Silverman is writing, and a last-minute decision to perform with Terry Riley in Carnegie Hall with the Nashville Symphony for the closing concert of the 2012 Spring for Music Festival, Silverman always finds ways to keep busy.

When Silverman isn’t performing around the world or recording a new album, he teaches online lessons and holds workshops and lectures to teach people about music, generally oriented around stringed instruments or composition. His most popular workshops are for children, where he teaches concepts by adding humor and fun.

“I love teaching and working with students," Silverman's website states. "My life’s work is devoted to encouraging and developing alternative string players of all ages and levels, from kids to string teachers to working professionals.”

"Jamming" refers to the act of improvising in music as musicians play whatever they want, often within the same key and rhythm as their fellow performers. Although many jams include crazy and sporadic riffs and beats, they can be as simple as playing one note over and over or playing a scale. Silverman encouraged each child in the orchestra to try jamming at least once over the two-hour period in front of their peers, and many stuck either with one note, an arpeggio or a scale.

The "groove," in Silverman’s words, is the pulse or tempo of the music.

“The best way (to find the groove) is to physicalize the whole process," Silverman said. "(You have to) get your body moving!”

For half an hour, Silverman made the students bend their knees on every other beat to get a basic feel of grooving before he let them freestyle with their own motions. When the children used their bodies, they fell in sync with each other much better than when they had been sitting down.

To put the "groove" and "jamming" to work, Silverman taught the students a simple blues song. Since many of the children had never played blues before, Silverman gave some theory lessons beforehand. He explained that in blues and jazz there are often solos where each player gets a turn to jam.

Although Silverman specializes in string instruments, he managed to engage every child into his lessons whether they were playing cello, violin or flute.

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