For as long as I can remember I’ve tried to figure out what makes remarkable performers and conductors, well, remarkable. I don’t mean just good. I mean the greatest of the greats. I bet we could all fill books with what we believe makes them so very special, but a sentiment high on my list can be found in the wonderful words of Richard Wagner, when he stated, “The big notes come of themselves; it is the little notes that require attention…”

The moment I read those words I realized their power. I started listening to music through that lens. Far more importantly, I started helping my students look through that very lens as well, so they could discover how often musical beauty is achieved by emphasizing, stretching, or leaning on a tiny note of seemingly no consequence. By guiding, demonstrating, cajoling, and modeling that notion, we can help every student express themselves in ways they’ve never dreamt of doing. It will soon become clear how a little attention paid to the smallest and least obvious moments or sounds in a measure or phrase can make a huge, incalculable difference.

Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
KHS America

About the Author

Dr. Boonshaft, Director of Education for KHS America, is the author of the critically acclaimed best-selling books Teaching Music with Passion, Teaching Music with Purpose, and Teaching Music with Promise. He was honored by the National Association for Music Education and Music For All as the first recipient of the “George M. Parks Award for Leadership in Music Education.” Dr. Boonshaft was selected for the Center for Scholarly Research and Academic Excellence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, where he is Professor Emeritus of Music.