Music program promotes composing as well as playing

Students who take the Yamaha music program benefit from comprehensive approach.
9 year old Sean Buenafe studies music and composition at Yamaha School of Music. (Leif Larsen/CBC)

Do you remember dreading piano recitals? Memorizing pieces then forgetting where you were in the music and having to reach for your book in front of everyone?

The Yamaha music program in Winnipeg not only introduces young people to the world of music. It gets them started writing their own music. And because they write it, they don't usually need to read music to play it.

Seanne Buenafe is nine years old and has been taking lessons at Yamaha since he was two years old. Surprisingly he says he feels calm when he plays. "There's nothing to worry about. I just try to fix my mistakes next time, if I make mistakes."

Denise Adams is one of the teachers at the Yamaha school. She really likes how at such a young age, children can learn how to write music. "It's quite incredible. I wasn't even aware of this program until the last three years of my career," she admitted. "Most teachers go through their life looking for their one prodigy. Right now I have 15 prodigies that are in this program. It's unbelievable."

Adams says it is possible for these young students to be able to recognize pitch, just by hearing it. "You just follow the Yamaha guidelines," she explained. "You ask the children questions. They make up little phrases of music called motifs and you just keep building from there."

Buenafe says the hardest part about writing a song is getting too fancy. "Most kids like to put fancy bits in there that can be a bit too hard for them," he said. "If it's too hard for them to play, they have to cut it out of the composition. So if the right hand is fancy, the left hand should be simple."

One thing's for sure, Buenafe is on the right track.