Megumi Smith, M. Mus
Teaching LMU Dance Department’s Intro to Music Course
What is your favorite part about teaching dancers the fundamentals of music?
First, I’ve really enjoyed working with my students on the details and nuances of rhythm and meter. I think we can all agree that dancers need to understand this. One thing that is interesting to me is that musicians and dancers often think about rhythm and meter differently. I’ve also enjoyed watching each students impressions and reactions to what we’ve been learning. Everyone has a unique way of expressing themselves physically, and each week has new surprises for me. I’m looking forward to the choreography projects later in the semester.
What’s your experience like working with dancers?
All my experiences have been amazing! Working with dancers gives me a close look at how physical movement relates to music; it also helps me develop a strong sense of time and where to apply accents when performing. For example, when playing in the pit for ballet, musicians need to stretch time a bit from the actual music notation in order to follow and support the dancer’s movements. Or, when working with a solo dancer, I’ll watch the dancer’s movement carefully and we communicate together to create an organic, flowing experience; the meter and rhythm might be steady and even, or there may be some irregularity. I have to be flexible and prepared to react appropriately based on what I’m seeing and feeling. I’ve grown so much and in many unexpected ways from my collaborations with dancers.
What advice would you give to dancers entering the music world?
First, treat everyone you meet with respect and kindness; everything else is secondary. Then I’d say, always do your best, even if it seems like a small job or project. Music is one of your most valuable life skills. Understanding the nature of music will certainly create additional possibilities for conceptualizing movement. It allows you to learn and include a new language into your repertoire. It allows you to find your own phrasing and dynamics within the choreography. We can change our world through music!
How did you get introduced to LMU and how do you like working here?
I have known about LMU for a long time because my son attended the Children’s Center on campus and also my husband, Aaron Smith is a member of the music department faculty. I LOVE working at LMU! When I come to the campus, I feel positive energy from all the faculty and students.
How has everything changed for you over COVID?
During the pandemic, I created ways for my students to remain engaged in music making through the use of digital recording/ editing. It was a great experience for all of us. I believe connecting with other people is essential in our lives, and creating music is one of the most powerful tools we have to make those connections. During the pandemic, playing music in real time with others was nearly non-existent; the lack of playing and performing with other musicians made me realize how much I need to do that to be a complete person.