Debra Swersky
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"Please memorize..."

“What was the last thing you memorized?” my A Cappella mentor asked. 

There are two questions that should come to mind after reading that sentence: 1) Who memorizes anything these days? and 2) Debra, for what purpose do you have an A Cappella mentor? Great. Flippin’. Questions. 

[Blank stare] I couldn’t (and can’t) remember the last thing that I memorized. There are, however, lots of things that I remember that others might classify as memorizing... like names of classmates. Yet, to me, that’s not “memorizing a list of classmates,” it’s “integrating and building off of the main ideas of my classmates, who I name in my response, into my discussion points.” It’s not  “memorize the list of home items in Spanish,” it’s “use the Spanish words for the items that I can find in my home.” 

Memorization, to me, was never about “memorizing.” Memorization was about applying the idea of remembering to me personally and applying the idea or concept that I “needed to memorize” to life. That’s why I appreciate services like Duolingo (for language learning) and TheSkimm (for basic current events)... and, Babson College (for its teaching style).

My response to my A Cappella mentor (I’ll get to what’s up with that, shortly) was, “I don’t memorize. It’s more like brute force to the head.” And in that statement, I mean that it’s interacting with the information that I’m trying to memorize in every way possible. DuoLingo, mentioned above, is a good example of this learning style. The language application is a game in which you, the player, learns a new vocabulary word (or sentence structure) by seeing a picture, spelling a word / typing out a phrase, translating the word/phrase into both your native language and the language that you’re learning, listening to the word/phrase being said, and speaking the word/phrase. 

It’s interacting with your brain from all angles… my version of “memorization by brute force.”

Insomuch as my A Cappella mentor, I haven’t sang a “real” note since 6th grade but adore A Cappella music. (And I’m not quite sure that I was singing “real” notes when I was in 6th grade… but anyway...) In an effort to murder the boundaries of my comfort zone and learn something new, I reached out to Boston-based A Cappella groups to take me on as a “project.” I wanted to sing and perform one-song with a group on stage. So… I have a group that took me on. I have a song to sing. I’m learning the song via “brute force to the head.” And, I’ll keep you posted as to the performance. (Holy. Cow.)

Debra Swersky