I’m still coming off of a cloud from last weekend’s Young Musicians Showcase! It was an incredible event and I was impressed by/inspired by/ proud of all the young musicians who put their hearts on the stage to share the music they have worked so hard on. You can see photos from the show here.
Of all the comments I got during and after the event, one stuck out in my mind because almost everyone said it in different ways: “thank you for listening to my child and making her feel that her creative ideas are worth exploring”. And it’s true! I do that. I HAVE to do that. It is not my place to tell someone, ANYONE (regardless of age or how rudimentary they are on their instrument), how they should interpret the music.
I strongly believe this because music is not mine to hold. Music is not mine to contain. I may have more experience than my students, but I was once in their shoes. I played music I didn’t like because I HAD to in order to get to the fun stuff (and I quit piano for a long time because of this). I was told my voice “wasn’t suited for the chorale” despite being 18 and already having 9 years of professional vocal performance experience and training under my belt.
When I think about it, I credit my love for music entirely on the teachers who let me explore. The ones who listened to my ideas, encouraged my creativity and said “go ahead honey! Give it a shot!” I will even name names here: Robert Apostle in New Music Singers; Eric Rockwell at TADA Theater; Joe Kerr, the piano teacher who helped me discover piano music I liked, even after quitting once before; Ms. Morris, I.S.44 middle school choir director. My dad who never forced his own musical ideas on me despite him being one of the top guitarists in the world (Stanley Jordan – google him); My mom who showed me A minor, G, C, and E minor chords on my acoustic guitar and then left the room saying, “you should write a song with these chords!”
I’ve been so lucky to have had this encouragement in my life. They listened to me. They let me be me! And now I have the opportunity to pass that approach on to a new generation of music makers. This approach works. It inspires a sense of awe and wonder at all the possibilities there are in music.
Plus, it makes lessons fun! If you enjoy doing something, you’ll do it. And the more you do something the better you get at it. Then, the more questions you’ll have related to music theory and actually “reading” the music. Then I, as the music teacher, answer those questions. And my students’ level of understanding increases tenfold because the answer is rooted in something they were curious about. The theory of music ends up sticking on a much deeper level.
If you find a music teacher like that, in whatever instrument you or your son/daughter/mother/grandchild wants to play, you have found them an endless resource for inspiration and encouragement. Stick with that teacher and see what amazing things come out of that partnership.
Do you have a music teacher you love?! Tell me about this person in the comments below! S/he deserves to be recognized!