On Nurturing Students

Northwestern School of Music Imagery

On one recent weekend two of my students shared a recital.  One is a high school junior, and he played the bulk of the program; a high school sophomore “assisted” with a nice set of pieces in the middle of the program.  Her role, besides the experience of performing a larger set of pieces than usual, was to give a little focus-time to her cohort.  They did marvelously!

I’ve thought about the recital quite a bit this week.  I try hard to give my students perspective when they accomplish something significant.  I think they look up to me, and my playing abilities, so when I tell them that I had never done such an extended performance until college, they are amazed.  And, I think, flattered.

I’ve also pondered the array of things that I am trying to teach my students.  They learn how to read music (a much greater task than learning to read notes!); they learn how to practice; learn how to listen and interpret a score, and how to memorize their music.  Finally, they learn how to perform.  None of these items naturally lead to the next.  They form a comprehensive curriculum to be mastered, and then integrated into a whole, a total musician.

I spent a whole day re-amazing myself that these two students have come so far on the path to musical magic in the age of short attention spans, digital devices and a demand for instant gratification.  These two students are not the only ones that are developing in such a positive manner.  How blessed I am to be able to hang out with superior people!

Actually, I think all of my own accomplishments are the result of luck, fate, or whatever it might be called.  So much came so easily to me.  Reading musical notation never posed a problem.  I had a teacher that assigned me mass quantities of music every week.  Virtually no polishing was done, and no finesse was expected.  Once a year I would perform one piece in her home, along with all of her other students.  I loved spending time at the piano, so inefficient as my “practicing” was, I absorbed a love for the piano, and the ability to read music easily.

Learning how to practice well, and how to perform came with some pain, and only small successes for a long time.  Memorizing was my curse.  I don’t think anyone ever attempted to help me with that.  Trial and error was my god!  In a large way, I think I was as much self-taught as I was tutored.  Even through multiple degrees in piano performance!  I think that the teacher I am is the result of being the best in my own teachers, and being what none of my teachers ever were… nurturers.  As a result, my students are stunningly better at being students that I ever was.


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