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.