“The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.” – Joseph Campbell
I had an experience today with the parent of a student that really made me take a step back. This student started piano lessons as a beginner in June and so has had only a handful of lessons. She is doing so well. She is eager to learn and excited with each lesson. She truly is a delight to teach. Today, in her lesson, we played and then recorded a duet of “Old Macdonald.” It was nothing fancy. After her lesson, her father made the comment on how amazed he is that we are making “real” music from these beginning stages. I must have shown my confusion. He then clarified by making a comment about me playing duets with her right from the first lesson. In her very first lesson, she learned to improv a melody with me providing a blues bass line. This was before she even knew the names of the notes. All of my students make “real” music right from the very beginning.
I really do not think this is some kind of revolutionary idea. I know plenty of other private music teachers and I am sure they try to do the same.
Learning a musical instrument is hard. It is learning a new, foreign language. You have to learn the note values, musical alphabet, note placement on the staff, how to even read the staff, foreign terms, technique, expression, etc. This list could go on forever. I am still learning after all these years playing. Music never ceases to teach and to evolve. A musician never stops progressing and learning.
The most important thing in my teaching is that the student feels she is successful. This, in turn, enables the student to be successful. So, I encourage improvisation and composition from the first lesson. I play duets with them from the beginning and I have more advanced students play teacher duets with the elementary students on recitals. Every student should leave her lesson feeling like she knows what she should practice and knows that she can accomplish the goals of the week.
Every student can be successful if every teacher believes and provides the proper encouragement. Every teacher can be successful if she remembers what it was like to be that student struggling to understand.
Go forth, practice, teach, and remember that you are more than capable.
The Mad Pianist