Wednesday, September 14, 2011


To be able to listen is certainly one of the arts a teacher needs to have or develop. Not just in hearing someone play, but listening to them speak about themselves and their circumstances.

A question I ask myself is, "How much is too much information for someone to absorb?" Again, in general terms, it depends on the individual. Some people seem like they can absorb a lot or rather take a lot coming at them. That doesn't mean they can utilize, apply or even remember what was said. Others can take a little bit and really work with that bit and make it their own. Some students in the exuberance of wanting to do their best and really go for it, can swamp themselves with unrealistic expectations and end up drowning themselves in a sea of trying to do too much at one time. This is where having a plan and a couple of goals at one time can aide in keeping the student on task and productive. I've seen some students recently discover the meaning of the saying, "go slow to go fast." Or the saying, "a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step." A step at a time with a goal in mind. Hey, that just came to me, I like that. It has a flow that might be easy for people to remember. A step at a time with a goal in mind.

In listening to students play chamber music, it is obvious when things are not in sync. Not only in rhythm, pitch or starting and ending together, but in agreement of what the music is about. Often times people just need to play the music a lot with their group to even get a feel for the music and then have ideas come as each person gets to know the piece. There certainly is a period I call the "getting to know you, getting to know all about you" ( a Rogers and Hammerstein song from the play The King and I) that is like dating the piece. Not only the piece, but a new chamber group needs to get to know each other at least on the playing and conceptual level. This of course is just not a student issue!

The Art of the Student is in a sense similar to the Art of the Teacher. Their needs to be a balance between having Allowance to experiment and find things coupled with a Resistance to drifting and not sticking to something. The balance of these two gates will either open or close the possibility for Transference of greater perception, knowledge and ability.

1 comment:

Ross Holcombe said...

I have been reading these teachers logs with interest for the last few days! You're right...I do see aspects of myself in what you're writing about here, and it's valuable to ask myself if I am falling into old traps, or if I'm progressing and being smart about what I'm practicing. Right now, I am my own teacher for the most part, so making sure that I understand my own balances, strengths, and weaknesses is very important. I am not always successful, but I find that if I take enough time to reflect on what has been done, I can at least notice if I'm on a non-useful path before too much time, energy, or chops have been spent.

It's also very useful for me as a teacher to ask myself some of these questions of my own teaching. Only a few of my students are music majors...most are music minors. I like to ask myself how this affects the balance of things that they might want out of their playing, and how they might want to pursue their playing along with the other rigorous studies they are involved in. I am very pleased that the music minors have enough love of it on some level that they would want to continue with it even though they are majoring in something else! (This also begs me to ask the question, "WHAT do they love about it?" instead of just taking for granted that they love something about it...because each person enjoys something different about music and that affects how I might approach it with them.) So how can I as a teacher make sure that they keep loving music as something that brings great joy to their lives without turning it into something that they wish they didn't have to try to fit into their already busy schedules?

These teachers logs are very helpful for me when thinking about these kinds of things and I'm so glad that you would share these thoughts with us. I, for one, am reading them with both my 'student' and 'teacher' hats on and finding diffent wisdom from both approaches!