This is not “Multiphonics part 2.” It’s coming. I know you’re all eagerly awaiting seeing me practice multiphonics and give you all the little tips I’ve figured out over the past couple years, but this is not that. Soon, I promise.
This week, I’ve been thinking about teaching. I’m about to start a new teaching job, where I’ll have a couple students of varying levels and ages, and I was thinking about what challenges I’ve come up against in my students. I have a student who’s a very good little musician, but is extremely resistant to the discipline of learning an instrument and the theory that goes along with that. He would play little ditties that he made up, but would stop to ask me what note he was playing, not really connecting the fingerings to notes on the page, or even their letter name. He would sort of play the songs I gave him to learn, altering them as he saw fit, to “make them better.” I have to strictly enforce one page a week in a theory workbook I gave him, so that he would learn rhythm, to read music, and to understand the basic lingo of quarter note, eighth note and half rest. He’s obviously budding with musical talent, but how do I get him to focus? He doesn’t have the technical skills yet to learn more interesting pieces, but he’s bored with the songs he’s doing. We write a little song every week, (I’m hoping that he’ll practice that if nothing else), but he doesn’t really learn to play it. He is playing and improving, but slowly, only by messing around on his flute and not pushing himself to improve.
How do we get these gifted kids to practice? Music is something that almost never comes easily. How can you encourage a kid who’s never had to try to do something that’s hard, that they don’t succeed at the first time? Maybe the solution is just to let him go slow. He’s not going to develop the drive to succeed from someone else pushing it on him. Maybe he’ll find it in time, decide he wants to be better than he is and start trying hard. I just find it weird that such a fiercely curious kid can be so apathetic towards learning the things I give him.
On the other side of the coin, I’ve had students of the same age, who are very eager to please. For these students I have different concerns. Does the drive to succeed and improve comes from wanting to please a teacher or parent, or from a true love of music? These kids practice out of duty, but sometimes quit when they graduate high school, (or earlier) and never look back. It’s true that music is not everyone’s passion, and not everyone will enjoy playing music, many people only want to listen, or just are passively interested in music, but I can’t help to feel, as a teacher, that if I can’t manage cultivate some love and interest in music then I haven’t done my job right.
I know that not every student will love music, some will always be passive, despite my best efforts, but it’s a little hard to accept. When you have a passion so engulfing that you’ve based your career on it, it’s hard to believe that not everyone thinks it’s as wonderful as you do.
I guess for all students, of all ages, but especially kids, you just have to make lessons as informative and enjoyable as possible and just hope that they pick up some of your love for music, and develop their own, in whatever way they want to.