In an online discussion the other day, a guitar teacher said about one of his young students:
“I’ll be nagging her to find something new and worthy to say about these works. After all, what’s the point of merely repeating what others have already said?”
Which got me thinking: what’s the point of playing in the first place? A young student doesn’t need to know the answer to this philosophical question right away, but it’s a good thing for a teacher to know.
I don’t think the highest ideal is to find something new to say. It’s more important to find something true to say. If that true thing has been said before, fine.
For all of us, but especially for the younger students, music-making (and life itself) is a voyage of discovery. As a teacher, Job #1 is to help students discover beauty, meaning, and joy in the musical experience. You don’t do this by invalidating their experience as being pointless because they didn’t bring something “new and worthy” to the music. If they bring *themselves* to the music, that’s new and worthy enough. That’s a big part of the teacher’s job, helping the student to connect — not just by listing all the rights and wrongs of technique and interpretation, but by gently redirecting the student’s attention when she’s disconnected, and by staying out of the way she’s joyfully engaged with the work.
This little video says it all. This little student has a wise teacher who encourages the boy to be himself and stays out of the way when that’s happening.
The young student is encouraged to bring himself to the musical experience, in what ever terms make sense to him. This is the best way to bring something new and worthy to the music. Our individuality is a great thing to offer. It’s what we know best, and it’s something no one else can offer.