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.
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This is so true in so many ways – even beyond just playing guitar. I used to ask myself what’s the point of drawing something that you can simply take a picture of or that someone could look at. Why not create something that no one has ever seen or heard before? Getting your head in the right place can be just as important as practicing the guitar technique itself.
I love this. I’m a teacher in a high school setting, it can be so easy to forget that teaching students is about helping them to discover things they’re passionate about. This applies well to any creative endeavor, as you’ve shown. Being able to create is the greatest reason to learn how to play any instrument.
Yes, thank you! This shift In thinking can make all the difference in terms of satisfaction, freedom and peace as an artist.