Thursday, July 18, 2013

blue haired ladies

There was a world where the blue-haired ladies ruled.  Hands were whacked for playing wrong notes.  Mothers were told, 'The child has no talent. Save your money.' For the autocratic music teachers of an earlier age, students who didn't learn quickly were not worth the trouble. My job as a music teacher might have been easier back then. I could have kept only the natural learners, and gotten rid of the students who actually made me think.

But I have never liked to give up on a student who struggled. I always hope that the next lesson will be when the puzzle piece turns to just the right angle. I think that maybe if I teach upside down or backwards, it will pop into place. And then the next step will be easier, and so on.

Not that naturals aren't great fun to teach. I don't see them often, just as doctors don't see healthy people as often as they see the ones who need help getting better. Natural musicians are off discovering on their own; they're playing in a band, and making it up as they go. I only teach naturals when they need help with a particular skill set, and then they're off again.

Are you a natural musician? Am I? What makes one, anyway? Do the naturals just get started quicker? Did the blue-haired ladies simply give up too soon on the slower starters?

And should speed really be the question here? What about enjoyment of the learning process itself? If it takes ten years to learn to play guitar and you're enjoying every minute of it, then you'll probably enjoy the next ten, too. And all your music buddies will enjoy playing with you. You might even have audiences who love your music! But if you give up too soon (because the blue-haired lady whacks your hand or because you sit next to the fast kid) you might never discover your own natural musical expression.

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