Life Stuff, Musical Experiences

Music, Student. Student, Music.

I came to a strange realization the other day during a lesson with one of my piano students. I am eventually going to be the piano teacher in the sentence…”my piano teacher taught me such-and-such when I was a kid.” I never realized until that moment how much pressure was on me as a teacher until that moment.

photo from: http://rainbowsound.us/Jims65.html

When I first started teaching, all of my students were transferred to me from one of my friends who was moving to New York. He gave me all of his students. What I came to realize over the course of the next few months was that piano and voice students will come and go and it’s not necessarily your fault if they decide to stop taking piano lessons. Most of my students are between the ages of 6-12. I have taught more younger students than older-adult students. After first, when a student would say that they were no longer interested in taking piano lessons, I would feel like I had ruined music for them and that they were never going to enjoy it ever again. But then I remembered how many times I had heard the sentence “I took piano lessons when I was younger. I wish I had never quit.” So I started to feel a little bit better about my teaching.

But when I was in this particular lesson with one of my students who is in 4th grade, I realized “holy cow, I’m the one teaching this student about quarter notes, half notes, rhythms, melodies, sight-reading, etc.” And I had a little freak out moment on the way home from the lesson. I think I realized that the way that I am teaching her is more than likely the way she will continue through her life when dealing with music. I realized that I was affecting the way she learned and processed music when I asked her to write in the counts to one of her pieces. When I write in the rhythms to music I always put parentheses around the beats that are not re-sounded. For instance, if I had the following four measures in front of me, I would write in the counts as follows…

                1      2      3    (4)        1      2     3   (4)        1    (2)     3    (4)        1 (2      3      4)

When I asked my student to write in the counts of a difficult measure for the new piece of music I had just given her, she wrote in the counts like I would’ve written in the counts. Because, I’m the one teacher her to write counts into music. How weird is that? I know it’s a phenomenon that has been occurring for millions of years, but seeing it happen firsthand made me realize two things.

1. I am a teacher.
2. For the majority of my students, I am introducing them to music.

First of all, let me clarify one thing…I went through my entire high school and most of my college career saying “I don’t want to teach.” I was very much against becoming a high school teacher. I definitely didn’t want to teach younger kids because their attention span is so short. Then…during my junior year of college, when I became a theory/aural skills tutor, I realized for first time in my life that I really love to teach. I also started teaching private lessons around that same time and realized…holy crap…this is awesome. I realized, also, that I got more out of teaching than I did performing. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to sing in front of people. But teaching was much more fulfilling on a deeper level for me. This was a strange realization because my dream my entire life was to sing in front of millions of people every day. I would still love that. If you offered me the chance, right now, I’d take it. But I digress, the point I’m trying to make here is that I never thought I would seek out opportunities to teach. And just look where I am now!

My second point was something that took a while for me to realize. And I’m still coming to terms with this realization — the musical experience I provide students is (more often than not) their first experience with written music. Most of my students are, and have been, younger students. Right now, I have two students, a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old. The 5-year-old has never had any musical lessons before piano but is very smart and picking up on things very quickly. The 9-year-old had a few piano teachers before me but I have been teaching her for over two years and she has grown a TON musically. So when new musical concepts arise, I am the one introducing those concepts and finding creative ways to help her understand them.

It’s definitely an interesting realization. But I think it also made me appreciate my role as a teacher much more. I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders, and I definitely do not want to let my students down!

Until tomorrow, dear BFs! Have a wonderful Sunday afternoon!

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