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Showing posts from August, 2012

Be Willing to Listen and Change

It’s an interesting irony that in the process of teaching a student how to expand their mind with music a teacher can, in fact, become close-minded. A teacher is expected to have the answers. But in order to be this authority figure, the teacher must be firm in why they teach things a certain way. “This is what you should do and this is why you do it.”

This firmness of opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. Students need that sense of structure to help them move forward. When working with young children, the parents need the reassurance from the teacher that they are making the right decisions.

By constantly being an authority it is easy to forget that you may not actually have all the answers. Equally important is a willingness to listen and change. You may know how to teach the violin but the parent may know their child better than you.

In order for learning to take place there has to be a meeting in the middle ground somewhere. The job of the teacher is not to super…

Let's Have Fun, Kids!

"I am mentally preparing myself for the five-year-old mind. I want to come down to their physical limitations and up to their sense of wonder and awe." -Dr. Suzuki

As a violin teacher, a subject that seems to crop up a lot in my daily work is the notion of "fun." Students would, of course, rather have fun than work. Teachers strive to create both fun AND productive activities. Parents worry that their child is not having fun anymore while practicing at home.

There are mountains of books written (which, of course, I've read) pouring over how to make a fun learning environment. What does and doesn't work in different educational settings is covered ad nauseum.

I realized the other day after coming across the above Dr. Suzuki quote that it's kind of ironic how much adults over-analyze "fun." What a fun lesson really boils down to is: if the teacher is not having fun, why should the kids? The essence of fun is that it's entertaining, …

Allowing Yourself Time to Learn

Playing a musical instrument is an all-encompassing activity.  It can become therapeutic for people just by its very nature. It forces the student to take time to examine himself or herself in a way that our culture does not normally require. Often times the difference between a beautiful sound and squeaks on the violin is just taking a moment to ensure that your bow is on the right part of the instrument. The student may know where the bow goes; it’s that taking a moment to check that must be trained.

With so many things going on in our lives (jobs, families, social activities, extra activities, etc.), private music lessons are a good way to press the “reset button.” In a world where instant knowledge is widespread, learning a slow, difficult task will make you reexamine your concept of time.

Much of a student’s success with an instrument will depend on if they allow themselves the time to learn. Starting something new is exciting but eventually this excitement ends and the re…

Rethinking Genius

Last week I posted a blog questioning why it is that we classify Bach as a musical genius. The subsequent discussion began to touch on what the word "genius" really means. I would like to expand on that discussion.

I am the type of person who learns best through debate. I like to present theories to have holes poked in them. With this in mind, I would like to present the following theory: in American culture, the concept of "genius" has been blown out of proportion to the point where it is now used as an excuse for failure rather than a description for merit.

My arguments for this theory are as follows:

The purest definition of genius is synonymous with idiot-savant. An idiot-savant is someone who excels in one particular area to the point that they are dysfunctional in all other areas. For example, an idiot-savant in math can do incredibly complex math calculations in their head. But, in these cases, math calculations are usually all they can do. They will h…

What Makes Bach a Musical Genius?

I was sitting in my music appreciation class the other day. Since we are studying the Baroque period, the teacher showed us a short film on the life of Bach. The film was one of those typical history documentaries: lots of British narration interspersed with commentary from experts in various fields.

One thing I've noticed is that people (myself included) always assume Bach's genius. In the film I watched in class, both a neuroscientist and a psychologist spoke in-depth about the brilliance of Bach and how this may be attributed to the musical centers in his brain being slightly larger than average.

At this point I had to pause and think: why do we assume this man is a genius? I've heard that enlarged brain story and I don't buy it. Every single musician has enlarged music centers in their brain. Cat scans and research have proven that (see Oliver Sacks). Was it his amazing output of music? Bach came from a musical family. His composition efforts were encourag…