If you’re one of my students reading this – firstly hello! Secondly, this post is 100% true. It is also the reason I can be harsh on you and pitifully pedantic when it comes to your intonation and listening to yourself critically.
So, why do I teach music? I do it because I genuinely look forward to my students coming for their lessons every evening and every weekend. I do it because with each student, I get to tap into different parts of the music nerd in me. When I talk about music, I’ve been told that my eyes light up. I do it because it makes me feel alive.
Well, that escalated quickly.
But that’s precisely it. When someone asks you such a big question that you don’t ever stop to think about because you’re way beyond neck-deep in it and well, because you’re so carried away with actually living and breathing it on a daily basis, and you just don’t know how to articulate your response?
That is exactly how I feel when someone asks me why I teach music. It is something so innate, so much a part of me that quite honestly, I don’t really know what to say.
Recently, one of my students asked me how I got into teaching. Bit of background – I attended a specialist music school where the training was geared towards a career as a professional musician. During my time there, I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful teachers and musicians whose passion for their craft radiated for all the world to see no matter how dry and tedious the material.
Though perhaps the highlight of it all was my violin tutor. I won’t name names for the sake of confidentiality, but she was the one who really helped me shape my whole approach to music making, performance, and most importantly – learning. She pushed me when I didn’t think I could do it, she would work on my pure technique until I thought I was about to go insane, and she was oh-so-critical of everything. Absolutely everything. None of it was by any means easy.
But I stuck with it. Somewhere along the way, I found myself becoming as critical of my own playing as she was. I was waking up an hour earlier to practise my scales and exercises every morning, and I was finding my own ways of overcoming challenges in my pieces where I would have once taken the easy way out and just asked for help. I was taking responsibility for my own learning and finding the answers for myself, out of an unexplained passion to… well, learn.
Playing the violin was never quite the same for me after that, and this is what I strive for with my own students. I think their level is irrelevant – whether they’re aiming for a Merit in their Grade 4 exam or preparing for a conservatoire audition, this burning desire to improve for the love of learning in itself is key. I guess this is also what they call passion.
The other thing with my teacher was her unfaltering faith in me. She always believed that I could do it and surpass the odds, almost blindly sometimes (at least to me). She took the time to play counsellor when I was exhausted from dealing with other issues, and taught me the sheer power of self belief. Maybe I got caught up and irresistibly swept along in the wave of positivity and desire to achieve, who knows? Either way, it was pivotal. Eventually, I started to actively believe in myself too. I took responsibility for my decisions and put in the work to achieve a goal in mind without hesitation. Somewhere along the way, that niggling voice in the back of my mind that loved mocking my efforts and cynically dismissing my passion started to get a little quieter. And I liked that about myself.
To my students – this is exactly how I feel about each and every one of you. It might seem like I’m shooting in the dark when I tell you that you are perfectly capable of doing something, but I say it because I genuinely believe it. I push you to go that step further and take the time to devise exercises tailored to your specific weaknesses because I want to do more than tell you that I believe in you. I want you to uncover that desire, and to experience the joy of music making in the same way it invigorates me.
Most of all, I believe so fervently that you can do it because I want you to feel the same way about yourself. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I teach music.
Disclaimer: The featured image was designed on canva.com by J, exclusively for the nellybean.