Written By Wayne Estes
Last week a student of mine looked at me, smiled and said, “I get it now.” And another one grasped her head with both hands, smiled and looked at me, made an exploding sound and wildly moved her arms off of her head simulating a volcanic explosion.
THIS is what I truly love about teaching. It is the impact we bring, no matter how small or large. It is the joy I get in seeing the student’s exuberance in the discovery and their epiphany in learning and grasping onto something new and exciting. It is the moment when I see the spark of knowledge cross the gap from the unknown to the known in the student’s eyes and face. When the student understands the concept or fingering pattern, rhythm or whatever it is and it’s no longer an item in a book or a statement coming from me, but it is transferred information turned into newly formed knowledge. Boom! Learning!
It all starts with a plan. I begin in our first lesson asking lots of questions to the student and parent. If I can learn how to motivate the parents, the student and me, this will likely go well and be a fulfilling relationship for each of us for a long while. So I question myself and my students with each new task and tool and I specifically try to understand how they best learn. In doing that I can feed them new knowledge (fingerings, tone shaping, phrasing, rhythmic ideas, etc) so that they will openly accept, hear and follow my advice in the near and distant future. From my very first lesson, I am conditioning each student and family not only in how to play music more successfully and easily but how to listen more effectively and efficiently so that they will be able to follow and complete directions and communicate better with me. Then future instructions and practicing will become easier to do with more success and with more speed through a true understanding between the three of us. If I can figure out how to help each student see and receive new information at the first mention and conversation and to do this without them being reserved or fearful of something new, then success can come sooner.
I do all of this to continue to accelerate their listening and reasoning skills so that they can be more fruitful in interpreting, questioning, learning and using knowledge to advance their musicianship. Then big ideas created from assimilating the perfectly executed and understood smaller ideas can form. Learning is like when in science when you combine simple atoms of simple elements together with lots of energy (reaction) and with time you usually can create newer, more useful and more varied compounds and substances. The newer compounds or ideas are related to and yet so much bigger than the sum of the original smaller parts. Mastering the smaller parts of communication and learning how your students put their thoughts and music together can launch their music to a much more advanced, fun and challenging level that is actually easier for them and so much more enjoyable for you and their families.
It all starts with the joy of discovery passed from teacher to student and plays out in how effectively and patiently the teacher can create wonderment and communication. Patiently proceeding at each lesson by methodically setting all the learning pieces together in order to build a student’s confidence and skill set will continue to self-motivate and self-perpetuate as the knowledge and love transfers from you to them and they start to grow in new ways. The trick is how effectively you as their teacher can sum their smaller skills into a self-perpetuating reaction that will move them onward and upward into lifelong music making!