I always find it fascinating to look back on my career so far as a music teacher and think to myself….what did my students really get from it all. Did they just learn about the techniques and fingerings that they had to learn over the years to pass the next exam…. or was it much more than that?
Did they take away some life lessons that will be with them forever?
But I’m not unlike any other music teacher…. am I? Don’t we all look back and reflect and wonder is ewe ever have made a difference for the next generation?
Often I see my graduated students in my local community, I get to hear about all the exciting things they’ve done in their lives since leaving school and I’m so proud of what they’ve all achieved.
But every now and again I get a glimpse – from somewhere..sometimes not even a past student – and I get a real life lesson from hearing their experiences of music and how it impacted their lives. Just recently I ran into an article written by one of the world’s top bloggers -Seth Goddin called “ Not Even One Note”. What got me to read this article was that he talked about his time learning the clarinet ( so it’s pretty relevant to my background since I’ve spent some time teaching clarinet in my career) and he goes on to contemplate what that experience taught him and how it helped shape who he is today.
In his article, he shares that he played the clarinet for 8 years, but didn’t really even learn to make a good sound on even one note. But in his lessons he played loads of new songs, techniques and fingerings. In the article he goes on to say :
“ At no point did someone sit me down and say, “wait, none of this matters if you can’t play a single note that actually sounds good.”
He goes on to explain how the experience made him realize that he really just didn’t care enough about playing it. He wasn’t passionate about getting that ultimate sound and this is the reason why he eventually stopped playing. He felt that having had the experience, it was better to stop altogether than to go on and just be mediocre at it.
In his own words,what he learned from the experience was :
“ it opens the door to go find an art you care enough to make matter instead. Find and make your own music.”
Something I learned from this was that there are going to be times in teaching music where we don’t feel we’re connecting with our students. It made me realise what a specialist job it is to teach music, because not only do teachers need to be specialists in the subject area, but also every student has different needs and ways of learning that we need to accomodate. Sometimes we don’t feel that they’re getting a lot from it…but if this happens to you- the teacher, they’re actually learning for themselves a much more powerful life lesson. They are working out where and who they want to be.
Seth Godin learned that you’ve got to be better at the first sounds and just concentrate on one thing well, before you go on to learning new notes, fingerings and songs. However the catch is you have to really care about it first. Later in the article we poses a question:
“We opt for more instead of better.
Better is better than more.”
So what are your thoughts on this question? As a music teacher is it better to teach one thing really well first before going on with other concepts or do you think it’s more important to give variety, more songs and more notes and not focus too much on getting the beginnings perfect. In other words would you opt for more instead of better? Or , is better, better than more? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please leave a comment using the box provided below this article.