In my professional musical life, learning a new piece is one of my least favorite things. The page looks like a foreign language. Ink splatters on paper. I procrastinate until finally I play through to see where the problems lurk. It's no fun at all. In contrast, I love to perform. Creative arts like music, plays, dance-- are so "in the moment." And that moment is so thrilling that naturally we want to stay. That's probably why I resist starting over. Am I that different from my students?
Maybe I need a fresh point of view. My private students dearly love to move on to the next song.
Suzuki students seem so eager to get to the next piece and the next book. Marching with the Two Grenadiers through the Suzuki literature. Long ago I remember practicing my book of songs day after day so I could perform in the elementary string festival. Each tune was a new triumph! What happened to my joy in discovery?
For a couple of years now I've tried to hand out new music just before the concert. I thought students would look forward to the next concert and also have something to work on right away. But I ran Monday's rehearsal--one week after the concert-- like my least favorite practice session. Am I effectively killing their joy too?
This post began as an exercise for my growth as a teacher. My intention was to figure out how to convey a more positive point of view to my students and try to avoid repeating my mistakes. At the risk of sounding foolish, I think I accomplished my goal. Yet I'm still surprised by the outcome.
What next? Clearly, my job is to help them hold on to the thrill of performance while building skills for future concerts. How? Introduce the new teaching points as games or exercises before they even see a new folder? Hold a listening session for the first rehearsal after a concert? I don't know but I'll keep you posted.