Learning to listen

If you didn’t already know, I am a piano teacher. My first student was my little sister more than 20 years ago. My parents paid me $20 a month, and I took my responsibility very seriously. I’m not sure if I did any good or laid any kind of foundation for her, but I can say with confidence that she is a gifted pianist with diverse musical ability. She uses her music to serve others–most notably, her family.

I recently read this story in the New York Times. We’ve all heard the studies that correlate taking music lessons to better math skills, increased self-discipline, good grades, etc. But this article emphasizes the connection between very successful people and their musical abilities; who could forget President Clinton playing his saxophone on “Arsenio Hall”?

I just have a handful of students. I teach for the simple love of teaching (oh, and to pay my student loan payment…). My students’ abilities and potentials have a vast range, and yet each student has his/her own specific strengths. It amazes and awes me to see their little brains figure out theory, chords, intervals. One is particularly good at rhythm while another has a truly musical ear. I strive to find these areas in each student so we can cultivate what they’re good at and not simply work on what they’re not. I’m all about helping them not only succeed but feel like they’re succeeding.

I realize that a small percentage of students take lessons as long as my sisters and I did. One of my kids was shocked to hear that I actually took lessons as an adult–he figured once I had grown up I should have arrived somehow. I reassured him that he wouldn’t have to take lessons that long. I don’t require my students to compete like I had to growing up, and I don’t know how many will be on music scholarships like I was. My goal for each student is simple, regardless of how long they take lessons or how talented they are: to become quality listeners of music. Even if they don’t grow up to be President or Secretary of State, oh, how their lives will be enriched if they learn to listen well!

One thought on “Learning to listen

  1. Caitlin L.

    You made a huge difference. I still have the first book I ever went through with you and distinctly remember memorizing Yankee Doodle! Thank you for not only being my first piano teacher, but teaching me so many other things throughout my life and investing in me at an early age.

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