Sunday, July 21, 2013

Teachers and Students

I was enraged yesterday to read in print a list of names purporting to represent a progeny of teacher / student mastery.

Why enraged?  I am enraged by the assumption that because a musician has studied with another musician (presumably older) he or she has merely soaked up the master's wisdom and not thought things out for himself or herself.

This is a totally false assumption, although it does happen all too frequently.  One of the names listed was a truly great performer whose name has come up on this blog as being a one-of-a-kind original thinker and pianist.  I know that he did not teach his students to play as he played, otherwise they would be doing so and they clearly are not.

I had one -- count them -- one lesson with this master in which he not only affirmed the validity of my idiosyncratic path but also discouraged me, most wisely, from aspiring to get onto the beaten path.

I know also from a year spent with a master who is often named as a source (I, too, name him in my bio) that what he taught was what he was expected to teach and not what corresponded to his true art.
He told me as much.  He spelled it out.  He demonstrated.  If you really wanted to learn from him you had to listen to his playing and listen very carefully.

And there you have it. 

It's not the name or the succession.  It is compelling artistry and the ability to listen attentively. That is the only true succession of mastery.