Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ghosts of Piano Lessons Past

I recall vividly the sensation of playing in an auditorium in which I had performed as a student.  It was a warmly welcoming room with wood paneling and beautiful stained glass windows.  It featured a small balcony off to the side toward the front, in full view of the pianist--my teacher's favorite place to listen.

He was an exceptionally brilliant musical thinker and an inspired teacher, deeply respectful of the individuality of his students.  We were not expected to imitate his musical instincts or to take on his way of viewing things.

Yet....there was his ghost in the balcony, long after he died.

Or was it his ghost?  Perhaps more than anything he projected onto me it was my awareness of my own inexperience vis a vis his richly informed musicianship .

What would it take to avoid being the sort of teacher who inadvertently becomes a ghost?

I think I have figured it out:  Calling the student's attention to her own responses to the elements of music puts her in charge of those responses.  Once and for all they are hers to love, to live with, to develop.  All of that is out of my hands because completely grounded in the experience of the student.

Can a person be rescued from the ghosts of piano lessons past?  To tell the truth, I think most pianists are too frightened at the prospect to consider it a possibility.