Thursday, February 5, 2015

Being Listened To Encourages Listening

A few weeks ago a former student who hasn't studied piano since she went away to college, joined the community of students and families that is my studio for a get-together that included some extraordinarily generous playing.  On that occasion I did something new: I interpreted each student's playing to the listeners, essentially instructing them what it is that I find so fascinating in the work of each young person.

It varies as widely as the individuals vary.  But the quality of their work is not comparable to the work of anyone else on the planet.  It is precisely that individuality that attracts me to teaching; cultivating that quality is my purpose in teaching.  Confident expression of that individuality constitutes mastery.

The other day the mother of that former student informed me that her daughter had played the piano a lot after that afternoon.  I don't think it is an accident.  Learning to listen is the hardest part of studying music, just as learning to see has to be the hard part of being a painter.

When she was a student, before she went away to college, she wrote a statement that shows she was aware of this:

""I took piano lessons from Nancy for twelve years, and over the years I learned much more than how to look at little dots on a piece of paper and press a corresponding lever. Nancy encouraged and drew out from me emotional involvement and conscious thought about music, both in general and specific to certain pieces. Essentially, she taught me how to listen, one of the most difficult skills there is both to teach and to learn."