INTRODUCTION: I know the above saying but often don't heed it, since I'm a woman who loves words! But today in homage to the theme, I feature the pithy words and thoughts of a remarkable young pianist, prodigious composer, and piano teacher from Germany, Garreth Brooke. He speaks a kind of truth that is applicable not only to teachers, but to everyone who imagines themselves to walk in kindness toward and build healthy relationships with others, and who wants to convey that as well.
Yes, it's tough to look inward and take some responsibility for a student's painful classroom experiences and disappointments. But that seems to be a requisite process for any teacher who truly wants to encourage the love of music and not result in killing forever a student's musical passion, not to mention imperiling their trust of any future teacher.
Garreth and I recently met online when he read my blog on the difficulties inhering in deciding to leave a piano teacher, even when one takes care to be courteous and complimentary about what one has learned. It inspired our friendly ongoing connection and occasional conversation about the various ways to approach piano lessons by both teacher and student. I found a comforting resonance in his approach with mine (as well a resonance with his inspired lyrical compositions. I love his sweet "Suspire."
Happening recently upon Julliard Professor Noa Kagayama's interview with Professor George Waddell from the Royal School of Music in London, I saw Waddell focused on one critical quality I seek in my next, or any, piano teacher. He believes that "we should find and encourage the celebration of many different ways to contribute to the music ecosystem, not just by becoming a performing musician."
I seek a teacher who will first and foremost focus on enhancing and encouraging my deep love of music, and not merely on "productivity," perfection, technique, performance, recitals, competitions, or "my way or the highway."
The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, seems to agree. In his 2020 book, "Together," Dr. Murthy encourages our lonely society to heal by focusing on relationships instead of productivity - precisely my point. I should only add that in my preferred world, we pianists - professional or amateurs - would focus on conveying love and passion, especially in our creative expression. And of course, when our efforts honor and reflect the musical genre and composer's message, we would focus on joy!
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Notes About Learning from Mistakes by Garreth Brooke
Teachers spend a great deal of time watching out for students’ mistakes. We do this because we have learnt that mistakes are nothing more than indicators for where learning needs to take place.
Teachers also make mistakes. If a relationship with a student (or their parent/guardian) ends acrimoniously, there is always a lesson to be learnt.
Sometimes that lesson is simply that we aren’t compatible with one another but more often than not it’s that we failed to act in the right way at a crucial moment. It’s easy to simply blame the other party (“they were at fault, I did nothing wrong”) but such situations are rarely that black and white.
The hard work—the useful work—is figuring out what we could have done
better. More often than not, we learn that we should always communicate
kindly, clearly, and at the right time.
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