I started taking lessons with my current piano lessons about six years ago. At the time, I was still in high school – a teenager. I suppose most of us look back at those awkward years and we try to forget them. Still, I have grown tremendously both as a person and as a musician under his guidance. This post is dedicated to him… Here are some of the most valuable things he has taught me:
- Without technique, one does not have the tools to make good music. You could be a great musician – you could think up of new and original ideas on interpretation BUT without technique, you could never execute those ideas. I came into this teacher’s studio with awful technique and he fixed it. He had a lot of patience and this is something that I will be eternally grateful for.
- A good teacher is a dedicated one. My teacher spent a lot of extra time with me, rehearsing and polishing repertoire for exams, auditions and eisteddfods. A lot of the time, he did this for no monetary gain. He cared and put a lot of effort into his work. He allowed me to call him if I had any queries or concerns on practice.
- Performing is an act of sharing and giving. You are not a diva in the spotlight; you are doing a service for the people. You are giving your audience one of the most beautiful things in the world – music. If you are nervous, be nervous for your audience. Your audience, regardless of who they are, deserve the best – you never know who is in your audience! A Michelin starred chef doesn’t go out of his way to make wonderful food for the visiting food critic and average food for a regular diner. A Michelin starred chef cares about every single plate of food that leaves his kitchen. In a similar vein, all audiences are equal, don’t do a sloppy, little-practiced performance for the tin-eared listener and vice versa, regardless of who your audience is, they deserve your best. My teacher and I once performed inside a hospital together in a room full of cancer patients. Everybody was so nice and grateful and the experience reminded me that performance is about sharing, not about receiving a lot of glory on a stage.
- Good musicians are sensitive to harmony and theory as well as history/musicology and performance practice. Harmony brings a whole new dimension and clarity to the way we look at music. Musicology allows us to put things into historical context; they allow us to make interpretive decisions that are informed and in accordance to what the performance practice may have been at the time. Through musicology, we are able to understand why. Having an understanding for such things enriches our understanding of music. Some musicians are
- A good teacher is sensitive to the student’s musical development in other areas. I did a lot of singing when I was in high school. Nowadays, I don’t sing as much as I used to but I still keep it up. My piano teacher often enquired about singing, he read my singing eisteddfod reports, accompanied me for exams – we worked together in this area. When I started studying music at university level, he’d read my essays and comment on to my piano studies whenever he could. He was and still is a very well rounded musician, and I do strive to emulate that level of sensitivity and well-roundedness in my own teaching.
- I am mostly grateful for the ethics and values that my teacher imparted to me – he taught me to have ethics and values in my work. He has taught me to be charitable in my work as a performer. He has taught me to be reasonable when charging for professional performances (as in the times I’ve been paid to perform).