This week I enjoyed the public performance of a young man I've been tutoring in classical guitar. I've been working with Peter for several months, and though I wish I could take more credit, he is so diligent and motivated that I mostly just coach and encourage.
Still, I was a little surprised when, at the end of our lesson a few weeks ago, he mentioned he might want to perform in his school's spring concert -- in two weeks! I gave him several pieces to look over, and he chose a rondo by Carulli that highlighted some techniques that he had only just mastered. We looked it over and discussed the challenging parts, and Peter took over from there. His performance was great, and it was clear that he was well prepared and totally in the piece.
My approach to music lessons is coming into line with my thinking on most educational endeavors these days: teach how at least as much as you teach what. Give them tools and the skills, not just facts. Teach them how to learn.
To learn to play a musical piece, you have to spot the difficult passages, understand what can go wrong, and plan your attack. If you're not patient with yourself you won't get very far. And no matter how much head knowledge you have about the rhythm and the fingerings, in order to know how, you must practice, practice, practice.
I've made mistakes a few times when I've played passages for Peter, so our lessons (and the embarrassment) have challenged me to push myself harder on the guitar. I have to be honest that whatever I expect from my students I need to expect more from myself. As a teacher, I have to always remember what it's like to learn, and I need to let my students watch me as I learn new skills too.
So, well done Peter, and thanks! The lessons have been good for me too.