Many music teachers have rules for their teaching studio. Some publish their rules as a list of do’s and don’ts; others as a contract between teacher and student. The rules usually reflect the teacher’s expectations for practice and behavior in the lessons, commitments to performances, etc.
And the rules are usually designed to support the happiness of both teacher and student. The student will learn, the teacher can truly teach, and the parents know they are getting their money’s worth.
But for those of you with a slightly contrary nature, here are my top ten suggestions for you if you would like the award for “World’s Worst Music Student.”
10. Tell me you practiced when you didn’t. I can tell. Really.
9. Decide to use your own practice methods instead of the ones I suggested to you. I don’t mind you trying creative ways to practice, but if we have spent lesson time crafting a careful plan to move you ahead, I would like you to follow the plan.
8. Practice without paying attention. What a waste of time. You could have been watching TV.
7. Never express an opinion. Do you like that piece of music? What kind of music do you like best? Who is your favorite composer?
6. When I ask for your opinion or offer you a choice, respond, “You’re the teacher.” But your learning is your responsibility.
5. Don’t go to concerts or listen to recordings of other performers. Broaden your experience.
4. Don’t go to workshops or master classes. There are many ways to learn and many wonderful teachers to learn from.
3. Don’t believe me when I tell you that you did something well. I should know, and you can trust me never to give you an empty compliment.
2. Care less than I do about your progress. And I care a lot.
1. Forget to listen for the beauty in everything you play. It may not be perfect yet, but it can begin to bloom note by note if you let it.
Follow those guidelines, my student, and you will win that award. But just in case you are wondering, here are the three things I want from my own students.
1. I want you to have a dream or a goal. It doesn’t have to be a lofty one. It only needs to be a musical goal that you want to achieve: a piece you want to play, a skill you want to learn, a performance you want to prepare for. You commit to the goal; I commit to helping you achieve it.
2. I want you to enjoy the discipline of practice, and to take pride in the accomplishment that results. That accomplishment can only be achieved by some hard work and sacrifice. Know that I will be with you at every moment, to help you and to encourage you.
3. I want you to share your love of music with me. This journey can be difficult and our work together may get intense. It is our shared love of music and our shared commitment to your goal that will keep us motivated and energized.