Music Tuition - A Labour of Love

Steve Lawson, UK

Music Tuition - A Labour of Love

As a music teacher, I encounter a lot of students who are in love with learning. That is, they want to learn as much as possible about music and particularly their instrument, not just the so called 'functional' stuff.

Many of these have nearly given up due to run-ins with instrument tutors who's primary objective is to rid themselves of their demons about why they never made it, or did make it and no-one appreciates what a huge contribution they made to the music industry during their 15 minutes of fame.

When I say that I teach bass, the most common response is, 'Well, I suppose it pays the bills' as though teaching was something to be avoided if at all possible, and was only the last hope for an utterly failed musician.

Let me state right at the start that I LOVE TEACHING! I do, I really enjoy it. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to watch a student progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced under my guiding hand and watchful eye. It's a great feeling, and it gives you a sense of having some kind of legacy, even if it is only that a few dozen people can play their basses better because I taught them!

There's actually a little more to it than that, as I think music is one of the most therapeutic of pastimes. It teaches people how to communicate, how to listen and react, how to fulfill a role when that's what's required and how to be free and express themselves in a non-verbal way. Music is liberating, inspirational, and motivating.

Or should I say that it can be. It can also be a very negative thing in someone's life. If the pursuit of musical excellence is turned into some kind of competition or sport, music can lead to the same feelings of inferiority as does the over emphasizing of the value of academic achievements, or sports day in an over competitive school. Music can be yet another way of telling someone that they'll never be good at anything, because they can't play fast enough, read music well enough, or improvise over difficult chord changes.

I have always sought to leave a student feeling they had accomplished something by coming to a lesson. I've never complained at a student for not doing their homework - this is meant to be fun, and they are paying me after all! It's not like I'm a school teacher private music tuition is a recreational pursuit, for most, and should be seen as an enjoyable relaxing thing, not a massive guilt trip for not doing homework.

That's not to say that I spend whole lessons chatting about anything but music, but that I don't actually try to force too much into a lesson - I try to strike a balance between providing the student with an overview of the topic, the raw materials, enough to work on until the next lesson, and a sense of having learned something new, that will help the to play music, listen to music, and enjoy all aspects of music that bit more than they did at the start of the lesson.

I would like to be able to say that I'm the ideal teacher for every bassist on the planet. Sadly, this is not the case - there will be people who really don't work well in the environment that I create, who need and want to be pushed harder, and to be taught in a more structured academic way. These I will point in the direction of a teacher who works from strict method books or graded exams. And if the student feels that they are getting value for money, great!! That's what it's all about after all!!

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