To: A music teacher / From: A music student
Dear Music Teacher,
I am about to learn from you the secrets of musical creation. Under the spell of your magic wand, I am about to be a better musician, and I am about to find out things that I wouldn’t have found without you. You have all my attention, respect, admiration and loyalty. I know that when you started learning music you didn’t plan to become a teacher. I am sure you were planning to be a great musician, you were perhaps hoping to be playing in great concert halls, perhaps you once you did or maybe you still do. I am sure you were hoping to always have an audience ready to listen, devoted to you. But I am addressing this letter to a teacher and not a performer. Different hat, different language and different responsibilities. As a teacher you answer to your student, not to your audience. So please read my words and listen to my thoughts kindly, as your audience now is your student.
Please be patient with me. You are wiser than I am: you know more music, you have heard and met more musicians, you have taught many students. It might take me time to understand what you are telling me, it might take me longer to learn something, for me it might be harder than others to do something. But please be patient. I am learning music because I want to be the best musician that I can, and I will put all my strength and effort, with all honesty, to get there. I am not playing to cross a finishing line and then marvel at my awards. I am playing music to live.
Please don’t see your failures in me. We all have weaknesses, fears, and limitations. Please try to be strong and see the difference between your fears and mine. Let me face my own insecurities, help me overcome them and please never use me as a mirror to your own shortcomings, past or current. If something stopped you from achieving something in your artistic ambitions, it doesn’t mean that it will stop me also.
Please be open-minded. There is no single way of playing music, of addressing an audience or reading a musical score. If I come up with an idea of my own, please don’t disregard it because it comes from someone younger, because your think your ideas are better, or even because my idea failed the first time I tried it. I respect your wisdom and I want to learn from your point of view, but please also be ready to learn from your student or at least accept a different idea. Help me build a bridge and then let me try to build more bridges of my own. In the beginning my bridges might be weak, sometimes they might not even stand, sometimes they will look funny, maybe not even like a bridge at all, but let them be mine from the very beginning. You know better than me that there is no value in an artist that is a carbon copy of someone before him. I will have to reach a point when I will question everything you ever taught me, reject your advice and rebel against your beliefs. This is the natural order of things, and I am sure you did the same once, otherwise you wouldn’t have become the successful artist that you are. Your real responsibility lies with teaching me how to build the first bridge. After that please simply remind me I already possess the tools to build more bridges with my very own signature.
If I am learning from you while I am still very young, you might become a life role model for me. Remember, music is my life, and in my eyes you hold the keys to all the magical doors that I need to open before I can call myself an artist. Please don’t take this responsibility lightly – in my eyes you are a parent, a friend, a true companion. You must make sure you believe in me more than anybody else, definitely more than I do, and you must make sure that your artistic wisdom comes with no “ifs” or “buts”. When I fail, please be the first one to remind me the value of my efforts, and that I need to keep trying. When I fall, please be the first one to help me up. And when I succeed, please be sure to congratulate me wholeheartedly, and to remind me how far I have come. Please be the first one to show me respect, in all the steps of my development, and help me look up to you, so I can learn to respect other artists too. Most of all, if one day I have to be a teacher like you, please make sure the way you have treated me is also the way I will want to treat my students..
Your music student
PS If we were ever to meet again, in another, parallel musical universe, with our roles as teacher and student reversed, please make sure that how you have seen, taught and treated me, is the same way you would like to be seen, taught and treated.