Charles Noble wrote a very interesting post on his Daily Observations blog recently concerning his thoughts on teaching, mentioning that he always compares the attitudes and levels of preparation, commitment, and overall dedication to his own attitudes as a young student:
I guess it’s not a totally fair judgment, but I always put the students that I work with up against how I treated my teachers when I was coming up over the years. I tried to come as prepared as I could (this was not a terribly high standard until I reached college, I must admit), brought a pencil, took notes in my music, listened to my teachers’ instructions and demonstrations, and (here’s the most important part) I asked questions when I did not understand what they were saying (but did NOT question what they were telling me until I had a chance to really try out what they were suggesting).
I really identify with what he is expressing in this post, remembering how hard I worked to absorb knowledge from my teachers at all stages of my career, really being sure to respect the special relationship between private teacher and student. Charles really hits home with this comment:
Most often the students that give the most resistance are those who are mediocre at best, and often very much behind the curve in terms of their skill set. If they knew about William Primrose, Gregor Piatigorsky, or Jascha Heifetz (and often they have no idea who these people are – even Itzhak Perlman is a stretch!) they would be surprised to learn that these defining virtuosi of their respective instruments had teachers who expected the best in performance and behavior and decorum in their lessons, and if they didn’t get it, there was hell to pay.
Encountering intellectual disinterest and overall lack of curiosity in the string masters of past (like Heifetz)and present is common even in advanced players. When I was in high school I made every attempt to listen to recordings of the great string players (definitely not just bass), including Heifetz, Oistrakh, Menuhin, Casals, Issac Stern, plus contemporary players like Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, and the like. I also made every attempt to hear recordings and see video from the great conductors. I remember poring over Leonard Bernstein’s old Omnibus and Young People’s Concert performances, and delving deep into The Unanswered Question.
I came from a small town far from a major symphony orchestra, but I used every resource at my disposal to educate myself. There was no graphical user interface internet to help provide information. Libraries, books, CDs, and videos were my teachers, as were my private teachers and orchestra directors growing up, and I feel that I was taught by these historical musical figures just as much as I was by my own one-on-one instructors.
The internet makes it so easy to learn in this fashion–I can’t imagine what it would have been like having something like YouTube growing up. While I had to track down obscure video tapes, today’s music students can simply type ‘Heifetz’ into YouTube to see performances like this:
Heifetz – Paganini Caprice No. 24
Pablo Casals Master Class
Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould
With all of these teachers at our fingertips (found these videos in about two minutes without even getting up from my chair), what excuse can a person have for not checking out and learning from these masters?