Thought Trafficking

Nook and cranny
October 9, 2012, 12:09 am
Filed under: music, Toronto | Tags: , , ,

The summer winds down, reels in. I’ve probably written before about how much I love fall in Eastern/Central/Upper Canada (designation depends on your point of view).

This fall, I invite strangers into my (now tiny) living room two days a week to teach them piano. I am delighted and puzzled by my own choices: delighted by the schedule, by the things I must now read, by taking regular lessons again, and puzzled because since I was a teenager I figured that this was the easy way out, that if nothing else, this was the back-up plan, not the success. So is this the joy and enlightenment that comes with giving up, or is this a reversion to some kind of basic programming that includes regular trips to buy puffy stickers?

If nothing else, I will remember the last few months as a period in which I read a lot of books on child rearing and discipline. In a 1/2 hour piano lesson, I find that there are generally three levels to which a student corresponds: slacker, steady progress, or overachiever. Each of these has its own challenges and rewards, and I can structure my lesson plans around these personalities. What no one, ever, anywhere prepared me for was surly, hormonal teenage girls. Forget pedagogy; the only thing I think about during that half hour is the virtue of staying calm and not giving in to how much a want to scream. They have two primary powers in a lesson setting: first, to contradict everything I say, no matter if that contradiction contradicts one of their previous statements. Second, to sincerely believe that everyone in the world is actively working against their happiness. Too many scales? I hate them. Too few scales? I think that they are stupid. Too much to practice? Everyone gives them too much work, they have no free time. Too little to practice? I’m making them sit on the bench with nothing to do. And the advice that I’m getting from my favourite teachers is only this: be extra, extra nice to these kids. Do everything in my power to forge a bond. Come up with a way to do it before I wear down my molars grating my teeth. I practice this for half an hour with each, per week.

I prefer this direct, one-on-one, approach better than the larger university classes I’ve been a TA for. It’s harder to justify piano lessons as a savvy life choice, as piano is not yet considered a pre-requisite for a decent job. Your lesson time and office hours are the same thing. I can ask parents flat-out if they think it is worthwhile to keep paying for lessons for a student who is uninterested or mailing it in. My job is fostering a relationship to the instrument, in simplest terms. Maybe I can relate more easily to this curriculum.

In more personal news, I seem to be catching up on all of the reading I should have done between 2001 and 2005. Wasted youth?

If you are reading this, please suggest books to read as the days get shorter.

2 Comments so far
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Pale Fire – Nabokov
White Noise – Don DeLillo
Austerlitz – W. G. Sebald

Comment by Kyle

Noted; thank you.
I tried reading Austerlitz last winter but it got sidelined by something, probably school.

Comment by Larisa

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