Being a music teacher in Tennessee has been one of the most rewarding parts of my 4.5 years here. Beginning with singing in church choir at the age of 5, I had had music teachers work with me privately or in groups on a weekly basis for two decades. The more I teach, the more I recognize what has stuck with me, not just in terms of information but pedagogy. I can still hear the voices of my early choir directors Mrs. Rodland and Mrs. Ho-Ho (yes that’s an abbreviation!) teaching how to read note values in a song:
“A whole note is – a great big circle. A half note adds – a great big stem…”
As all students do, I had many opinions about my teachers. It was through private music lessons that I started understanding how effective a teacher could be, and also how ineffective. It’s a two-way street of course – the student must be prepared to learn and ask questions. But sometimes extremely talented musicians were very ineffective teachers. One element I try to keep in mind with my students is the term ‘education.’ Looking at the Latin root educo is very revealing: “to draw out.” The greatest teachers are not renowned for the information they bestow, but the inspiration they provide.
Of course it’s easy to love Mr. Holland’s Opus when we see years of repetitive work pay off with a moment of clarity for a pupil. Teaching exceptional students is easy – but what about the groundwork that must be laid in order to reach a point of inspiration? And what if a student has the potential, but can’t afford music lessons? Is that moment of inspiration more or less likely to occur if the fundamentals are never drilled in over time?
Truthfully I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I am excited to say that at the time being, I no longer need those answers. The Nashville Jazz Workshop is launching a Scholarship Lessons Program this semester for area students of all ability levels who are serious about music but can’t afford music lessons. All the details are available at the Nashville Jazz Workshop website (or click the link above) – there’s an application and a brief audition. But essentially students can qualify for entire semesters (and beyond) of free music lessons (and more). Feel free to hit me questions, and please spread the word!