I stumbled on this a few days ago, and it really resonated with me. I'm sharing it here for those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing it. I'm not sure what Mr. Ackert's background is in, but I believe that he hits the nail on the head. What do you think? Professional musicians, I would love to hear your thoughts! - BF
“Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.”
-David Ackert, LA Times
As a university applied studio teacher, it can be difficult to codify a lesson grade. Do we count the number of missed notes and deduct a point for each? Is it a ratio of passed off etudes to the number of etudes assigned? My biggest goal is to make the grade inconsequential, or at the very least, a formality. That being said, I am responsible for recording weekly lesson grades for each student, so here is how I set up the framework for lessons, and what I expect each week.
The weekly lesson is a "pit stop" along the road of improvement. It's where you check the following things:
Alignment and Efficiency.
Interpretation and Delivery.
My job is to guide you as you improve. When I become the motivating force, studying the instrument becomes an obstacle to joy, rather than a vehicle for joy. Always remember that we are playing an instrument! Let's take these one by one, shall we?
Alignment and Efficiency
In the hustle and bustle of weekly preparation, we often don't have a great music stand, so we hunch over. Some weeks, we get lazy with the slide grip, or a strange horn angle is adopted, which affect everything from the embouchure to breathing to reaching seventh position. Without regular check-ins with your teacher, these quirks become habits, which impede your progress, usually by making you work harder than you need to in order to execute passages easily. Here, we check in with technique, which is most directly monitored through study of scales, arpeggios, and other fundamentals.
Interpretation and Delivery
I have been playing the trombone and making music for a long time....possibly longer than you have been alive. Consequently, I have strong opinions about how most music should be played. However, I am NOT interested in making robots! I want you to have an opinion, and if we are in opposition, I look forward to intelligent conversation on the subject. Who knows...I might learn something from you! Also, a particularly awkward passage may come across to the listener as less than confident, and I need to be ready to help you make sense of it, so that you can come across to your audience as cool, calm, collected and confident.
The aim of college is to prepare you for the marketplace. I don't expect a collared shirt and tie at lessons, but I expect a few things. As "intern" musicians, I believe that you must:
An "A" student is:
Dont' shoot for a B, C, D, or F. Striving for an "A" lesson should be your only concern! Every student is capable of an "A" lesson each week!!!