In From the Stage to the Studio Cornelia Watkins and Laurie Scott begin “Part 2: The Art of Teaching” by identifying principles of responsible teaching. Though there are 22 principles listed, I found each one to be incredibly important and also described in a way that was actionable. Some, such as (1) caring about students as individuals, (11) giving students a chance to play and (14) approaching each student with optimism, are principles I already established within my studio. However, others such as (12) defining artistic standards, (15) doing no harm and (19) and infecting students with my passion for music making are principles I would like to establish.
I began viola lessons this semester with doctoral candidate Alex Smith. We meet in his tiny, but well decorated office down the hall from the string project office once a week in order to fulfill my course requirements for graduation. I don’t have a choice in taking the class, and he doesn’t have a choice in teaching me, however I knew from our first lesson that I would enjoy a semester of music making. Alex, before I even unpacked my rented viola, began writing a list of works for viola that I needed to listen to (with his favorite performances on YouTube noted to the side). Before I played it, Alex picked up my viola and played each of my open strings with his eyes closed and ear turned toward the instrument. He thanked the universe that it was a viola worth playing. And in our last few minutes of the first lesson Alex began to speak to the multitude of reasons he plays the viola. He had trouble wrapping up the lesson because he kept coming up with reasons, and I could hear in the timbre of his voice the passion Alex has for making music on his viola. Because of his enthusiasm I practiced diligently, but also with a sense of awe at the new sounds I was producing. I plan to take more care in communicating my passion for violin to my students now that I understand, through Alex’s example, its impact.
This post is one in a series of concise reflections on Laurie Scott and Cornelia Watkins’ From the Stage to the Studio: How Fine Musicians Become Great Teachers. Find other reflections here.