Harping on Teaching Music

Anyone remember a TV advert from years ago for (I think) Mannequin Cigars, in which a piano student is desecrating Beethoven while the teacher paces behind him, holding his head in his hands in an attempt to stifle the assault on his ears, until he lights a cigar, and inhales … and the student is transformed into a latter day Horowitz?

Always smiled at it, feeling enough of an affinity with the cigar toting teacher for it to strike a chord (sorry) with me, although I rarely felt that way.

Still, it’s enough to prompt the question – why teach?

And more particularly – why teach music, apart from the obvious things like it’s fun and satisfying and even (sometimes) exciting being involved in learning?

There’s the variety of music you get to hear. (Right now I have students playing Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Journey, Sting, Elton John, Pachelbel, J.S. Bach, Dvorak, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Chopin, The Everly Brothers, Mozart, K. & R. Lopez (‘Frozen’), Bob Seger, Tegan and Sara, and good ol’ Hoagy Carmichael.)

There are interactions like the one that came after eight year old Emily struggled (I mean Mannequin-cigar-demanding-struggled) through a new work and turned to me with big eyes.
Me: “Hmmm. What about your other piece?”
Etta: “Whoa yeah, baby, get a load of this.”

There’s the moment when, after you’ve struggled to keep an adolescent playing, you realise she or he is at last playing independently of you, and for fun. (Yup, you’re on the way to irrelevancy and obsolescence.)

And there’s the end game – seeing students become independent musicians, playing for church, or school, or weddings, or in a band, or just for themselves.

Plenty to compensate for the occasional frustration, with or without a cigar.


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