Motivation, Performances, Practicing

Music + Imagination

I often have students’ parents and grandparents tell me that they wish they had kept taking piano lessons.  I use this to encourage my current students, and tell them that it’s a gift to be able to sit down at an instrument and create music — a gift that can provide great pleasure to oneself and others.

Why do so many students quit?  I mean, I realize that it might not be feasible for everyone to take lessons for their whole life (although wouldn’t that be amazing?!), but still, why do so many people regret that they didn’t continue their lessons longer while they were young?  

I think one reason may be time restraints and schedule conflicts.  When it comes down to it, there are only 24 hours in a day, and you simply cannot do everything.

I think another reason might be a lack of inspiration.  I mean, what happens when an painter loses inspiration?  No painting gets painted.  What about a writer?  No words.  And what happens when a musician loses inspiration?  No music!  At least, no powerful, moving, emotion-filled music, like it should be.  When inspiration is gone, music making becomes a robotic task.

As soon as music lessons become only about getting all the notes right, following directions correctly, getting a certain amount of practice done each day — it becomes vain and endless.  No wonder students quit!  Those are not the end goals — those are only some of the many possible means to the end goal.  Music making should be like an adventure, where every day you get to experience new places and sensations.

Music making is all about causing a piece called “Peaceful Sunset” evoke a feelings and mental images of a calm, tranquil sunset of vivid reds and oranges at the beach on a warm summer evening.  It’s figuring out how make a piece entitled “Coconut Shuffle” transport you to a tropical place where the sound of crickets and Caribbean dance music fills the evening air.

Keeping inspiration alive is all about engaging the imagination.  After all, having an imagination is one of the major differences between humans and robots.

When engaging the imagination becomes the end goal, practice no longer seems like practice.   It becomes music making, and piano lessons become an apprenticeship, where you learn how to improve and fine-tune your music making skills.  Time constraints are no longer an issue when music making is something to do for fun, and something to look forward to.

As a teacher, this is my chief goal: to instill into each of my students a living, breathing zeal for music making that will last a lifetime.

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