My Ideal Teacher

My ideal teacher understands that excusing lack of progress or playing ability as “your age,” is a coded way of saying “lower your expectations and don’t try so hard;” that the words are dismissive and disparaging, and undermine passion and pursuit.

My ideal teacher understands that an unattained goal is valued for the progress that it inspired, and that it is never a measure of failure.

My ideal teacher understands an unwavering conviction in the capacity of neuro-plasticity and human growth at all ages and stages

My ideal teacher understands the utility of outsized, aspirational goals; that they can inspire and motivate, and propel a student beyond what is believed possible.

My ideal teacher understands the uncharted paths in adult education, the ones leading toward elite ability, and has curiosity and gumption to seek out those paths.

My ideal teacher understands that the developmental timeline, expectations and methods for teaching a child may not be appropriate for teaching an adult; and that it is incumbent on him or her to research and experiment in the quest of serving an adult student.

My ideal teacher understands the value of disciplined, focused work, yet finds pursuit of the extraordinary an exciting, stimulating, joyful adventure.

My ideal teacher understands that whatever we discover and achieve together lays groundwork for even further attainment by ensuing adult learners.

Copyright 2019, All rights reserved.

Fridays @ 5: David-Porter

 The thing about violinist and violin-teacher David-Porter is that he draws me into my dis-comfort zone, relentlessly, every lesson. My job as a student is to go home and spend the week turning that dis-comfort zone into a comfort zone. No tears allowed. And as my goal is to learn to play violin, we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Progress is tacitly acknowledged. The real teaching comes from his weaving his way through the labyrinth of my ineptitude, showing me the sights and providing musical guidance as we go. Always prodding, always pushing, David-Porter isn’t interested in producing mediocre violinists, and it takes a certain kind of stamina to stand for his weekly challenge.

Lately we’ve been working on bowing techniques and the various colors they produce. David-Porter exudes a trust that, with time, I will master these techniques and their subtleties; that, as breath and vocal cords learn to automatically produce expressive language, so will my breath and arm learn to do for music. This trust gives me confidence to toil forward weekly, violin in tow.

If you want to push yourself and maximize your ability, it helps to seek out an elite-violinist and teacher like David-Porter. The higher the level a musician works at and continuously pursues, the more highly their hearing and expressive ability is developed over the decades of a career; and if such violinist cares deeply about the process of translating and providing this information for those lower down the chain, then you have a great teacher uncanny at drawing the best from their students. David-Porter is one such.
copyright 2017, All rights reserved.
photo by Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune

Tuesdays @ 2: David Langr

It is with David that I fell in love. With my violin. He was my first teacher. At our first lesson he asked what experience I had with the instrument. “I learned to play ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ once,” I replied. “Great! I’d love to hear it.” Ensued a caterwauling only you can imagine. “That was lovely!” David declared, “Here, let me show you another way to hold the violin.” Thus began our five years work together.

David was always patient and always kind. Little by little we worked our way through Suzuki books 1, 2 and 3. “A little higher on 3rd finger D.” “Open up your bow arm. Let it relax at the elbow.” He taught my ears to hear pitch. He loosened up stiff joints. He accompanied me in recitals when I wanted to freak out and run away. David kept me at it, and he let me love the sound I that produced, regardless of what I produced.

First teachers are like this. They tolerate quick learners and awkward learners, ones with incessant questions, those prone to exploring off base, guiding gently back to proper technique and musical expression. They introduce us to our instruments and to music, opening a door for inner voice to shine. They play an outsized role in our lives, influencing musical development and life to come. They forever hold a place in our hearts.

Do you have a David Langr in your life? With whom did you fall in love with your violin? Or your oboe, or your snare drum, or whichever instrument you play. See the comments? Let the world know how wonderful is this teacher of yours. (And maybe we’ll even get to learn who David Langr‘s David Langr is . . .)

Copyright 2017.  All rights reserved.
Top photo by Francisco Kjolseth, The Salt Lake Tribune. Bottom photo from the 2017 BLUME National Orchestra Institute in Haiti.