Music

Why My Music Teacher Never Gives Up on Me

In another article How I learned to draw and how you can too, I wrote about my journey into creativity. I hope it inspires you to embark on your own creative journey. Of course, one can learn on one’s own or seek the guidance of a teacher. If you plan to learn from a teacher, it’s important to find one who’ll never give up on you.

“The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate “apparently ordinary” people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people.” ~K. Patricia Cross

Around the same time I started drawing, I also joined a classical music (vocal) class in my area. For those of you not familiar with Indian culture, there are two main streams in Indian classical music – Hindustani and Carnatic. Both streams have vocal and instrumental forms. Simply put, Hindustani classical music is the North Indian style of Indian classical music while Carnatic music is it’s South Indian counterpart.

I started taking lessons from a local Marathi (she hails from the state of Maharashtra, whose capital city is the famous Mumbai) teacher. She learned Carnatic music (not very common for a Maharashtrian to learn Carnatic music) and very happily accepted me as a student (in spite of my ZERO musical background).

Even though I enjoyed listening to music, I didn’t know the ABC of music, I mean, the Sa Re Ga (equivalent of the western Doh Re Mi) of music. Zero idea about beats, notes, pitch, musicality … get the idea?

We started from the very basics. Kudos to my teacher. Week after week, she patiently taught me. We practiced, and we practiced and we practiced.

As per the Indian traditional style of teaching music, the teacher sings, the student listens and re-produces. I figured out later that this helps cultivate the student’s intuition over time and the student who sincerely practices would learn to tap into his/her Inner Wisdom or Universal Wisdom.

My teacher would tell me, “Close your eyes and repeat after me”. Now, that’s not as easy as it sounds! Not for someone like me with a dominant left brain that loves to analyze and ask questions, wants reason and logic for everything, and is busy finding patterns and shortcuts! And let’s not forget the chatter that’s constantly self-judging!!!

The chatter within the head is the biggest roadblock because the chatter thinks it knows everything that needs to be known! That’s the reason children learn so fast because they have not yet majored in mindless chatter like us adults. It’s the perfect time to nurture their creativity. The chatter within their heads is practically non-existent and with a little focus and concentration they can grasp anything faster than an adult!

There were times when I wanted to give up … why bother? But I persisted. Hmmmm, to tell the truth, actually it’s my teacher who persisted. If not for her, I would have probably quit long back.

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” ~Karl Menninger

My teacher is passionate about music and she is very gifted. Her guruji must be over 80 years old now and she simply reveres him in the authentic traditional Indian guru-shishya (teacher-student) way! Her teacher’s word is law to her. He asked her to continue the tradition of music by sharing it with others. And that’s what she does. She imparts all that she had learned and is learning (music is an infinite ocean and there’s no end to one’s learning) to anyone and everyone who approaches her. She doesn’t qualify her students nor does she judge them.

Once I asked her how she manages students who don’t learn fast or well or … (you guessed right, I was indirectly referring to myself!!!). Pat came the answer, “Teach, teach, teach”.

Initially, when she began teaching, she apparently was frustrated with some students and their lack of musicality. She approached her guruji and asked him what she should do. He told her it’s her duty to teach and share her music to whoever approaches her. Continue teaching, he told her. If the student is good, it’s to the student’s credit. If the student is not doing well, it’s the teacher’s responsibility to persevere.

I was inspired when I heard that. Human potential is unlimited and tremendous and my teacher’s guruji was essentially asking her to trust and have faith in the human spirit.

And that’s what she does. With patience, sincerity, humility, commitment and 100% devotion to music and her teacher – class after class. She has success stories of students who finally “got” it – some have taken a few months, some have taken a few years. As long as they come to her, she continues teaching them. She makes effort to understand the learning style and personality of her student and adapts her teaching style to accommodate the student.

Now, wouldn’t you like to learn from such a teacher or send your kids to such a teacher? A teacher who would never give up on you or your kids, no matter what?

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