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What sets a student up for a joyful musical life?

As a musician who feels lucky enough to enjoy all aspects of my work, conversations about my profession often very quickly spark stories from people of how they used to play the violin, the piano, the oboe, as a child but they gave up because they didn’t like their teacher, they didn’t like their lessons, or they weren’t very disciplined with their practise. So, as a teacher, a key question that I live with is ‘what will inspire my students to not only practise this week, but relish their learning and musical journey this month, this year and hopefully for the rest of their lives?’

I believe that a sense of magic is the key to this. A certain sense of wonder, that children are so good at naturally, and some adults also retain! The best teachers know how tune into wherever that magic lies within their student, and infuse what the student is learning with that magic. I love this quote from Picasso:

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

- Pablo Picasso

All children are artists in that all children have that curiosity and playfullness that we so often stop tuning into as adults. It's that acute sense of imagination that I believe is harnessed, and fostered by the best teachers, in their work. I was recently working with a violin student who tended to rush through the music he was playing. I wanted to help him take his time and relish each note. I suggested that he imagine that the piece was like the Crème Caramel that I knew he was just about to have for pudding. He joked and said that he wouldn’t be relishing that- he’d be wolfing it down! We both laughed and I then asked him what moments in life he naturally knew how to savour. He thought for a while, and then eventually said ‘being a goalie and saving goals!’ So we settled on the imagery of saving a goal, and I did a slightly ridiculous impression of that, in slow motion, which resulted in more laughter. The magic of that moment- it’s in that spirit that he should play his violin, I explained. He then played the passage we were working on once more, before his lesson ended and it was time for his crème caramel pudding. He finally played it with the relish I was looking for - capturing the spirit of that moment that a goalie saves the day, with skill, precision and magical timing.

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