Celebrating "Bright" Spots
FAR too much emphasis in musical training is placed upon a "someday we'll get there" destination-outlook. Our society in general tends to think in terms of destinations rather than journeys. Promising young sports players in our local community are spoken of in terms of the next "level" of play, and so on. This is so silly. Do people listen to music so that they can "get it over with?" Of course not! Beautiful music is meant to be enjoyed in the moment. So why should learning music be any different? The short answer is...it shouldn't. This is what we mean by celebrating bright spots. When a student has worked on a piece and can play, we then marinate in that some. We may record the piece with them (video, or audio, or both). Maybe we add a style track to their work to give their piece of music a whole-new sound. Or change instrumentation from piano to Banjo and Honky Tonk piano instead. So one important value in teaching (and in life, we might add) is to celebrate the bright spots. The phrase "bright spots" is a term we have borrowed from Doug Lemov's book Practice Perfect, which is a well-written book in part about what the difference is between good and great teachers.
Does that mean that we fill students with false-praise every time they play something incorrectly? No. Does that mean that we never ask students to do things that they don't want to learn? No. Does that mean that we never criticize and correct issues? Of course not. But it does mean that the actual journey of getting students to learn and grow should be enjoyed. Aside from enjoying the journey, this also means that students should always have AT LEAST ONE (if not more) pieces that they have chosen to learn. By having the student involved in choosing 1-2 of their pieces to learn, they are excited and willing to put in the time and effort to learn it. The desire to learn a piece of music will break down all kinds of barriers for the student. We require that our teachers "smell the roses" with students. Love the lesson, love the song they are struggling with right now, savor and be present in the moment with the student. <strong>Life is not meant to be enjoyed through a rear-view mirror.
Teach and Believe in Foundation Principles - The Pillars
We discourage rote memorization. It is a true waste of time and students and their parents money if we simply help students "learn a song" at the expense of the student not understanding music. This happens EVERY DAY in studios all of the world. We will not allow this in our studios. This is a complete waste of a students time and money. What good is it for a student to be able to play flight of the bumblebee, but they cannot play happy birthday by ear? Or why have a student learn a demanding Beethoven Sonata and not even know what key they are in (we see it everyday...unbelievable!)? Recently, we had several teachers audition to teach at our school, and I kid you not - they could play Grieg's Piano Concerto, but couldn't play Happy Birthday, even after 5 minutes of plunking around - and several of the applicants had perfect pitch. That is an ABSOLUTE CRIME! That is a dramatic example of what we DO NOT support at Music Pillars. We will not allow our student to become technically proficient but musically illiterate. So any teacher that works at MP must believe in and teach through that well-rounded approach.
"Show Pony Studios" Abound for Parents looking for that
But fear not parents, if you would like that - you needn't look far. There are many piano "studios" that create technically proficient, but musically illiterate students. Your son/daughter can be drilled and drilled and drilled until they can play a handful of technically-demanding and impressive etudes that will no doubt wow grandma and the neighbors. Please understand, we are 100% for learning classical music. It is not classical music that we have an issue with, it is the focus on technical dexterity at the expense of basically everything else. Its very sad, and its one of the reasons we are so passionate about how we teach here. The Pillars taught at Music Pillars are much more than just some nice looking icons on the back of our business cards, it is our core curriculum for teaching. We do not support or condone rote memorization at the expense of being musically illiterate.
Musical Tools for Life
When that student grows up, they will REMEMBER foundational principles that they have internalized (applied theory, pattern recognition, sight-reading, general principles of playing by ear and composition), and will have long forgotten the rote memorization. We want foundational principles to ring in students minds/hearts DECADES after they have studied at Music Pillars.
We embrace technology and its frequent changes and disruptions of the music world. The technology we use is met with a great deal of resistance by many teachers we visit with or interview/audition. Such teachers need not apply to work at Music Pillars. Technology is ABSOLUTELY here to stay, and we will embrace various technologies at our studio. Right now, the cutting-edge technology for us is the use of the ipad, and "smart" pianos. But in 10 years, most likely there will be biometric sensors that will assist us in further enhancing and honing a student's learning experience. And after that, who knows....Whatever the technology is, Music Pillars will embrace it if it enhances and improves the student's learning experience. This can be very uncomfortable for teachers because they too have to learn and expand their own working knowledge. Sadly, we find that some teachers are resistant to that. Such teachers are not a good fit for us at Music Pillars