Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Postmodern Piano Teacher

Sure it's an oxymoron. Anybody irrational enough to be a piano teacher in America is comparable to the Latin professor stuck teaching George W. Bush, or maybe Will Smith. (If you love Will Smith like I do, you'll understand the conundrum.) But allow me to explain my reasons for this blog...which, to be politically correct, really should be titled "Global Era Piano Teacher" except that 'global era' didn't start with a 'P'...

I've just come off of a four-year sabbatical from private piano teaching in suburban USA, where I had maintained a studio of 68-72 students weekly for 10 years. Not only was I burnt-out after listening to so much piano bashing, but the political climate had grown so hostile by 2002 that if I couldn't express acceptably 'patriotic' sentiments at all times to all clientele, then I was either going to be fired, or else incarcerated shortly at a terrorist holding facility of undetermined locale. I've always voted independently, leaning both right-and-left-of-center depending upon the issue. Yet here I was, in a place suddenly reeking of Germany 1938. Both appalled and disgusted, I wagered it was time to walk. Realfast.

So I did. I gave the good folks a year's warning, farmed them all out lovingly, and then skedaddled from that town. For an often entertaining rundown on some of the 15+ jobs that I've enjoyed over the past four years, peruse my website Jobs! Jobs Everywhere! What has happened to the Real World since I last labored 'out there' back in the '80's, is absolutely jaw-dropping.

Those adventures did shed a new light on the nerdy, quiet little piano teacher's world that I had left behind, at least; and the political climate has started to mellow now, so that it's once again legal to think. (I think.) So I'm building a new nest of students in a new place, but am starting this blog by way of keeping sanity and perspective, while doing so.

Teaching piano is like watching bread leaven. It is a miracle, what happens, whenever a human system overcomes any genuine musical hurdle. And it sickens me to see what's become of American culture as a result of real music study having been relegated either to LoserLand or else to citadels of the privileged. We've put all of our resources into the pipes, but let the actual water run dry.

I've taught every level of piano music to every age, with some very enormous scholarships claimed among the bunch. But the biggest revelations for me came via the 'slow' students. I had never been 'slow'. So watching a rude, remedial student with zero coordination and the ear of a pickle develop gradually into a gracious, principled human who happens to play the piano competently, was far more humbling for me than watching one of my whiz kids win a gold medal or a dumpster full of money. The 'slow' student was like a control specimen illustrating just how deeply music study affected the whole metabolism. Every single time that the student learns to coordinate right and left hands (and eye, and ear) in a new way, the circuits between those two little old brain hemispheres absolutely go "ZzZAPP!" as a new connection opens up. It's really, REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF going on there, guys. Lotta water for them pipes!

So welcome to this thoroughly untypical piano teachers' blog. It might even talk about music, sometimes. Although raccoons on the deck and the 400-year-old cedar towering over this hut can often be a lot more interesting...

No comments: