65. Is Martyrdom Necessary in Music Lessons?
Most people, students and teachers alike, are convinced that an education in music requires patience, stress, and suffering. I’ve audaciously taken it upon myself to declare that this isn’t true. It’s time to part with the theory of “hard work.” It doesn’t reflect much aside from our inability to teach effectively. It is as if we’d like to pass on the hardships we had with music onto our students.
I also studied music through the traditional method. When I flipped the music staff over, placing the clefs in the air, I learned to see the notes in a completely new light! But the enthusiasm and success of my students became the true indication of the efficacy of my method. I simply can’t imagine a different path. Now and then, some of the more conservative parents request that I teach their children in the old way. But even they give up on this venture when they realize how much this slows their child’s progress. This is the same as switching from a powerful, fast computer to an old machine that crashes and lags from any new information.
For too long now, music educators have been swimming against the flow – they have battled with the natural development of the perception, with the laws of the establishment of skills, and the gradual cycles of learning. Instead of trying to improve its effectiveness, traditional pedagogy has thought up a justifying philosophy for itself: learning music requires certain abilities that not everyone has, and mastering music involves hardship and suffering. Convinced of its own innocence, pedagogy must convert everyone else to its belief. “Patience and hardship” have been elevated into an ideal, and the “believing” educators are blind to the fact that they are teaching with the worst of all methods.
Adult Beginner's progress in 2 months after using Elementary and Interactive music notation of 'Soft Mozart' at local piano competition for piano amateurs in Kaliningrad, Russia.
The truth is that every child can read notes and play with both hands as easily as he can ride a bike. Having demonstrated this through action, I received angry letters and rejection from my colleagues. I can recall an irate letter from a professional pianist and educator. He labeled the application of supports in education as “confusing to the students” and “gimmicky methods.” He crowned his bitter tirade with a typical position, a device of the traditional school: “Your program seems simple, but in reality, this is an illusion. In your chase after the dollar you’re forgetting that not everyone can learn to play the piano, but only those that are ready to work extraordinarily hard!” It seems that in his fervor to defend the traditional methods, he didn’t realize that he himself had admitted its greatest weakness: its inability to teach everyone. He didn’t want to accept the very possibility of a simple solution, even though he saw its results with his own eyes!
Unfortunately, to most teachers, the idea of public music education is nothing more than a “chase after dollars.” They don’t allow the thought in that every person can play music on principle. They are convinced that only certain children have the necessary talent to pass through all circles of hell in order to grasp the language of music. Where does this confidence come from? Their own experience. Their known ambitions and habits outweighing sensibility and reason, they are only able to teach the most gifted. This signifies that whatever results are achieved aren’t because of their system of teaching, but rather, in spite of it. But this can only be recognized by those that have been able to find better methods.
Our progress has a certain unfortunate effect: Every authority thinks it his personal duty to oppose anyone that has been able to find his own path. We earnestly try to remain “the most correct” …forever! It would seem that new discoveries and achievements would cheer accepted pedagogues and colleagues. But they see outside success as a personal slight.
A new, more productive method always inadvertently disproves tradition. But if this didn’t happen, we’d still be calling priests and exorcists every time someone at home became ill!
My colleagues have classified my work as a debunking of their labor and beliefs. I can understand this, but sincerely wish that the main focus of their ambitions became their result.
A child-beginner works on her piano assignment using visually simplified and interactive music score of 'Soft Mozart' (USA)
In the hierarchy of “devotees to music,” the ‘norm’ becomes more important than the success of the black sheep. Sometimes it seems to me that the point of the pedagogy isn’t at all the joy of our students’ progress, but their bowing down before us as gods. Many educators are willing to overlook the fact that there are no results in their efforts, so long as they don’t have to reexamine their methods. They are ready to demand any amount of effort and time from their students, compel them to cram without stop, but are sanctimoniously convinced: to sacrifice oneself to “high art” is the price the student has to pay. And this would have been acceptable if “high art” were the true mastering of music, rather than the comforting of those that don’t care to learn anything themselves.