Not long ago, on Facebook, I received an attack by a man who was a complete stranger, because I had engaged in a discussion with one of my social contacts he was friends with. The subject of that initial discussion is irrelevant. What I wish to bring forward is that when I explained why I considered the teaching and study of music as an enriching and important life experience, he answered with a lengthy declaration of hatred and disdain. To make things short, he accused me of being “irresponsible” and “incumbent” because I encouraged my students to believe in their individual qualities and wished them to feel empowered through persistent honing of their skills, active learning and personal growth. According to this man, I was selling my students the idea that they would “all be rock stars”, that I was ignorant of what the life of a musician is really like and that I was speaking from the perspective of a twenty year old.
While I could interpret it as flattering that from my profile picture on Facebook he assumed I was in my twenties, when I am really approaching forty, all the rest of his argument was an evident expression of entitlement, bitterness, and possibly even jealousy. My reaction was of disbelief and rage, and I ended up calling him an asshole. It was not a rhetorically sophisticated move, but sometimes you have to call things – and people – by their name. I did not tell him about the true nature of a musician’s work and passion, and neither did I say anything about the joy and pride I take in seeing my students advance, not just in music, but in life. I have never needed to tell anyone they will be a rock star because I strive to give my lessons in such a way that they, in themselves, are the benefit of attending. No need for dangling far-fetched carrots in front of anyone’s nose. Becoming a rock star as a result of taking lessons in classical music is a tough item to sell – I would need the charisma of a goddess to pull this off. But thanks for thinking I have that!
Instead, what teaching music is really about is:
Showing people that if they manage to fight their way through hours of persistent study, awaken their analytic mind and training their body to obey them, they will also have the power to pursue their goals and move forward in other areas of their lives. Music lessons are great fun, but they also promote self-confidence, self-knowledge, determination, concentration and mindfulness.
Helping people embrace, liberate and enjoy their emotions and turn them into beauty.
Keeping kids off the streets and away from hopelessness, drugs and delinquency. I have seen young individuals from dysfunctional or economically underprivileged families become enthusiastic and confident members of youth orchestras, improve their grades at school, enroll at universities in diverse areas of study, and even make first steps towards becoming professional musicians. What could be more gratifying than knowing I have been a tiny part of what made all of this possible?
Providing a space for socializing, teamwork and unwinding. Music lessons are developed through the constructive and empathic interaction between the teacher and student. They go far beyond checking if all the homework has been done. Everyone involved is required to leave behind the bullies, conflicts and obstacles everyday-life confronts them with, even if it is just for the duration of the lesson or rehearsal. Music helps to engage with the present moment and the present people – be those the teacher or an ensemble of fellow music students and musicians.
Promoting the appreciation and transmission of cultural knowledge.
Why am I pointing all this out? Because there are people who will try to ridicule or condemn your studying music or your building an existence as a musician. In fact, there are those who will try to deviate you from any path you wish to explore, inside or outside the arts. My urgent advice to you is to recognize them for the ill-intended, corroding forces they are, especially when they are attempting to serve you their destructiveness as “realism”. The moment you surrender to them and abandon your track, they will disappear and leave you standing lost in the emptiness of your defeated spirit. You have enough to chew on with the voices of doubt and self-criticism you have in your own mind. You do not need anyone else to remind you of your weaker character traits. No one out there ever gets to face them from as close up as you do every day of your life.
Please, all of you out there – students, artists, friends, family – remain true to yourselves. Be courageous, be willing to work hard for what you believe in, keep setting one foot in front of the other. Know when to save your energy for things and people that matter, and have fun calling all others what they are!