ate: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 22:41:18 -0500
From: Gregory Alley <>
Subject: PED:  Long Greggie Post on Teaching


Irrespective of how this thread got started with Ian/Geyer/Roth, etc., I'd like to extend the commentary.  It has been quite a while since the last "Long Greggie Post," so if you are relatively new to the list, consider yourself forewarned!

What I believe to be the core issue here is teaching the ability to discriminate.  One great function of the "guild style" or
master/journeyman/apprentice method of teaching, is its ability to pass on from one generation to the next the skill of discrimination.  How a teacher does that becomes their "trademark," so to speak.  Hear me out.

To recognize the difference between "things" is part of becoming successful in one's field.  If I read one book, that book is by default the "best I've ever read."  If I read two books, now I must discriminate.  Which is better?  Why?  Ultimately one must judge their own effort as being good, better, best, better than the best, etc., against several complementary criteria, i.e. the competition, one's own abilities, the "norm" or established practice, and so on.

A teacher nurtures this skill very thoughtfully and compassionately.  For example, a student brings their best effort into the lesson.  The teacher begins working by providing a standard by which that student can begin to self-judge their own effort.  Some teach by sounding an example, others by spoken analogies, but for learning to truly take place, each student must discriminate between his or her efforts and the "standard."  This is necessary regardless of teaching style.  Moreover, a teacher's style should change slightly to meet the unique individuality of the student.

Take Charlier #2.  The studentsD works it up, but it is demonstrably below the quality of musicianship to be acceptable in most performing venues and/or it is less than "guild standards."  The teacher then responds simultaneously in numerous ways.  One, by providing Dave Baldwin's CD, or performing it themselves as an example, or they can use evocative word pictures to convey musical feeling.

Two, the teacher must determine what, if any, physical hinderances are occuring that prevent the student's full musical expression.  Thirdly, the teacher must use appropriate amounts of psychological techniques like praise and criticism.  This is a daunting task and why I think teaching is exhausting work.  One must juggle so many balls at once while conveying a positive outlook on the student's progress.

So, what's my point, you may ask?  Regardless of style, regardless of a student's previous abilities, in my opinion, learning doesn't take place unless a student can learn to distinguish on their own what is good, better, etc., and what they OUGHT to do once they walk out of the studio for the last time.  Only then can they accurately judge daily progress and map out realistic goals which will yield greater confidence and personal success in practice and performance.

You may disagree with me on this, but I think that ultimately, the onus or burden of learning is the student's, not the teacher's.  And both teacher and student must come to recognize that fact.  Funny thing though; great teachers place this burden upon the shoulders of their students slowly and carefully.  The weight is never too much to carry until they become strong enough to do so.   Parents, know what I mean?  :)

"Whoa, Silver, we've ridden too far already!  Stop and drink from this stream, faithful horse!  We'll ride again later!"

- -Greggie

"tuba mirum sparget sonum!"