From: "Ian McKechnie" <>
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 23:25:11 +0000
Subject: Re: PED:Solo and Ensemble...

I have left at the bottom of this note the whole of the exchange between Jay Carrigan aand Al Lilly, because I have rarely enjoyed reading such a dialectic so much.

I would like to stress the common ground between them, and at the risk of sacrificing depth (because I don't have time to write a full essay at the moment - sorry) would say :

1. Not every teacher is as commited or capable as I assume Al is. I have certainly experienced bad teaching in my own time, and as I am currently trying to "mentor" my eldest daughter (a cellist) in her music we have just changed from a "poor" teacher to a "better" teacher. The difference is astounding, in enthusiasm, in standard, etc. etc.

2. I do not believe that a good teacher will seek exclusive control over the pupils' work, but rather will work on the pupil's tastes (developing them, of course). I have heard teachers trying to ban pupils from playing jazz, on the grounds that it is bad for technique : IMHO they should encourage them to play jazz with "proper" technique (for example). My daughter's last teacher did not want her to join any orchestra other than the school one. Her current teacher is delighted that she's now playing in the same orchestras as me. They use the orchestral repertoire as study materials.

3. If the pupil only does what the teacher suggests, they will never end up better than the teacher. We should be aiming for synergy here - - I have found that the teaching relationship ends up with both parties learning. (it is possible for an old trumpet player to learn from a young 'cellist, for example!)

4. It follows from this that the student should be positively encouraged to be in charge of their own learning experience : the teacher can then become a facilitator, not an instructor (I appreciate this is not possible in the very early stages)

5. I strongly agree with Al that extra-curricular activity must not detract from the mainstream work set, otherwise it's pointless having a teacher. BUT it is part of the teacher's job to ensure that there is not so much work set that outside activities are impossible. I also think it's possible to practise too much. Play lots, by all means, but practise little, often and concentrated!

6. One point I have noticed with some teachers (NOT Al, I emphasize) is that they expect their pupils to have blind faith that all will come right in the end. I prefer to see a teacher explain "this is what I think we need to do, this is why, and this is how we are going to achieve it" rather than say "do this, don't question, and it will be all right"

7. I particularly dislike "systems". I like teachers to be like libraries : something there for everyone's needs, and a guide available if you don't know what you're looking for. They should however be familiar with most "systems".

Also I agree with Al's point about focus : it is a real danger for someone in David's position to take a grasshopper" approach tomusic, and never get down to tackling any subject in depth. However, I would say that from what I have read of David's postings he seems to have his head screwed on right, and I think he should be encouraged to stay in command of what is after all his career. I hope his teacher appreciates the potential he has, and has the ability to encourage it in the right direction.

And I hope he keeps on asking TPIN for advice and opinions : after all, he is not under any obligation to take any of the advice he is offered : he is merely obliged to think about it before making his own mind up!

Ian McKechnie

Full text of previous posting follows :

>From:         "Albert L. Lilly III" <>
> Subject:       Re: Solo and Ensemble...
> Cc:   (Jay T. Carrigan)
> Reply-to:

> > There's nothing really wrong with following Al's advice, but (IMO)
> > there's nothing wrong with ignoring it either.
> I think that point is really one that you cannot speculate on.  My advice
> will keep David advancing, but if he completely ignores it and chooses to
> constantly do his own thing, there is something wrong with ignoring it. No
> one ever got worse from a little diligent effort.
> >
> > It's been more than 40 years since I took lessons, so I can't vouch
> > for the complete accuracy of my recollections.  I recall that my
> > teacher mostly had me working through the exercises and solos in
> > Clarke.  I still have the book with the assignment dates marked in
> > pencil.
> >
> > But for solo contests I NEVER played a Clarke solo.  In fact I think
> > everything I did was a Mendez arrangement, and I don't ever recall
> > working on these with my teacher.  I do think that I was taught how
> > to teach myself and how to prepare a piece on my own.
> >
> That is unfortunate, and I am sorry for you that it happened that way.  I
> use solo literature to reinforce the ideas and techniques I am trying to
> develop with the exercises.  In this method, a student who doesn't practice
> the materials I give him is missing out on a lot.
> > So if David has the ability to simultaneously prepare a solo while
> > at the same time keeping up with his lessons, I say go for it.  In
> > the end it should make him a better player.
> >
> Agreed, IF David can keep up.  But, and this is the case with many of my
> students, he is constantly preparing materials that are not assigned and
> spends no time on those which are going to improve him in a prescribed
> manner, then it will be detrimental.  I do not wish to squash his interest,
> but rather to show him that perseverance and discipline are the keys to
> success, not random jumping and constant change.
> I really think that a little focus will go a long way!  I am not suggesting
> an occasional trip to the music store would be bad, but I wouldn't give up
> practice time for it.  Make a monthly trip to the music store a reward for
> diligent effort, and for keeping with the lessons as your teacher assigns
> them. Hten, the trips will be more eventful, and the practice more
> rewarding.
> Al