music teaching

music lessons in today's busy attention economy

The Information Economy?

People sometimes say that we are living in the “information economy.”  I think that is only partially true.  Instead, I believe we are living in the attention economy.  Think about it.  There is nothing more precious than our attention — not time, money, or material possessions –and everyone wants a piece of it!

Mindfulness

There has recently been a lot of talk about mindfulness in the media,and I believe it’s exactly because of information overload.  We as a society need to stop and learn to filter out the signal from all the noise.

Fully Present

I specialize in teaching music to children.  One thing that I have done from the beginning is made it a point to be truly present while teaching or interacting with my students and their families.  At recitals, I give my unwavering focus to each child on the stage, to the point where I feel both emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of the performance.  It is as if I am willing their success through my 100% attention.  

I didn’t realize that I was doing this until my wife mentioned it to me.  She said,

“I love to watch you at your recitals because you are completely there for your students.”

I believe that this total focus on each student in front of me is a big part of why I have such a strong rapport with them.  

It is unfortunately so rare for a child to have that complete and total attention from any adult these days. Many parents are so distracted.  Not only is there the normal work/life balance, but now there is also the ubiquitous smartphone constantly beeping in the background.  Many children seem to never have full attention, and “act out,”  because negative attention is better than no attention at all.

An Audience of One

Each lesson is also a performance.  You have an audience of one, and you are fully engaged in listening, responding, and leading the student to new heights of understanding and ability.  

What happens when you give a child your complete presence is remarkable.  You have complete trust;  you have a safe space where you can encourage, coax, or even cajole your student to move far beyond their previous internally-constructed obstacles.  When the student says, “I can’t do it”  you can say, “…yet!”  and they believe you.

I was so humbled to receive this comment from a parent:

“You have a unique capability to communicate, share and nurture enthusiasm for music…  you teach to the individual child.  You find a way to access each student where he/she is, and to find the music that touches him/her.  I have noticed with Mary* that (while she never wants to disappoint you) she does not fear judgment from you…you have created a safe place for the journey of learning.  While you gently push your kids, you are an incredibly patient and kind teacher. 

Be Present

So the lesson is this: Stop trying to multi-task.  Be completely present, and it will enable you to move mountains and maybe even change the world.

*Student’s name has been changed

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The Savvy Musician in Action

Have you heard of it before? It’s an immersive, experiential week-long workshop designed to help artists and increase income and impact. 

The entrepreneurship workshop is brought to you by cutting edge David Cutler, author of  The Savvy Musician and a brand new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. In a nutshell, it is perhaps an event like none other. I’ve been to plenty of conferences but this seems truly unique. [···]

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As a music teacher, how often do you think about the difference you’re making in your students’ lives? I believe that the influence a teacher can have on a student is profound, not just in the content or skills being taught, but in the way we connect and interact with each other as human beings.

Sometimes lessons can be challenging. If a student didn’t practice – or even worse, doesn’t want to be there – it can be difficult to see beyond their corresponding behavior or attitudes to the valuable and beautiful person in front of us. But when we do see this – what a difference it can make! Not only can it affect the flow of the lesson, but also the life of the student. And this applies to motivated and positive students, too.

An Inspiring Teacher

I have three daughters, ages 12, 10, and 4. Recently, we all started taking harp lessons as a family. It’s a beautiful instrument – one that makes a lovely sound even for beginners. At today’s lesson, we received a lot more than harp instruction. Our sweet teacher, Annemieke, chatted with us about life, positive thinking, and encouraged us to enjoy the pace and practice level we’re comfortable with. As we departed, she gave each of us a warm and tender hug that helped us feel like beloved friends.

Now, hugs may not be your style, and that’s okay. You have your own ways of bringing a little more happiness into the world through your studio. These are the things Annemieke did that left us feeling uplifted, and more endeared not only to her, but to the instrument we’re studying.

How Are YOU Making a Difference?

Have you identified the things you do that make a positive difference (whether big or small) in the lives of your students? Not only in their musical skill, but in how they feel about themselves, and how they enjoy their lives as a whole? Is there a particular student you’ve seen blossom under your eyes? Or a connection you’ve made with a student that warmed your heart? Have you ever received a student’s gratitude for the difference you’ve made in their life?

If so, I’d love to hear about it! I think it’s important to remind ourselves and each other in the music teaching community of the influence we do have in the lives of the people we call our students. This awareness naturally inspires us to become better teachers. Taking time to write about it can also help you become more clear about why you’re teaching, and the ways you’d like to make a difference moving forward.

Share Your Story

I invite you to share your story now with the Music Teacher’s Helper community here in the blog comments, or on our Facebook page. Or if you prefer, share how your teacher made a difference in your life. I look forward to hearing about the ways our members are connecting with and inspiring students in both big and little ways.

Thank you for the great work that you do.

Warm wishes and happy teaching!

Brandon Pearce, CEO
Music Teacher’s Helper

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