I went off and had a snack, and found myself getting more and more worked up
on this subject. My exposure to piano (my memory may be a bit off here, but
the impression is still very strong) consisted mainly of learning to play
scales and arpeggios in all the major and minor keys, along with some
(pardon the expression) dip-shit little pieces with no worthwhile musical
What is really surprising is that some kids managed to survive this regime,
and ended up playing (badly) some pretty technially demanding pieces in
recitals. It seems to me in retrospect that I would have been much more
interested in learning the scales and arpeggios in a given key if the
teacher had first showed me an interesting piece of music in that key. What
I bet would have REALLY have blown me away even back then would have been
playing Prelude 1 Book I of the WTC on an "appropriately tuned" instrument -
not terribly technically demanding, but enormous musical content. As it
was, I didn't even find the WTC until I was in my twenties. Another thing
that pisses me off is that I already had rudimentary ability to improvise
and play by ear, which this kind of training did nothing to encourage - in
fact, it probably squashed it.
As far as I know, none of these kids ever did anything further with music.
I ran into one of that teacher's "star" pupils some years later selling used
cars. He asked if I remembered him. Evidently the music didn't "take" with
What I would like to know from you teachers out there, is how you figure out
which kids have a deep-seated interest in music that may be obscured by some
temporary difficulty that could be sorted out with appropriate pedagogy?
How do you keep yourself from being dazzled by the kid with technical pizzaz
but an interest in music that is not very deep? I must have been sized up
at the time as a "difficult" or "unpromising" pupil not worth much effort.
I am sure that part of my sour experience had to do with the fact that
almost anybody could (and did) hang out a shingle as a music teacher, with
no particular calling to be a good one. I suppose that this is still going
on. How does a parent find a good teacher? Was there a Guild in those
days, and did all those teachers belong to it? But mainly, I wonder how did
my mother find those turkeys! Also, I wonder what the parents really did
expect for an outcome. Surely they didn't expect any of their darling to
become professional musicians. Was it for "life enrichment?"
Still pissed off!