Transforming the Music Learning Experience
I was fortunate to have studied with the Cuban-born classical guitarist, Manuel Barrueco. When I took my first lesson from Manuel in New York City, I performed a prelude by Bach. Though I was nervous, I felt well prepared and performed the piece in a way that was satisfactory to me.
After I finished, Manuel pondered for a few moments before saying "Harry, I can hear that you have love for the music and you have ability. But it was difficult for me to hear what you were trying to do in your performance because there were so many mistakes."
I was shocked! I thought my performance was good, if not entirely flawless. But I began to understand that Manuel was listening with a much finer level of discrimination. He heard imperfections that were more subtle than wrong notes or memory slips:
and so much more. To learn to play well, I had to learn to listen well. Thanks to Manuel I improved my ability to listen more deeply with new awareness, guidance, and perseverance. A good instructor can help you become aware of problems and also provide a proven path to address them effectively. Listening carefully and deeply to every detail as you practice will improve your listening skills as well as your playing. This is something we can all do.
Since 2012 I've been a member of the panel assembled by the GRAMMY FOUNDATION to recognize some of the many wonderful music teachers in our school systems nationwide, with one selected to receive a GRAMMY as Music Educator of the Year. Teachers must first be nominated, then submit an extensive application for rigorous review based on five categories: contribution to the field of music education; commitment to maintaining music education in schools; making a difference in their school and community; evidence of being a great music educator; and making a measurable difference in students' lives.
Thousands of music educators are nominated each year and the number is reduced through several phases of rigorous review. The winner is selected from a pool of 10 finalists and receives a $10,000 honorarium and a matching $10,000 award is presented to the school system where the teacher is employed. It's an honor to be involved in recognizing great music education as I return to music teaching myself as a daily activity, and I'm inspired by the excellent teachers I have had the pleasure of reviewing for the GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year!
In the process of reviewing the work of these many outstanding individuals, many important qualities of excellent teaching are in evidence, but one fact stands out above all to me. The teachers whose work I most admire are those who have found a way to connect to the very heart of students' passion for music, to excite them and create a boundless enthusiasm for making music. When this happens, the capacity for students to learn and progress takes place with a rapidity that is truly astonishing.
Choosing music that is meaningful to the students and within their technical grasp is a good start. Having a sense of humor, an engaging personality, and showing that you sincerely care about the students also go a long way. The finest music educators understand how to generate the best musical results in the shortest amount of time. Students recognize dramatic improvement and this creates excitement, comradery, and positive energy that feed more progress and pride of accomplishment.