United Conservatory of Music February 2019




LESSONS LEARNED The Responsibilities of a Music Teacher

We don’t give our teachers enough credit. I’m not saying this simply because I run a music school and teach violin myself — If you’ve ever had a great teacher , in any subject, you know what an impact they made on your life. This is especially true when comparing teachers who were not as great to those who were really special in our young lives. The importance of a great teacher becomes all the more apparent when considering the discipline of learning music through private lessons. My experience with private lessons was pretty negative when I was learning how to play the violin. This isn’t to say my instructors were untalented, or bad people. I just rarely had a teacher who was a good fit. I have always learned more effectively whenever I have been shown, rather than told. Unfortunately, most of my instructors insisted on telling me why I should or shouldn’t do something a certain way, instead of showing me by their skill. Because I was stubborn, I kept doing things my way, making it even worse. As a result, I was a good violinist, but certainly not as good as I could have been. I wouldn’t meet my first great teacher until I was 17 years old. Her name was Faina Podolnaya, and at the time she was teaching in Oregon. I had recently decided to major in music, and I entered her studio with a violin case full of bad habits. I also had a lot of fears about pursuing a career in music, but Ms. Podolnaya worked with me: She helped me find the joy in music, encouraging me quite a bit. She had the skill and the right answers for teaching violin, and she was also incredibly empathetic. She knew what a student needed to hear, and how they needed to hear it. Ms. Podolnaya was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and my favorite by far. “If knowing the facts was all it took to learn music, we wouldn’t have school for music, or instructors dedicated to teaching it.”

Music teachers have to do more than just educate on the details of how to read music or hold an instrument. If knowing the facts was all it took to

learn music, we wouldn’t have

schools for music, or instructors dedicated to teaching it. Music

connects with people at a deep level. It’s an extension of our emotions, a way for us to communicate when words cannot. You can’t teach that in a book. This knowledge can only be passed along by someone who understands these truths. Great music teachers possess an ability to connect with students and meet them on their level. At the school, we have many different teachers for each instrument, because it’s important for students to be able to learn from an instructor whom they connect with. All of our instructors are talented and passionate about their art. Our goal is to create an environment that is most conducive for a student’s musical growth — where students can meet the instructor who will help them improve their skill — and find joy in music every time they play.

—Christopher Scherer

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