Sunday, 30 July 2017

The P-p-p-power of Love

I'd like to dedicate this post to the memory of Jim Blackley, the man who I will always call “teacher”.

James David Blackley
One of the best teaching tips I've come across is this: You've got to love your students. Sounds a bit extreme, but it's not, really. One of the key symptoms of the '60s was universal love -- "Make love, not war", “The summer of love". It simply meant that we wanted peace, love and respect for everyone. It was true then, and years later I think the philosophy has not lost any value.

Keep in mind that love is both a noun and a verb, and as a verb, love compels us to action. We give gifts because of love. We help out in emergencies because of love. And of course we raise and nurture our children because of love.

So how does one 'love' a student without coming across as suspect? Just the way you do with anyone you respect and want the best for. You love your friends, you love your band mates (I hope), and so you treat them accordingly. You're not looking for intimacy or a long-term commitment. You just need to want things to work out for the best for your students. 

Some of the most useful things my teacher taught me were not technical. Sure, he showed me stuff and helped me learn it, but he wanted more from and for his students. To get that, he had to communicate and engage beyond the mere technical.

I spent one lesson with a youngster listening to a Katie Perry tune. This fellow was just beginning to be interested in music, and the tune really spoke to him. I like to work with real world examples that mean something to the student, so we listened to the tune and talked about it. I pointed out things the drummer was doing that were things we'd been working on. For his next lesson I prepared some exercises that he could play along to the tune. We spent maybe 6 minutes on the drums that day, but it was one of the best lessons ever because  he got it, and he got it because it meant something to him.

Sometimes the only way for a student to move forward is to talk about non-lesson stuff. Playing music is a very emotional activity, and someone who is distracted may be dealing with some  baggage. There are all sorts of reasons why someone may not be making progress, and if I can help them get past this, then I'll do what I can to help (provided I have the knowledge and experience ... and wisdom).

Also remember that sometimes the best gift we can give is to just listen. Add a little compassion and you're off to a great start.