In the years before passing away from respiratory complications, jazz legend Miles Davis began offering more details about his musical career and his formation as a trumpet player. Davis was raised in an affluent household where his parents introduced him to the works of Louis Armstrong and other jazz peers. It so happened that his mother was a violin teacher who wanted to see him take up string instruments, but he gravitated towards the trumpet and later took lessons from the great Elwood Buchanan.
Davis’ father sent him to the prestigious Juilliard School, but he had previously jammed with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, whom he later encountered in New York City. With the blessing of his father, Davis dropped out of Juilliard and became a full-time jazz musician under the tutelage of Parker. Davis was extremely appreciative of everyone who contributed to his education, from his parents to Mr. Buchanan and from the Juilliard instructors to Parker.
Virtually all famous musicians have stories to tell about the people who provided them with a musical foundation. Pop music stars such as Christina Aguilera and Rebecca Black, who dropped out of high school in order to pursue a more focused musical education at home, are very thankful for the various teachers who believed in them. In reality, Black’s and Aguilera’s teachers would be the first to say that they simply instructed their students to continue believing in their abilities.
Not all musicians are cut out to be teachers; however, virtually all musicians can tell you that they deeply respect teachers and are thankful for what they do. Even self-taught musicians who may not have had a formal education often thank individuals who deeply inspired them, thus becoming teachers in an indirect manner.
With all the above in mind, here are a few reasons we should all be thanking our music teachers:
Music Teachers Keep Music Alive
We tend to take music for granted because it is an almost inescapable aspect of our lives. Similar to language, music is a vast cultural construct that involves both incidental and accidental learning on a constant basis; this is a cycle that music teachers contribute to in a very significant manner.
Even though we can all enjoy and identify with music, not all of us will seek a deeper connection. When music teachers are assigned to new classrooms, they know that only a few students will become professional musicians; nonetheless, this will not stop them from doing their best to ensure that each student is able to develop a special relationship with music. Some students may fall in love with instruments only to become bedroom soloists; others may develop their vocal styles so that they can wow patrons at karaoke bars.
Music professors who teach at colleges and universities will be happy to learn about students who become:
- Recording engineers
- Guitar technicians
- Music historians
- Avid record collectors
- Church choir leaders
- Music label executives
- Radio DJs
- Talent agents
When music teachers are able to plant the seed of a lifetime affair with music, they know they did their jobs well, and this is something we can definitely thank them for.
Planting Seeds of Musical Success
Here’s something that hip-hop queens Kelis, Azalia Banks, and Nicki Minaj have in common other than success: They all graduated from the music program at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City. Here are some other musicians whose names you may recognize, and who also graduated from LaGuardia:
- Suzanne Vega: Rock, folk, and pop music artist.
- Liza Minnelli: Winner of multiple film and music awards.
- Chuck Israels: Bass player and composer for the legendary Bill Evans Trio.
- Gerald Fried: Composer for several television series such as “Gilligan’s Island” and “Mission Impossible.”
- Julia Migenes: Acclaimed classical and Broadway soprano.
Not all of the artists listed above believed they would achieve greatness; some of them did not envision that they would make careers out of their musical interests, but they can definitely thank the LaGuardia curriculum and the tutelage of their teachers for inspiring them to continue pursuing music after graduation.
Helping Students Build Confidence
Surfing instructors love working with younger students not only because they are more nimble but also because they do not mind wiping out over and over again; the thought of being ashamed never crosses their mind because they just want to stand on the board and ride the wave to completion. Older surfing students prefer one-on-one instruction at isolated sections of the beach where few people will see them wiping out all the time as they try to establish balance.
For some reason, that natural confidence children have when learning to surf does not apply to music lessons; as they progress through their instruction, they start to become self-conscious and concerned when it comes to performance. Once they start playing instruments, this self-consciousness will lead them to worry about dissonance, and this eventually becomes a stress agent that causes anxiety. If early music learners are not able to build confidence, the likelihood of facing performance anxiety becomes exponential and difficult to overcome.
Music teachers apply various strategies to ensure that students can manage performance anxiety and other fears related to singing or playing instruments. Within the Prodigies Music program, for example, educational games and entertainment activities make the overall learning experience fun; when children progress advance through the curriculum, they generally do not fall into anxiety situations because they enjoy learning. All this translate into building natural confidence, a vital trait that many people think of as being elusive.
Behavioral researchers have found that proper language acquisition and development, particularly among second language students, is highly beneficial in terms of building confidence. A very similar situation takes place with music instruction. Needless to say, the earlier you can build confidence, which will permeate into various facets of your life, the better off you will be. Music teachers tend to be pretty good at helping you conquer performance anxiety, and this will in turn help you with building overall confidence.
This is an aspect of music education that many parents are often thankful for, and with very good reason. As previously mentioned, learning music is like learning a new language; it is actually very complex, but you are able to handle it through subtle and continuous intellectual engagement. Both language and music occupy vast cultural dimensions, and this characteristic invariably results in a passion for learning and assimilating.
In the music world, it is not uncommon to learn about successful musicians who decided to continue pursuing academic endeavors because they simply could not resist them. Emily Saliers and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls graduated from Emory University before embarking on a musical career, but they later enrolled in quite a few continuing education courses. Greg Walter Graffin, founder of the legendary punk band Bad Religion, credits music as his inspiration to continue learning evolutionary biology, a subject he would later lecture as an respected professor at Cornell, the University of California, and John Brown University.
You know how sometimes you hear a new song and immediately become interested in the artist, the lyrics, and the musical style? If your next step is to start doing online research and fall into a rabbit hole of new information, you can thank your music teacher for this intellectual thirst. Well-rounded musical teachers will not only teach you to play Beethoven’s Fur Elise on piano; they will also tell you about the German composer’s tumultuous life, and how this famous bagatelle was discovered decades after his death.
The best music educators do not hold back on teaching as much as they can; if they see that their students will understand notation and measures better through math exercises, they will break out the calculator. If they feel that students will benefit from learning about why Cat Stevens converted to Islam, they will explain. Every time music teachers see an opportunity to plant a knowledge seed, they will do it, and we can all appreciate this inclination.