It’s pretty amazing, really. I’ve been looking at the Facebook pages of my friends who teach. They teach regular school classes in public and private schools. They teach music classes in university settings. They teach music lessons privately in their own homes, at all different levels of student advancement. And they’re all complaining about their students. The common themes are inattentiveness, a sense of self-entitlement, lack of focus, no will power, no setting of goals for one’s self, lack of humility, and not studying/practicing. For sure, these problems were endemic from the days that Plato first set quill to papyrus, but there seems to be a growing chorus about the poor quality of people that are comprising these up and coming generations. So it was nice to read this quote from an interview with the hot cellist-of-the-moment Alisa Weilerstein:
“Of course like any kid I had many days when I didn’t feel like practicing. But what (my parents) told me was, ‘Well, this is what you want to do, you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t practice.’ In a way I made it easy for them because I was absolutely sure from the very beginning that I wanted to be a musician. I never wavered from that, not even in my teenage years at all, I was completely sure. So I knew deep down that even on days that I didn’t want to practice that I really was only hurting myself.”
Don’t kids these days want anything? Besides looking like and/or owning stuff like the evil and insufferable Kardashian spawn? When I set out to play something (and this goes way back to when I was first studying the violin, back in the dark ages), I want to sound good. I want to at least not make a fool out of myself and be humiliated in public. That’s the bare minimum. On top of that, I love music, and want to honor the work of the composer and present it as close to her conception of the piece as is possible given my current level of skill and expertise.
I know that I’m better than some violists, and I also know that there are many others who are far better than I am. That’s where humility comes in. I play in a very good orchestra. There are other orchestras that are quite a bit better on a regular basis – and I need to be cognizant of that fact. I’m not God’s gift to the viola, and my orchestra isn’t the Berlin Philharmonic. I (and we) are just doing the best we can and always striving to do better.
Got any thoughts on your students and what their attitudes are towards studying?