Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I spend a few weeks each summer interviewing potential music students for empty positions for the next school year, and this summer was no exception. I only had three openings available, and while I've tried my best to prevent this sort of thing from happening, the interviews this year felt like some sort of show for most of the parents, putting forth the skills their child has to offer:

"My child is so smart/talented/funny/musical..."

In my teaching experience it's rare to come across a child who has absolutely none of each of those traits, but I also understand that the parents just want me to see the very best of the child they love so much.

I try to make it clear that interviewing for the open positions isn't like interviewing for a job. The child and I will have a relationship for a full school year, if not longer, and it's important that we are able to work well together. I'm looking for a connection, not a candidate.

I suppose the odd thing about me as a teacher is that I don't particularly care to work with the "most talented" of students. I do have some very talented students, but that is not what brought me to work with those children. The bulk of my studio is comprised of kids who just like to play music. They may never go to music school or build a career on their skill, but after lessons with me they will love to play, they will have a solid knowledge base for their instrument, and most of all I hope that they will look back on the relationship we built together and know that I respected them and their work and that the time we spent together each week was important to me.

Every child should have an adult like that in their life.

You see, it was a piano teacher who so greatly affected my life, who told me I was good enough all on my own without the best talent or biggest successes- that I was following God and that was enough.

I hear her words like it was yesterday. I sat at the grand piano in her studio unable to play- only 14 and already mired in the quick sand of comparison. "No matter how gifted you are there is always someone better. Comparing yourself to more gifted people only makes you ashamed of your own progress, when you should respect yourself and the progress you've made through hard work."

Sometimes the hurting person is the boy who has been told he "can't", the little girl who is convinced that it doesn't matter how hard she works because the work will lead nowhere, the child who finds themself stuck in comparison and self-criticism.

The worst lies we hear are the ones we whisper to ourselves.

In the end, whether they play for just one year or for the rest of their lives, the best lesson I can teach has nothing to do with music. I spend the time I have with each child teaching them to navigate the small failures that lead up to those crippling words, "I can't do it." if they go un-guided.

The truth is that in 13 years and a few hundred students I've had just a handful of students go on to music schools and develop a career around their talent. I know it's not a tremendously impressive track record, but again- the most important lesson in my studio isn't even about music.


Ann Voskamp invites us to consider what it means to be Jesus' hands and heart in a hurting world. To share your own thoughts or read more, please visit Holy Experience.

1 comment:

  1. "The worst lies we hear are the ones we whisper to ourselves....the most important lesson in my studio isn't even about music."

    yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this post. As parents, we all pray that our children will have a teacher like you in their lives.

    ...stopping in from Walk with Him Wednesday!


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