Teacher asks: “How long have you been studying with me?”
Student answers: “About four years.”
Teacher nods: “OK. At this point, do you think we are on the same page? Do we think alike when it comes to music?”
Doubtful Student: “Sure. I guess so. No. Yes. Maybe. How should I know?”
Students responds: “I understand how to play. My basics are solid. At the end of an étude I can almost always predict what you are going to say. If the dynamics were not-existent, you would say, ‘The dynamics were non-existent.’ You’re predictable.”
Teacher confirms: “So you understand my ideas.”
Relieved Student: “Yes.”
Concerned Teacher: “What about YOUR ideas?”
Wide-eyed Student: “My ideas?”
Beaming Teacher: “Eh oui! Your ideas! I suspect that by now you are a fully formed saxophonist.”
Student looks puzzled.
Happy Teacher: “I have done a good job and my work is almost finished. You are able to play the saxophone! This means you are guaranteed to have ideas, observations and opinions. Some of these thoughts may be a little fuzzy. You may not have the language to express them quite yet. Why not try reading some books about music?”
To break the monotony of the practice routine. Take a rest! Put the saxophone down. Stretch. Breathe. Read. When you are ready, pick up the horn and experiment with some of the ideas presented in the book.
Learn new ways. No two minds are alike. A book invites you into the headspace of another musician. Surprise! (Il y a toujours des surprises!) Unusual explanations trigger fresh understanding. Former trivialities gain new importance. Hard-won skills seem less crucial. Each musician has different priorities—will you change yours?
Practise with your mind, not your hands. On vacation, during the commute, before bed. Read slowly and let your mind drift around the topic. Relax into mastery. (Just don’t take your e-reader into the bathtub.)
Validate YOUR ideas. We often understand more than we realize. Books give voice to concepts absorbed through the learning process. When a fellow musician presents an observation or outlines a common problem, bursts of recognition splash about. You gasp, “Yes! I know exactly what he means!” It can be marvellously reassuring when someone sees as you see or does as you do.
You begin to realize that your fabulous teacher has done a fabulous job. You have the tools to start thinking independently.
Meek Student: “Are you shoving me out of the nest here?”
Relaxed Teacher: “Nah. I’m just giving you a leg-up to the edge. You can decide when you are ready to spread your wings and fly away. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to speak your mind, avec politesse, and we can test out your theories together. When you are ready to take flight, I will wave you off with the biggest smile this side of Texas!”