There are teachers you know for ages.When you know a person, who is also your teacher, for over ten years, you will have your ups and downs, but it’s interesting how those can play out. Amazingly it always seems to come back to learning so much from one person. I’ve known my high school band director for eleven years (which is a frightening thought!) and in that time I’ve learned so much. I think back to when I started working with him in middle school. I really don’t think he figured I’d be where I am now and, well, let’s face it, back then, I didn’t believe I’d be where I am now. There are so many memories that I have of Doc. I still remember the conversation we had one Friday night between honor band and a basketball game about me going into music ed. I remember the day I got into wind ensemble and I remember so many other details too.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what one person has taught you, the impression they’ve made, when you’ve known them so long. It could be: “Lead, follow, or get out of the way”, or “Music is painted on a canvas of silence”, or “Bleep is a very technical term”, or that you shouldn’t squash a baby kitten, or that you “gotsta” count, or that organs don’t breath! It could be any of those really! I think of all the things that stuck, though (and there were many, not just the silly ones) the one that pops up the most, well, there’s about three are: that you must commit yourself to what you’re doing, you must learn your scales, and at some point, practicing becomes fun. There all related, though. You must commit yourself to learn your scales, so practicing can become fun? Totally what that’s supposed to mean, right? No. That’s far too specific because, here’s the thing:
Commit yourself: (keep in mind, this is usually said with great force, so…pretend it’s bolded) The point is never to get us to commit ourselves only to music when Doc says this. He wants us to commit, excel, and succeed at anything we do, music or otherwise. It’s something not everyone can take to heart, but those that do, those that listen, those that commit, they not only succeed they exceed. The only way I know this is because I learned to commit myself! It’s hard because sometimes you just want to lounge around and watch TV and not think (which is occasionally allowable), but if you want to do well, you have to work and know why you’re working. I know, I’m focused. I may not know my final destination, but I know my path and I’m committed to it. I listened. I learned.
Learn your scales: One of those things you have to do. If you do it enough, you become obsessed with them. If you do it enough, you find fun patterns to practice. If you do it enough you start practicing scales to high Eb in the stratosphere. (Not that I ever do that…) And if you do it enough? Everything becomes so much easier!
Practicing becomes fun: because at some level it does. At some level, while you still have to focus on notes and rhythms, that part becomes therapeutic, but it also becomes more short lived. Suddenly, you aren’t spending two weeks learning the form of a phrase and all the notes, you’re spending a week and you spend far more time, admittedly maintaining the technique, but also learning the music. Learning how to make the notes and rhythms make sense. You spend time developing mastery. I know this because it happened to me a long time ago. I learned to love to practice because it is fun.
Doc, these are only some of the things I learned from you in ten years time, but they’re some of the most fun, but also the most important. Thank you for your influence, your guidance, and your help. Thank you.