My professional life for the past dozen years or so has been centered on so-called “historical performance,” a sub-genre of classical performance, in which musicians both perform on instruments native to the time period of the music they play, and, more importantly, dive deeply into the contemporaneous practices of playing and living with music. For me and others, this quest to understand the world from which the music sprang strengthens its power and novelty.
I try to keep that connection in my teaching as well. I find value in integrating pedagogical techniques from past centuries into my teaching and performing. Musicians have been playing the violin for centuries, and we can benefit from this rich tradition. I think we are missing out when we focus only on late 20th or 21st century methods, though many are wonderful and have much to offer as well. My lifetime of wonderful teachers includes some who lived hundreds of years ago. But I am always happy to incorporate music my students know and love—from traditional tunes to the great masterpieces of John Williams!
My best teachers offered me the tools to understand languages of all kinds, ideally, to allow the material—literature, music, science, etc.—explain itself. It is a metaphor for teaching: observe carefully enough and students will show you how they need to be taught. And the music teacher-student relationship is especially close, since most children don’t have many opportunities to spend a half hour or an hour with an adult focused solely on them. I view it as a privilege, an honor, and an awesome responsibility.
In the words of one of my beloved late teachers: I look forward to learning from you.