Day After Day
Some time ago, I was at the checkout counter at the grocery store after 9 pm. It had been a long day of piano practice, a meeting, dog training, some lessons, family meals, more lessons, homework help, and the checkout line had not been short. I was feeling a bit of the martyr as I stood in that line.
As she scanned my items, the cashier said- How’s your day been? Then, she looked up at my face and said bitterly- Sorry, you probably you do the same boring thing day after day for a living like the rest of us don’t you? My professional life may be a lot of things but it is never boring.It can be frustrating.
There is always someone not practicing enough to make any progress. There is always a home situation over which the student and I have no control. I had a faithful student who weekly rode 2 busses and walked a considerable distance to get to lessons. He lived with an uncle because his mother had abused him and his father didn’t want him.
There is never enough time to get everything done. All the exams, evaluations, and auditions happen over the same two week period (actually all the forms for the aforementioned also need to be filled out and sent within days of each other).
There are days when my arthritis causes my arms to go numb and makes it nearly impossible for me to practice. I nearly always find a complicated question in my inbox at 9:30 on the evenings when I am most tired and trying to put the day behind me. Steve Jobs substitutes Lissette whenever I try to type Lisse (all right, that only happened once).But, it can also be uplifting.
Listening to a student perform at the top of their abilities after a great struggle to perfect a piece is a beautiful experience. Connecting back decades or centuries and realizing that the composer had similar human experiences to me is awesome. Seeing the joy of that connection on a student’s face is beyond awesome.
Hearing a relevant and meaningful question from a student is magnificent. Knowing I said just the right thing to help a student over a musical hurdle is humbling. Watching a students mentor each other in studio class is beautiful.
Learning from my students makes me a better person and teacher.Reading an assignment in which a student demonstrates musical understanding and a love for the art beyond what they are able to coax out of the piano is transcendent.And, it can certainly be humorous.
I recently giggled over a young girl who had a blowout fight with her older brother over whether there was such a thing as F Major. I have never forgotten the evening when the Baptist minister called during dinner and after I told him that we had our own religious preferences thank you and hung up, called back and said in a deep ministerial voice complete with southern accent- I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood the intent of my call.
Once I overheard a conversation between two high school girls. One had studied with me for some time and the other was a friend who had just joined the studio. The friend expressed concerns because her former teacher would yell at her for not practicing enough. Oh no- replied the first student- Our teacher never yells. She just makes you feel really really guilty! Then there was the middle school boy who was dumfounded that I still practiced and took lessons. Who is your teacher?- he demanded. When I told him he thought a minute and then replied- Is he better than you???
I am ever grateful for that grocery store revelation. I did not and do not do the same boring thing for a living day after day. Well OK, I teach, practice, manage my studios, drive a weekly 237 mile roundtrip, and write this blog. But the details are ever changing and afford me multiple privileges and rewards.