piano teacher.jpegYou may recall a post here a couple of  weeks ago with my thoughts on teaching LinkedIn, specifically that some students want to know if “is this what you want me to do?” Well, I’m not done with that topic…

I had the good fortune to sit in on a couple of piano lessons last week, in which a gifted teacher taught 2 prodigious young students how to play “beautifully-er,” if you don’t mind my rhapsodizing with the word. (Like amazing to amazing-er, right?)

It was held at a library and the teacher allowed the public to observe these talented kids play very complex classical pieces, as he nurtured them to become even better by the end of their lessons. It was a most unusual opportunity for me to observe masterful teaching moments, ones that made me happy inside.

More on that in a minute.

The next morning I read a NY Times op-ed with pleasure, by a now-retired pro football player, now-PhD candidate in mathematics at MIT, and one of his comments there resonated with me:

A growing body of research shows that students are affected by more than just the quality of a lesson plan. They also respond to the passion of their teachers and the engagement of their peers, and they seek a sense of purpose. They benefit from specific instructions, constant feedback and a culture of learning that encourages resilience in the face of failure — not unlike a football practice. There are many ways to be an effective teacher, just as there are many ways to be an effective coach.

Back to the promised observations about the piano teacher’s technique: he explained the background of the musical pieces, in one example that JS Bach was highly religious and wrote his music for God, and that’s how the 9 year old boy should play Invention No 4 in D minor, BVW 775, a mere 1 minute long, as if this were religious worship, that this piece was written for harpsichord on which there were no nuances of light and loud sounds, but all notes are equally played. And the boy did just that, so much better by the end of the lesson than at the beginning. The teacher reached a special place in the student and even at this boy’s young age, the teacher (young himself) was able to coax out an inner feeling that was not there originally.

For the 12 year old girl’s assignment Chopin’s Nocturne op. 27 no.2 in D Flat Major, the teacher explained that the highs and lows of the music, with its twists and turns, means every note is to be played confidently, not afraid that the music chords sound surprising as written, and even harder to play, but to be heard, sounding confident, as if she were singing every moment of this long piece. He adjusted her seat to allow her elbows to move her hand to the right places on the keyboard, a physical hindrance that he easily solved for her. It was a pleasure to listen to this gorgeous piece of music, in each of her improvements.

I sat dazzled at what the teacher commented, and complimented aptly, eliciting from each student a capability so much older than his 9 years or her 12 years.

A teacher is made better by willing, capable students.

And I have some style notes to work on in my teaching (don’t we all as consultants?) that will allow my LinkedIn coaching clients to better express their “why they do what they do.”

That is always music to my social media ears.