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Provocative thoughts from Patric Standford


It's no bad thing to be taught. It doesn't mean that the pupil will inevitably become the master's clone, which would be an understandable fear for anyone who knows that their talent is fragile. Or it could be a blessing for a mediocre talent to have something to feed upon -- becoming the artful parasite. In one way or another it may therefore be highly beneficial -- and probably even quite essential -- to be taught. Teaching can curb and tame an undisciplined enthusiasm. It can shed the light of experience upon situations that flounder for lack of it.

Teaching can instil confidence and offset depression, but it can just as easily cause both, either by accident or, more insidiously, by design. Teaching can hinder progress and suffocate the intrepid spirit. It can be a dangerous business. But just as it can be hazardous for a pupil to be placed in the care of a teacher, it can be as treacherous to be the teacher. So much seems to depend on strength of conviction. A teacher, whether brutally domineering or gently insistent, is still capable of suffering tunnel vision, a limited perspective of which he or she may be quite unaware. There may be bridges over which teachers may refuse to cross; avenues which they are convinced cannot or should not be explored. Or maybe their convenient obsessions have made them unaware of other possibilities , and an unfortunate ignorance drives their pedagogical theories.

There can be more serious problems, like those associated with a concern to work entirely within their own technical limitations or artistic experience, attempting to confine their pupils similarly. It is possible that their pupils too may develop as subjective operatives, unaware of the impression they create beyond themselves. The best teachers are always those who might expect to become redundant. They do not fight the possibility that the pupil may even become the teacher, but rather try to contribute toward that possibility by developing a sense of discovery, of shrewd objectivity, and cultivating an acute perception and re-appraisal of ever-changing standards. Admiration is given generously when deserved; disciplined endeavour becomes the route to achievement; and the anathema is envy.

But pupils have a responsibility too. The pupil who despises good teaching and is unable to cultivate objectivity in assessing musical and technical standards is destined for no more than fifteen-minute-fame at the very best.

Copyright © 30 November 2004 Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK




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