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A Piano Teacher's Legacy

What's Your Legacy?

I'm in the middle of reading Richard Chronister's, A Piano Teacher's Legacy. I love studying great teaching and hearing about the work of Frances Clark and others who were paving the way for our profession. I have thinks though that says I think she'd be annoyed right now if she were alive, because so many people keep saluting her as the goddess of piano teaching. I think she would want us to be moving our profession forward instead of spending so much time looking backward. Pay homage but keep it moving forward.

What I love most about this book in particular, is that it shows us a fantastic thought process for education at the piano. Chronister shows us the path and the ideas that inspired and helped create what they thought at the time, to be the best way to approach music learning at the piano. I too aspire to think, reflect and implement overarching ideas that help teachers and students reach their best selves. Clark (whom he worked and created under for over a decade) studied big ideas, was aware of and implemented solid educational theory and research combined with what I imagine to be a strong personality, which made for a presence that I wish I would have known. I knew her partner-in-crime Louise Goss ever so briefly, and working with those two I imagine, would have been life-changing.

As I embark on quite possibly the largest and most impactful project of my career (at least for now,) I am reminded that our daily work is so much more than teaching scales, turning pages in a lesson book and holding up studio polices. Our most substantial contributions are our ideas, how we communicate and our quest for human evolution that will propel us forward to be better people, more creative and expressive individuals that live fulfilled lives. It's our creativity, our empathy and our ability to listen that will set us apart as legacy builders or lesson teachers.

I find asking people what music means to them to be inspiring. Usually the person I am speaking to is excited about the role of music in their lives. What I find frustrating is that many of our colleagues don't know their own "why" for the choices in repertoire, exercises, etc...Our work is life-shaping in potentially many people's lives. If we don't have those big ideas/our why, guiding our decisions, doesn't that diminish our impact and potentially our legacy? Piano lessons aren't simply about teaching piano. Piano Lessons are about teaching people how to make and understand beautiful music, create our own ideas and then be able to express them. Ask your students what music means to them. It's eye-opening! The last thing we need is more "do this do that" and "play this and I will correct you where you need it." Isn't there enough of that all around us already?

I know for certain that I don't want to lead a life of mediocrity and paycheck to paycheck. I want to talk about the big ideas so that I can make them my own, and take them forward. I want to keep growing, keep evolving and keep pushing forward. With information changing so rapidly and coming at us from so many different directions, what is it that we can grasp so that our legacy strengths? What do you want your legacy to be?