Things I've learnt as a Teaching Music

Never once have I thought of the possibility of becoming a music teacher. 

The journey
I’ve always had an interest in music and art since elementary school. It all started with playing the recorder in a cramped music class filled with 40 students. I was fascinated with the different sounds I could make just by playing with the pressure I put on the tone hole and the different fingering styles.

Fast forward a few months, my friends all around me were enrolled in music lessons outside, mostly piano music lessons. I have nothing against the piano but ever since I touched and attempted to play one, I knew it wasn’t my ‘calling’ (plus they were WAY too many piano players around me which made me stray away from it even more).

One day when I got to try the violin, I instantly knew that I had to learn this instrument. My mom was strict and pretty much warned me about the hardships I’d come to face learning this instrument as its considered to be one of the hardest to master.  

While I was learning an instrument, it helped me fit into my group of friends better as we now had a common topic to share with each other: music. We’d swap stories of our struggles through learning our individual instruments.
(I even showed my calloused fingers, which served as proof that I was a violin player)

Again, never once have I thought that this simple hobby would lead me to become a teacher.

While I worked part-time in a music shop as an admin, I was offered the chance to become a violin teacher. At that time, I wasn’t confident about my violin playing as I still thought that the sound I produced was similar to a screaming goat.
This opportunity baffled me as I couldn’t fathom myself even teaching let alone teaching violin. 

However, I saw this as a challenge that life decided to throw at me; so I grabbed the opportunity and tried to teach with the encouragement of my teacher and mom. I quickly discovered that I could teach and loved doing so; interacting with students and teaching them new pieces.

The magic of playing an instrument
One of my goals was to show students that violin isn’t all about techniques and discipline (although it mostly is), but also about having fun with the songs.

People tend to forget that the simplest thing to do is have fun. Playing the violin should be an outlet for stress, not adding to it.

I introduced them songs that weren’t so technique based as I feel that these were the things that discouraged young students to lose interest.

It’s when they start thinking it’s too hard.

It is important to know that mistakes are a part of life and there’s no need to say “sorry” if you make a mistake when playing. Learning music tells you how silence is just as important as the main tune in a piece. It teaches you to not just listen, but to experience it. It teaches you responsibility, to bring your instruments and to care for it; it teaches you that hard work pays off, that practice makes permanent results.

While being a teacher was an exhilarating experience, it also helped me gained confidence in my own playing and pushed me to do better. I developed a better sense of rhythm and timing, which were areas I lacked in when I was a student.

You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them because no one else is going to do it for you.

Confidence through words

Many parents who send their child to music lessons do not know how to give encouragement. No matter the instrument played, parents play a big part in making sure their child has confidence in playing and constantly practice. Parents may sometimes say degrading comments that would affect their child’s confidence in that instrument.

1. Parents should encourage their child to play and practice.
2. Do not say negative comments about the sound produced or when they make a mistake.
3. Learn about the instrument itself from your child or teacher.
4. Be up to date on your child’s progress.

Interest may change

Some students may start off playing the piano or violin first, but interests are prone to change especially if the kids are young. This is because they may not yet be exposed to other instruments. 

Therefore, parents should wait for their child to mature and for them to choose the instrument themselves. I started playing the violin at the age of 12 and it was intimidating at that time to start at such an ‘old’ age as most of the students I’ve seen were much younger. 

Age doesn’t matter as much as mentality. I have a 7-year-old student with more discipline and eagerness in violin than a 11-year-old student. With the right mindset, any child can succeed.

For piano students, it’s easier in the beginning but as they progress, it gets harder because of hand and leg co-ordination as well as constant practice becomes a key part in playing a piece fluently. 

For violin students, the struggle from the beginning is tough as they need to get used to the weight and ache in the shoulder due to holding the violin. (This is an unnatural pose for human beings) as well as how they hold and move their bow. Posture is also important to make their playing beautiful as violin performances also depends how visually effortless and graceful its players are. It takes at least a year to master this. 

 What your music certificate can do for you and how it may become a career

You know those dreadful music examinations that give you anxiety as you walk into a carpeted room to face an old foreign examiner who would test your ability to memorise those horrible scales and your performance based on the 3 songs you’ve picked just to get a certificate?

Remember your parents and teachers pressuring you into getting a distinction to show that you’re the best?

Well, let me just say that getting a pass, merit or distinction doesn’t make much of a difference as long as you have the certificate that proves you are qualified for that grade. Students tend to stress too much over getting a distinction in their music examinations.

100/150  Pass
120/150 Merit
130/150 Distinction 

Getting a distinction means you have to make very minimal mistakes in playing and keep in mind that the examiner will look at many different things such as how accurate your tune is and your rhythm. For violin players it is especially hard because a slip of hand could ruin the entire song. 

Students who play music instruments rarely think about how music can give you a career. They hardly know about music colleges or even think about it due to the fact that stereotypical Asian parents drill it into our minds to be a doctor or have a white collared office job with a steady pay when in fact most teachers earn more than a white collared worker. 

I’m sure many of you heard this sentence before but let me just say that if your passion is music, pursue it. Do what you love to do and never give up

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