October 8, 2015

On Teaching

“Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.”
- Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Well....here we are.    A few weeks ago I found myself itching to write after reading an NPR article about the latest release from a duo known as Black Violin.   While I MAY still write that - after all, I'm still thinking about it - I'm choosing not to at this time because, well, I'm tired.   Tired.   Existentially tired of the accepted narrative that Americans of the African Diaspora cannot have a true place in the field of classical music, and that the only viable way that we can have a face in the world of musicmaking is to delve into "classical fusion".   Furthermore, I am still thinking of a way to write in which I shall not belittle or patronize the work that these men have done - after all, they have released recordings, and I have not, and it is not my intention to write in a manner that invalidates their work as all creativity is valuable and should be recognized as such.


What I write about today is teaching.

In 2012, the Delaware Symphony ceased operations for half of a season.  This of course sent many of us on a scramble, and while that was stressful it has been truly delightful to see the unfolding of new directions taken on by my colleagues.    Sometimes destiny is the result of "overwhelming necessity".

For me?    That was a strange time in many ways, and to earn money I decided to start teaching.    This did NOT go well at first, as my first assignment turned into something both fractious and unprofitable.    One year later, however, I began teaching in Baltimore at the Arti-st Learning Center, and it was during that year that I discovered that I love teaching and working with young people.   It was during that year that I started sharing Facebook posts that chronicled conversations between teacher and student, and was again reminded that the art of teaching is not subjective.

Flash forward to 2015, and while I have left the Arti-st Learning Center and am now teaching both at the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore and the Main Street Music Studios in Fairfax, I find myself with sixteen students, all at different levels.   This has been a journey, one in which I find myself having a much deeper appreciation for those teachers who were patient with me for so many years as well as understanding the "no-nonsense" way of being that a few of them possessed.   Furthermore, as I have stepped back a bit from the performing world to focus on teaching and rebuilding my violinistic foundation, I have found that teaching - and not teaching simply to earn my keep - is one of the most rewarding, revealing, and enlightening professions, one through which I can see my own weaknesses and address them while helping a generation of young people look critically yet lovingly at themselves in the spirit of continuous improvement.

More from the studio,

Sam