Music is inherent to who we are as human beings. And it is one of our crowning achievements that by shaping sound, we can convey the entirety of human experience.
Colleagues and parents often ask whether I enjoy starting young children at the piano. My answer is always the same: I am thrilled to guide my pupils and get them excited about studying, regardless of their age.
Educators carry an enormous responsibility: to create and nurture life learners, and to ignite a curiosity and passion for the arts. Whether a student pursues a career in music is irrelevant. What does matter is developing the skills inherent to studying music: discipline, inquisitiveness, problem-solving, and, most importantly, active and acute listening.
One of the most meaningful experiences of my life was serving as Piano Chair at the former Boys Choir of Harlem. Children in the choir were required to learn how to play piano and take music theory. Students from the housing projects of Park Avenue and 127th Street would come to my class abuzz with excitement and passionate about music. They not only wanted to learn how to play, but also to learn about the lives of the composers. They hungered for this knowledge. Their time with me became much more than just class time: for them it was time free from the streets and from gangs, time when they could focus on beauty, art and fulfillment. I worked with very talented students, but more vital was acquainting these children with music they would likely not have encountered. What mattered was to train listeners and thinkers, to nurture their abilities to analyze and criticize constructively, to help them develop discipline and ethical work habits, and to organize their lives.
Fast-forward to today, and I still teach the same skills. I feel responsible to get my students excited about classical music and pique their curiosity about contemporary music. Students are the future, if not as performers, then definitely as audiences, patrons and administrators.
A life with music is far richer than one without. It is our task to steer our students toward this.