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Teacher and Pupil.

BY H. SHERWOOD VINING.

Study music with a musician. In this lies the secret of the student’s success. There is inspiration and enthusiasm in the very thought.

A fine art can be pursued to advantage only under the direction and guidance of a master. What greater test of the artist’s mastery of his art than his ability to impart his art? What accomplishment can be greater or more worthy? It has been truly said, “The most difficult art known to art is to teach art.”

In view of the great and lasting influence which a master has with his pupils, teaching can never be called “drudgery” when entered into in the true spirit. “That teacher who surrenders himself entirely and with self-sacrifice to his scholars is the true artist.”

It is claimed by the masters whose success with pupils of every grade of ability gives weight to their words, “Every child can and should be taught to sing and to play upon some one instrument.” Experience has taught us that success in any pursuit depends upon earnest and systematic work, upon perseverance through discouragement, with every failure converted into a surer stepping stone to ultimate success. In order to accomplish anything worthy no effort can be wasted; the mind must be constantly concentrated upon the immediate task. One of the first directions to the student should be—in your practice devote every moment and every effort to whatever you cannot do, for those things that you can do well need none of your time or thought, and any time spent upon them is not only wasted, but robs you of an opportunity for advancement. Such advice comes like a revelation to the student, showing the secret of progress and the means for conscientious self-endeavor. That which is worth attaining is worth working for. It is a common saying, “I have worked hard for what I have accomplished,” but no regret is ever uttered for having done the hard work. Emerson has said, “Every mind must know the whole lesson for itself, must go over the whole ground. What it does not see, what it does not live, it will not know.”

The secret of the teacher’s success lies in so directing the pupil’s work that he is taught how to teach himself. All teaching consists in pointing out the work that is to be done and the way to do it. No teacher can do anything for the pupil who does not work thoroughly and well. But when once the pupil is incited to an earnest desire to work in his own behalf, the work of the teacher is accomplished. Haweis says, “What a mystery lies in that word ‘teaching.’ One will constrain you irresistibly, and another will not be able to persuade you. One will kindle you with an ambition that aspires to what the day before seemed inaccessible heights, while another will labor in vain to stir your sluggish mood to cope with the smallest obstacle. The reciprocal relation is too often forgotten… . Teaching relations are intensely personal, and have to do with subtle conditions unexplored but inexorable and instantly perceived. The soul puts out its invisible antennae, knowing the soul that is kindred to itself. What we cannot learn from one we must learn from another.”

Every piano-forte pupil spends at least one hour a day in practice, generally for several years. How important that all the work done shall be wisely directed, that the time and effort spent shall result in the accomplishment of something worthy. How important that the pupil be spared the bitter experience of having much to unlearn, the inevitable consequence of misspent time. It is far better to study but one term with a master than years with one lacking in devotion to art for art’s sake. The following extract is quoted from the journal of a piano-forte student of only ordinary ability:—

“I am convinced that nothing can be accomplished without systematic training, which I have never had. My fingers are weak and play with uncertainty, while my fourth and fifth fingers are of little use to me in my playing. When I hear my musical friends play so firmly, so smoothly and rapidly, I am aware that they have had very different training. One, at this stage, advises me to study with his teacher; he says: ‘He is an American and a thorough musician; there is not a better teacher in Europe or America. He is very kind, but he just makes you learn; you can’t help but progress.’ I am glad of the opportunity to study with an American musician; for, naturally, foreigners can never be so perfectly understood. * * * * To-day I took my first lesson with my new teacher. He has a genial bearing, combining dignity with gentleness, is masterful, yet kind and pleasant. He inspires with awe, but at the same time with confidence. He made earnest work of teaching; his whole mind seemed absorbed in his work. I felt that he would make all things possible; he seemed so helpful and so confident in the successful issue of whatever he undertook, that I gained more and more confidence in my ability to do whatever he directed. For every fault corrected a remedy was given. His listening attitude was very marked, as though he

received his keenest impressions through the ear, just as a painter does through the eye. He spoke but little and directly to the point. His quiet, calm manner put me at ease. I was set to thinking and to criticising myself. I learned more in one lesson than in all my previous years of study. I learned how to go to work, how to help myself, and what I was to strive for. The work as laid out is interesting, for it begins at the beginning and leads up to the practice of the piece. I was given a selection of technical exercises, the position study, slow trill, exercises for two, three, four and five fingers, contractions, extensions, scale preparation, and scales, an Etude and an Andante movement, soft and musical. I thought I could take only exercises until my fingers were trained, but my teacher says ‘taste must be cultivated as well as the fingers.’ My teacher directed how I was to let my fingers ‘do all the work’ with a loose wrist, how I was to sustain and connect the tones. I never before listened to separate tones; in listening to a passage as a whole, I lost sight of this truth: to produce real music each tone must be musical.

“I was told that I played scales better than anything else. It is fortunate that I studied them carefully and thoroughly; for that and a knowledge of Rudiments is all I have to build upon. I never forgot the advice I received in childhood from a fine musician who was in the habit of visiting us. He said: ‘If ever you have any idea of learning anything about music and playing, practice scales,—that is the foundation and you can do nothing without them. You cannot study them too much. Everything depends upon the way you practice scales.’ Then he used to extol fugues; he said: ‘If one is in earnest he will study fugues.’

“I expected to practice three hours, and thought that would be a great deal, but when I had practiced all the lesson thoroughly, as directed, I had practiced six hours. * * * *

“My teacher plays for me every lesson, after I have finished, and I think it is a very important part of the lesson. His playing is indescribable—so spontaneous, like an improvisation, so free from all sensational effect, so unobtrusive, it gives a new kind of pleasure in listening for it, as it seems to float in the air from another sphere. In the soft passages an exquisite delicacy of touch is combined with fullness and richness of tone. He plays brilliantly, quietly, and with controlled feeling, producing pure, true music, while the player is forgotten for the playing.

“My system for practice is very comprehensive and well contrasted. Each day’s practice includes every variety of technical exercise, and the same kind of work for both hands. Keys with sharps follow keys with flats; major keys follow minor keys; soft and delicate passages follow loud and firm passages; scale passages are followed by arpeggios; legato passages are followed by staccato passages; a classical selection is followed by one of modern standard music. * * * *

“To-day was the last lesson of the season. I have had three terms, and have gone over a great deal of ground. I never worked harder, but I have gained so much. Among other things, I studied Cramer’s twenty-one studies, ‘Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words,’ and Mozart’s Sonatas. I read Mendelssohn’s and Mozart’s ‘Letters,’ Ritter and Hunt’s ‘History of Music.’ My teacher lent me some books on music, and I enjoyed them so much that I mean to read all the musical biographies and histories I can find. Next season I intend to study harmony in connection with the piano lessons, it is such help in studying understandingly.

“I played recently for my musical friend. He said: ‘If I had not heard you with my own ears, I should never have believed that you could have gained so much in so short a time. While I realize all your hard work, I must attribute your success to your teacher.’”

It is pleasant to know that there are teachers among us to their work ordained, and that appreciative pupils are not so rare as is sometimes thought. When the student’s interest is awakened, his ambition is aroused, and his cooperation with his master may be depended upon.

Emerson says: “There is no teaching until the pupil is brought into the same state, or principle, in which you are; a transfusion takes place, he is you, and you are he; there is a teaching.”

E. Berger writes: “It is extraordinary how intense is the power of application in the cases of those who are apprenticed to a master they worship as well as serve.”

Louis Plaidy sums up the work of the teacher and the goal of the pupil thus: “The problem for the music teacher, is to lead the pupil on to that degree of artistic insight which his musical talent and mental endowments generally enable him to reach. It may not be possible to make an artist out of every pupil, but every one should learn to appreciate art, try to familiarize himself as much as possible with all the branches which pertain to it, and to enlarge his circle of vision, so that he may reach a step where he will be in a condition to form an independent judgment for himself from his own observation.”

Teacher and pupil should work together with perfect sympathy and understanding. When each seeks to fulfill his part faithfully, the earnest spirit becomes reciprocal and the benefit mutual.

“Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell,
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.”

 

 

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