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Editorial Notes

A literary man, poet and critic as well, once remarked that a certain singer had the faculty of getting “inside the meaning of the text” he sang. If this is true of a singer, why not, of necessity, much more demanded of a player? The latter has no words to help direct the thoughts of his hearers. He must create the poetic atmosphere that ofttimes helps to give to an instrumental composition life, grace, and beauty.

*****

Should artists marry? is a question that has often been propounded. Some people question if a man of the true musicianly type can be a good husband. His art must ever be dearer and closer to him than any wife, they argue; his thoughts, his real being, will be so much absorbed by the Muse that he will be careless, even neglectful, of the one who bears his name. Other considerations are urged, especially on the financial side; the somewhat irregular and uncertain nature of earnings, the rather common unbusiness-like habits of the average musician; his sanguine, excitable nature, which unfits him to cope with the prosaic details of domestic life; to say nothing of the temptations to infidelity from the nature of his avocation.

Is it not possible that some of these ideas arise from the fact that in many people’s eyes there is still a glamour, that they do not take a clear, practical view of the matter? A musician is a business man, striving, as others, to earn a livelihood,—often a precarious and uncertain one, it is true,—yet with a heart lightened by love and enthusiasm for his art. If his neighbors view him in the light of a man pursuing a certain avocation, laboring with the talents that God has given to him, just as other men are supposed to do, why should he not live under the same conditions as other men? Too many people still see around the musician, the artist, the poet, and other art-workers, a halo of romance that tends to injure the object of this silly pseudo-adoration.

* * * * *

Have you ever heard a one time popular recitation in the style of a homiletical treatment of the familiar nursery legend of “Old Mother Hubbard”? How many compositions are as ridiculously apparent as mere mechanical imitations of works really founded upon true thought expressed in musical symbols; or, looking at the subject from another side, how often serious compositions are rendered so badly as to be reduced to mere parodies before which the true devotee feels impelled to laugh, yet dare not!

* * * * *

“There is something fascinating about the music life!” said a student one day. “A man or woman who takes up that work must have many happy hours in the course of a life-time. I have so many even in my modest part of a dilettante.” The cynical musician smiles, but grimly, when he hears such outbursts from pupils.

* * * * *

A railroad track across a level plain, viewed from the roadside in a spot far removed from the centers of busy commercial and social life, seems a potential force of almost infinite possibilities. But let a man, cut off from the rest of the world by accident or design, have the means of making to himself music, and vistas of spiritual life are opened to him, broader and richer than any that the railroad may suggest to the recluse by the mountain side, or on the wide-spreading prairie. There is potentiality in your piano, your violin, your pencil and scrap of music-paper, my brother-musician.

* * * * *

Train your imagination! Fill your soul with enthusiasm! Work to express your ideas! What follows? So very little, often. We say, “Words are inadequate to express certain feelings.” Is it not so with the singer, the player? He must feel so much in order to be able to express, through our weak, mechanical, material instruments, a very little.

* * * * *

You call yourself a teacher, but are you one? What a pregnant word it is!—teaching. Be sure that you do teach. No work is worthy to be a life-work that does not demand earnest, concentrated effort. If your teaching is of the happy-go-lucky kind, it can scarcely be worthy the name.

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A correspondent recently said: “One of your editorial notes seemed just to fit my case.” One idea in a page, if it be one to aid, to stimulate others, is worth having written. Why not try to give your ideas to others in such form and expression as to do them good ?

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Experientia docet (experience teaches). The old Latin dogma is familiar to all. If the expression, as above, is new, the idea is not, as many of us have learned through bitter travail. Yet a truth learned by one’s own hard work, earnest toil, and unselfish endeavor, is worth much more than ten learned by mere hearsay. What we have wrestled for and have assimilated becomes bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, and a living force in our hearts and lives. Are you delving after truths? Be a student first and then a teacher. What you know should be a part of your real self.

* * * * *

What peculiarities are in each of your pupils that may form the pivotal point of your work for them? You must get some one thing to tie to—a base of operations from which to make further advances.

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Train the fingers for musical purposes, but keep mind training also apace.

* * * * *

The successful musician needs certain well-developed elements of character. A delicate sensitiveness is one of these, and strong emotions is another. But both of these tend to unfit him for rough and-tumble contact with the world of business. If things go wrong he is too much stirred up, perhaps even to the loss of self-control and to the letting loose of his temper. Scores of things in every-day life that other people take no notice of irritate him, and people call him thin-skinned and fussy. His daily studies demand of him perfection in the minutest details, and these small things soon mean to him so much that he is constantly annoyed by the carelessness of others, not only in regard to his pupil’s heedless blunders, but in the common affairs of daily living and by contact with his fellow-men. If he was not made this way he would be no musician. And yet he should learn to confine his exacting demands to his art and not require or expect too much of the people with whom he comes in contact. He must learn to take life and its personal experiences as he does the weather, as a matter of course.

* * * * *

Just how much the teacher should consider the family circumstances of his pupils in the pieces that he selects is a grave question. Often music lessons demand close economy in the home that the daughter may take a few lessons, and those who are thus depriving themselves should have a reward in the music given, that it be not such as they can not enjoy. The daughter of the day- laborer will hardly shine in polite society, hence a careful consideration of the people who will hear her play is but a common-sense duty. To give as good a quality of music as circumstances will allow is also a common-sense duty. To give such a pupil a severe course of technic, dry études, and sonatinas would be, as it were, defrauding her and her parents and friends of the musical pleasures that are plainly their due.

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The manufacturers of reed organs have placed hundreds of thousands of these instruments in the homes of the people, and thousands of teachers are daily giving lessons to reed-organ pupils. A large part of reed-organ pupils aim at nothing higher than to play gospel hymns and church music, and as a matter of fact, for home amusement, playing and singing these hymns is much the larger part of their home musical enjoyment. Marches and dance music come in for the next share of popularity. But the ambitious teacher can do much to improve the taste of his pupils by inducing them to learn the best melodies and arrangements for this instrument. There are quantities of really good things, arranged in all grades of difficulty, published in sheet-music form, as well as many good book collections of reed-organ music which will be an agreeable relief to the tonic and dominant harmonies of the gospel hymn.

* * * * *

Certain business aspects of the teaching profession are constantly coming to the front: whether to charge for lessons by the term, quarter, month, or by the year; whether to charge for missed lessons; what shall be the charges for sheet music? long price, or at a discount? if at a discount, what per cent. shall it be? if lessons shall be given at the pupil’s home or in the studio; when there are two or more pupils in a family, if they shall be taken at a discount; if there shall be one price to all or not. Contracts by the month are gaining ground. This gives one extra lesson a month frequently, but it offsets a lesson list now and then. About missed lessons, nothing but vacations especially arranged for, long absences, as going from home, or long cases of sickness should go uncharged. If a lesson must unavoidably be missed it is but common courtesy to tell the teacher, for then he can make a profitable use of the time; still, as the time has been engaged, there should be no discount from the tuition. As to the sheet music charges, music gets worn and soiled and many pieces prove unsalable. Some pupils can not afford to pay for music, so the teacher gives a piece now and then. There is the expressage and loss of accounts by patrons never paying. Taking it all in all, music should be sold at list price, or never at a discount of more than twenty-five per cent. Many teachers furnish at cost to pupils who can not afford to pay full price, making it up on their patrons who can afford to pay full price. It is an almost universal experience that pupils do better work when they take lessons at the teacher’s studio. It is more formal, there is an atmosphere of musical study about it, and the fact that they have to prepare to go for the lesson causes more earnestness of preparation. It is universally considered just to charge all alike, but there may be circumstances in which it would be just to make a discount in tuition. Where there is a lack of means to pay for music lessons it is sometimes best to take part in cash and take a note for the balance.

*****

There exists some confusion regarding the “stab touch,” as to what is intended by its cultivation, and how much time to give to it in daily practice, and how to practice it. Many pupils allow their fourth fingernail-joint to collapse, instead of keeping it in a curved position. It straightens out because it is too weak to maintain the curved position when in active use. In a few pupils all four of their fingers flatten or collapse. In these cases the “stab touch” is of value if at the instant of key contact the finger is curved and kept so; but it should not be used with too much vigor, for the shock to the joints tends to stiffen rather than to strengthen. This touch indeed needs to be lightly used, and not practiced long at a time.

 

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