BY E. A. SMITH.
Nearly all musicians have dealt with the “testimonial” question at some period in their career, and it is a question of no small concern. A recommendation from a teacher is either worth something or it is worth nothing. If it is misleading and untruthful, it is an imposition upon others and a reflection, not only upon the writer of it, but upon all other testimonials that he may have written, and therefore does more harm than good, and should not have been written at all.
Some years ago a prominent medical college in this country issued diplomas and certificates of merit to anyone having a smattering of medical instruction provided they would pay a stipulated sum for such a diploma. Many were willing to avail themselves of such an unprincipled course, for by paying a few hundred dollars they could save both time and money and were willing to pick up their experience, perhaps at the cost of the lives of their patients. This practice of conferring unmerited degrees in a profession dealing with the lives of people soon became so notorious that the charter of the college was revoked and those holding diplomas were ashamed to admit they held a diploma coming from such an institution.
A teacher who unqualifiedly recommends for a position a pupil that is not competent to fill it places himself in much the same position as did this unprincipled college.
Teachers have calls for recommendations for various purposes: one wishes a church position, one to go to another city to continue the study of art, and so on. Where is the harm in giving them this asked for encouragement? None, provided it be honestly given and honestly merited. A recommend can be so worded that it is complimentary to the bearer in various ways and not be misleading. When a pupil has done for her instructor careless and unsatisfactory work, it is pretty safe to say that her work as teacher will partake of this same careless element. Pupils unwittingly reveal their real nature in the every-day work they are doing.
Here is an illustration from real life. A lady who had studied some ten or more years ago, and who had demonstrated her unfitness for any position in the musical realm, either as student or teacher, applied for a “recommend as teacher of music,” saying “That though she had not studied for several years and, although her time was bad, she could read notes first-rate and thought she might be able to get a few pupils, provided she could obtain a recommendation; also that she was trying to secure a divorce from her husband and wished to show the court that she could support herself and children, and would use this recommendation as evidence in case it was needed. Suffice it to say the request was not granted. Many intelligent people are lost when they clamber into the sanctum of art. It is difficult walking upon the icefields unless one is prepared for it. The ability to read notes and keep poor time is not enough to warrant the giving of a recommendation as teacher of music, any more than the inability to keep one’s accounts indicates the musician. After all, it really depends upon what one really is. The man is the best recommend, and no other will suffice.