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Third Prize Essay. Learn To Think - By Madame A. Pupin.

pupin.jpgMadame Pupin is a native of New Jersey. She inherited her musical talent from her father, who was a natural musician, playing several wind and string instruments though he had never taken a lesson in his life. The father also endowed his daughter with other of his characteristics: a love of system and order, of perfection in details; a logical mind and a determination to excel in whatever he undertook. Her first piano lessons were taken from a local teacher, who taught the notes and fingering and then gave pieces. Later, she had some lessons of J. N. Pattison, the first pianist to play the  

Henselt concerto in this country, and from whom she received some valuable ideas about technic. After this she spent two years at the Leipsic Conservatory, studying with Dr. Papperitz, Herr Wenzel, and Kapellmeister Reinecke. On account of ill health she was not able to take part in any public performance in Leipsic. Indeed, her early years were a constant struggle with ill health and weak eyes,— the latter the result of a fall in babyhood into a bed of burning coals. 

After her return to this country, Madame Pupin established a Conservatory of Music at Elizabeth, N. J., which showed some marvelous results, on account of the unique and original method of teaching, but which she was obliged to relinquish, after five years of successful teaching, owing to continued ill health. She removed to New York City, where she found the health she had never known in youth. 

In the midst of her busy life, Madame Pupin has found time to write several books. 

She was the first lady in this country to play the new Janko keyboard in public, and she will be heard in a lecture and recital in the coming meeting of the Music Teachers’ National Association. 


“I was very much impressed by a remark I once heard a lady make,” said the teacher to her pupil. “Speaking about a certain family, she said that their children were taught to think.”

“All people think, I suppose, do they not?” asked the pupil.

“On the contrary, few persons think.”

“Why, what can you mean? I think; I am thinking all the time.”

“But I have your word for it that you do not think.”

“Do explain yourself, dear teacher.”

“Have you not told me four times within the last half hour that you did not think?”

“Really, you get more and more mysterious. I do not remember telling you so.”

“When you put the wrong finger three times on B flat, did you not tell me you did not think?”

“Oh, yes; I forgot.”

“Precisely. You forgot—————— to think. And when you played all three of those notes staccato, instead of accenting the last one and holding it, did you not say you did not think?”

“Well, yes. I did not observe that it was different from the others.”

“You admit, then, that you sometimes do not think. Will you tell me truly what you were thinking about yesterday, when you were practicing this exercise?”

“Let me see. Oh, dear! Ha! ha! ha! I suppose I must confess it: I was thinking whether I should have my new organdie trimmed with pale green or the new shade of pink. Was that not thinking? You said ‘few persons think.’ I wish you would explain.”

“Well, as the Frenchman would say, there is thinking and thinking. Most persons think the thoughts that flow through their minds. These come from different sources, and sometimes have no connection with each other. Such people want variety and amusement all the time; they do not like to think and seldom apply themselves seriously to any study. Some are beset by many different thoughts of entirely opposite character, all clamoring for attention at once. Not knowing that they have the power to admit one thought into full possession and to exclude the others, these persons live in a half distracted state nearly all the time. Giving always divided attention to what they are doing, they accomplish little or nothing. Some others are led away by one thought until they fall into a reverie and become oblivious to all their surroundings. These are absent- minded people, who do not think, but spend their lives in dreaming. Others act on impulse without thinking beforehand, and the results cause them to wish they had thought of thinking. Such persons are always in hot water, as the saying is, yet they seldom learn to think. Still another class does not take the trouble to think at all. They inherit the opinions of their forefathers, or they accept the ideas of some one person or party; they never investigate and never change their minds. They are the most dogmatic and stubborn people one can come in contact with.”

“Well, you have hit off some of our family to a T, myself included; but what has all this to do with music?”

“Right thought has all to do with music.”

“Tell me more about it: I am sure it will be interesting, and a good lesson.”

“Well, then, right thought is, first, to control thought; that is, to decide what one will think and to concentrate simply sits with his face covered by his hand and mentally walks through his storage warehouse and then goes to a certain drawer and extracts the paper from the packet where it has been forbears. Another, recalls the number of a friend’s house by standing mentally before the door and gazing at it until the numbers come out distinctly before his mental vision.”

“Who could have such a marvelous memory?”

“You can have it.”

“I? How is that possible?”

“Learn to think, observe, reflect; learn to direct your thought so that you think exactly the same thought at each repetition of a passage: so concentrate your mind on the music that the printed page may stand out before your mental vision, recalled at will. It is strange that so few persons give time and attention to the cultivation of forethought, which is the ability to foresee the result of certain acts. The man or woman who is calm, deliberate and graceful exercises this faculty. The study of technic is the practice of forethought till thought is unnecessary, and the result is that repose which gives such a charm to some piano playing. If you would not be like the five persons I described, you must learn (1) to control thought, i. e., decide what you will think; (2) to invite one thought into your mind and dismiss all others; (3) to turn a thought over and handle it as you will, and not be led by it; (4) to cultivate forethought; and (5) to think your own thoughts, made yours by reason and reflection, and not to accept the opinions of others without weighing them.

The practice of reflection, observation, analysis, comparison, judgment, order, system, classification, and concentration, so necessary in the study of music, will lead to habits which will not only render study more interesting and progress more rapid, but these habits will be reflected in the other acts of your daily life, and thus music will be the means of a broad culture.”

“Good-by, dear teacher; surely, I have enough to think of now.”

“One word of caution, dear pupil: think but one thought at a time!”

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