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The Pupil's Personal Responsibility.


In reading the lives of the great masters in our art one thing is strikingly prominent: these men of divine gifts were as great workers as they were great in genius. When the strife for place, honors, and gain is as fierce as it is now, it is only those who “have a genius for hard work,” those “who know how to be severe with themselves,” that can hope to become leaders in their chosen profession.

Charles Dickens said: “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one object at a time which I then formed. Heaven knows I write this in no spirit of self-laudation… . My meaning simply is that whatever I have tried to do in life I have tried to do well; and, in short, I have always been thoroughly in earnest. I have never believed it possible that any natural or improved ability can claim immunity from the companionship of the steady, plain, hard-working qualities, and hope to gain its end. There is no such thing as such fulfillment on this earth. Some happy talent, some fortunate opportunity, may form the two sides of the ladder on which some men mount, but the rounds of that ladder must be made of stuff to stand wear and tear; and there is no substitute for thorough-going, ardent, and sincere earnestness.”

Bach, Händel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Wagner, and Berlioz were among the hardest workers the world has ever known. The fame that they attained was but equal to the work they accomplished.

It is the teacher’s duty to inspire his pupils to do a quality of work that is worthy of the talent that has been given them. Pupils must be made to realize that talents are given them to be cultivated, that they are personally responsible for their endowments. The great Teacher especially emphasized this in the parables of the talents and in some of His other teachings. But no teacher can do this needed task unless he himself feels the greatness of his own responsibility, the real worth and dignity of his profession. Dr. W. J. Tucker said: “The theory of work is to be lavish with personal influence, to put a great deal of one’s self into the thing which one undertakes, whatever it may be.”

The amount that a pupil gets out of a lesson is just what his teacher puts of himself into that lesson. A good lesson demands a fiery enthusiasm, and intense interest with a great expenditure of energy on the part of a teacher. It is to be remembered that “Genius without culture is a germ that never yields blossom or fruit.” The quality and the amount of culture depend largely on the teacher.

Parents, friends, and acquaintances have “conspired together” to fill the heart and head of the gifted child with the idea that he is far above common mortals. That he is already worthy of praise, and that he is not to be judged by the standards by which others are measured. This false pride has to be taken out of him. It is a delicate piece of his teacher’s work, and to do it well requires great tact and skill.

False ideas must be replaced with those that are correct. Wrong estimates of self must be made to give place to those that are right.

Plaidy, the famous music teacher, said of this: “A man’s merit consists only in the amount of industry and exertion he bestows upon the object he desires to attain. He that is gifted by Nature with talent or genius has no right to look upon these gifts as his own desert, but as an obligation which heaven has imposed upon him to cultivate them so far as to enable him to perform all that may be reasonably expected from the talent he possesses.”

When the pupil feels that his gifts are a personal responsibility and a command from his God to work, and to work so faithfully that he may be a leader to lift his fellow-men higher, he is then in the right frame of mind, and his friends may rightly expect great things of him.

But he will accomplish this only when he has learned to find his pleasure and reward in his work and its musical results, instead of in the applause of friends or the public.

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You are reading The Pupil's Personal Responsibility. from the March, 1900 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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