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Personal Experience the Great Teacher.


"Divinity is behind our failures and follies also."
In entering upon the profession of teaching the young musician of the present day is likely to be— so far as his general education is concerned—more fully equipped for the work than were his fellow-craftsmen of twenty-five years ago. The great number of well-equipped music-schools that have sprung up in the large cities, the important movement of summer schools for normal training, the increased facilities for hearing the best musical compositions rendered by the acknowledged artists of the world, and the immense strides that have been made in pedagogic subjects combine to produce a musical environment for the ambitious student that was not possible in this country a quarter of a century ago. In these genial and favorable surroundings the student of today has cause for self-congratulation; but when it comes to the matter of personal experience, he must— like his brother of former days—make it for himself; without it he can never hope to succeed.
Emerson has wisely said: "What a man does, that he has. In himself is his might." To be the recipient of knowledge from the best instructors is an enviable lot and one most heartily to be desired; still it fails to bring about the development of intellectual power and self-reliance that comes from the effort to instruct others.
Now, in the getting of this personal experience the student of to-day has only a few advantages over his predecessors; one of these would seem to lie in the increased opportunities for obtaining instruction in classes, as by this means he is enabled to watch the methods used by an experienced teacher for furthering the development of pupils possessed of widely differing degrees of receptivity and mental caliber.
In the present writer's opinion, this is the one recommendation for the system of teaching pupils in class, so popular in conservatories, and is valuable only to the pupil who has made some material progress in his studies, and has developed his powers of observation and reflective faculties to a point where he is able to take notes of the various plans used by the instructor, and lay them up for future reference and use.
Ruskin says: "Every great man is always being helped by everybody, for his gift is to get good out of all things and persons," and the young musician who has arrived at the stage of development which enables him to take advantage of, and profit by the experience of, others may comfort himself with the assurance that he has taken at least one step on the road that leads to true wisdom.
But it must be borne in mind that, after all, this is only the initial step; "What a man does, that he has"; consequently the most careful observation and mental note-taking of the methods used by others must—at the best—be considered simply in the light of temporary crutches, to be leaned upon only until the self-development which comes of practical experience brings the happy consciousness of inherent strength; for "all our progress is an unfolding, like the vegetable bud. You have first an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge, as the plant has root, bud, and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason. By trusting it to the end, it shall ripen into truth, and you shall know why you believe."
But while this self-development is going on, Ruskin's "great man" will know that it is to his present advantage to accept of any friendly assistance that may come within his reach. The fact that he is no longer under the authority of a master, but free to follow his own bent, will not deter him from seeking the friendly council of those who have "trusted the instinct until it has ripened into truth, so that they know why they believe."
The boon companion of true greatness is the spirit of humility, which makes it possible to "get good out of all things and persons," and to listen, with respect, to opinions that may seem entirely contradictory to one's preconceived views. It may not all be good grist that comes to the mill; but the wise miller will carefully sift the chaff from the wheat, and the wise teacher will give due regard to the opinions of others, adopting and making his own any suggestions that seem to him practical and useful.
At the same time he must avoid the danger of being led away by every new fad (which is frequently only another name for a new folly). He must have the courage of his own convictions, and abide by them until he is assured that something better is offered him in their stead. Like Ulysses, he must ever be determined "to strive, to seek, and not to yield"! In his endeavor to learn from the experience of others, he will be gaining material for comparison with his own personal striving; and this process brings about— most surely—a happy confidence in his own increasing strength and power.
It has been aptly said that "at some time every man should let out all the length of all the reins; should find and make a frank and hearty expression of what force and meaning is in him," and it is doubtful if any better opportunity could be afforded for this character-growth than the profession of music- teaching. In the preparatory years of study for this work the important points have seemed to the student to be the acquirement of a correct method, an acquaintance with good music, and the ability to give it proper interpretation; but, when he assumes the role of instructor, he finds himself obliged to take up an entirely new branch of study,—viz.: that of human nature,—and he is likely to find the pursuit of knowledge in this direction much more complicated and perplexing than were the rules of piano-technic, voice- production, or even strict counter-point. For in this new study he not only has to learn many rules, but must also formulate them for himself; and, as human nature is as infinite in variety as the sands of the sea, he finds himself confronted with the discouraging prospect of making rules to-day that perhaps tomorrow must be laid away among the list of exceptions.
Whatever may be the results of the efforts we make with our pupils, certain it is that we are helped and strengthened by every effort we make for our own good or the good of others. And these efforts are the stones out of which our castle of experience must be builded. The building process may be slow, for it is the work of a life-time, but the grandeur and nobility of the structure make it well worth the years of earnest endeavor. To learn how best to adapt ourselves to surrounding conditions, to profit by the wisdom of others, to develop our mental strength and power of invention so as to meet the varied requirements of our chosen profession, and to understand— at least in some degree—the many different phases of human nature is surely worth the struggle. So let the young teacher take courage and remember that:
"The world is wide In time and tide And—God is guide. Then, do not hurry.
"That man is blest Who does his best And—leaves the rest. Then, do not worry."
The musical needs of the day are better-informed parents, more thorough teachers, less impatience on the part of pupils for display, and a careful study of the theory as well as the practice of music. The amount of real music made is largely disproportionate to the playing, and one of these days—not far distant, let us hope—performers will learn that nothing is so unsatisfactory to a true musician as the slovenly execution which is the inevitable result of a superficial education.—Ex.

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