There is a chapter in my book that's been molding on the back burner titled The 4H Club. It defines my vision of a thorough music lesson, one that has challenged the hand, expanded the hearing, revealed the thinking in the head and opened the heart. Conversely, what falls short of the mark—and still way too often— are lessons that neglect one or more of these faculties and missed the connections between them. You can read the full deal when I strap myself down and make myself get this dang book out!
But while washing dishes tonight and preparing a talk for the Orff Interns, I realized that this is also a great model for the teacher, a blueprint to insure continued blossoming. A good summary of my advice to teachers of all ages:
• Keep cultivating the intelligence of the hand. The technique of your chosen instrument or trying a new one, be it the djembe or didjeridoo, sitar or saxophone.
• Keep expanding your hearing. Listen, listen, listen! Recordings, live music, the rhythm of passing trains or cicadas or tuning into your own work rhythms while chopping carrots or riding your bike.
• Keep the mind growing and glowing. Read, read, read! Neuroscience, anthropology, poetry, great fiction, all my books (ha! Thought I’d sneak that in). And write, write, write, articulate your experience and develop your vision through habitual reflection set on white sheets or blue screens.
• Keep opening the heart through the vehicle of music— or any vehicle. Feel the nuances of Chopin, Bach, Indian classical music or West African polyrhythms. Let all the sounds and vibrations in so the emotional life has voices beyond pop radio— from gamelan to grunge to Grieg to Gershwin. And don't forget the most heart-opening vehicle of all— loving the children! Safe to say that as a music teacher, none of the others will matter without this one.
And heck, no need to limit this to music teachers. Substitute seeing or moving or touching or tasting according to your passion, sewing or skiing or sautéing for the hand and body and yes, always reading and writing and always open the doors to more of the rooms in the heart (yes, it’s going to hurt and yes, it seems easier to keep some closed, but hey, they’ll open eventually and better you do it then have some thugs in the psyche break down with guns raised.)
The 4H Club, baby! Anyone want to join?