Music has been integral part of human life long before people started to record history. Some music historians might even say that music existed even before the first man walked the Earth. Of course, it all depends on how you define music, but that could be quite a philosophical debate. On the other side, there is almost undivided consent of all the musicologists that music was “invented” in Africa, before the dispersion of human population, some 55,000 years ago. The first musical instrument was probably human voice, but some musicologists would say that rhythm came before the voice, and that human used rocks and wooden sticks as rudimental percussion instruments. If we speak about other human-made instruments, there are scientific proofs that bone flutes were used some 35,000 years ago, in prehistoric era.
Although people used instruments for tens of thousands of years, it took long time before the first music schools were established. Renaissance period was golden era for art, science and education in general. That’s why the first music school was founded in 1585, in Rome, Italy. Soon after that, the first music conservatory was established in Naples. During 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries all the biggest cities in the world founded their own music schools and conservatories. With the first schools, the first music teachers appeared. At the time, music teachers were accomplished composers or/and musicians such as Gaetano Greco, Alessandro Scarlatti, etc. Since the first music schools were established, young music students have been highly influenced by their teachers. Teachers played great roles in their students’ lives by guiding them through the world of music.
The mission of a music teacher today, just like centuries ago, is not only to shape his student’s talent, but to shape him as a human being, and to help him to become a better man. One thing is certain – in order to become great musician and good man, one must have great music teacher. So, what are the things that great teachers do, and what makes them great?
Great Music Teacher Himself Must Be Well Educated and Skillful Musician
The first one is pretty obvious. Before anyone could even think to teach others, he/she must be competent musician. Great musicians or composers have much more chance of becoming great music teachers. There are plenty of examples of great musicians being equally successful as teachers – Anton Rubinstein was one of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s teachers, Franz Joseph Haydn was one of Beethoven’s teachers, Frederic Chopin was well known and appreciated as piano teacher. Although being a great musician is highly desirable quality for someone who wants to become a teacher, it isn’t the only quality he or she must have. This is just a starting point.
Great Music Teacher Must Communicate and Connect with Students and Retain Authority at the Same Time
Having good pedagogical and psychological skills is crucial for every teacher, and this applies to music teachers as well. Children are being engaged in music lessons from the youngest age, and that makes the job of a music teacher really difficult. In order to be a great teacher, you must have comprehensive understanding of child psychology, you must communicate with that child, understand child’s limits and potentials, and connect with that child in order to make some success. The job is a bit easier when it comes to older students, but you still have to communicate with your students all the time, to provide pleasant practicing environment, but also to retain authority and prevent any type of misbehavior during practice.
Great Music Teachers Pay Attention to the Basics of Instrument Playing and to Every Flaw in Technique in Order to Improve Their Students’ Skills
Great music teacher has to be concentrated all the time and has to notice mistakes that his student makes. These mistakes can vary from small posture flaws to really big technique and performance flaws. Whatever happens, teacher has to remain calm, and try to explain what’s right and what’s wrong. There are two schools of thought when speaking about the method of pointing out technique and performance flaws. Some teachers prefer to stop their students every time they make a mistake, explain them what was the problem, and then make them repeat the piece. Other teachers prefer to let the student finish the piece, and then address the problems. However, there is no scientific proof that one way is better than the other. What is certain is that great teachers are proactive, they address the mistakes and flaws, and try to help their students to overcome these problems and be better musicians as a result.
Great Music Teachers Are Not Afraid to Push Their Students’ Limits
It’s been already said that music teachers should be good at estimating their students’ abilities and potentials, because that’s the starting point from which every teacher makes decision how and at which pace to conduct lessons. The main goal of every teacher is to reach the limits of every student, and then try to lead them even further. Of course, only great teachers are able to do that. That kind of teacher must dedicate a lot of his time and patience to every student. Teacher has to be prepared to change his curriculum in order to enable his student to practice at the right pace – if the student is not challenged enough and if he/she can easily perform some piece, teacher should give him/her more difficult piece. In the opposite case, if a student has difficulties with some piece, teacher must be prepared to give him more time or to start with something easier. However, teacher must never forget about the problem or go around it. This kind of approach is crucial for being great music teacher, but there is something even more important about it, because it could be extremely helpful in every life situation. When you teach your students like that, you won’t only make good musicians out of them, you will make them capable of tackling every life problem. Not every student will become world-class musician, but with this kind of working ethics, they will have much more chance of becoming great people.
Great Teachers Never Stop Learning
Being a teacher doesn’t give you right to stop practicing, and there is always room for improvement. Music teachers must be prepared to explain to their students every playing technique, and in order to do that they have to practice their instrument every day, just like their students. Music teachers must also work on their social, pedagogical and psychological skills, since the education is all about making the right connection with students in order to transfer your knowledge in the easiest possible way.
Great Music Teachers Love Music but They Love Teaching Even More
Just like we said at the beginning of this text, being great musician and loving music is great starting point for anyone who wants to be a teacher, but there is another equally important thing – you have to be able to teach. You can be the greatest living musician, and still not be able to pass on your knowledge effectively. To put it simply – you have to love teaching. There is no book or lesson that could make you better teacher if you don’t love the job. Teaching requires the whole person, it takes huge amount of time and patience, demands great social skills and ability to connect with students, and those who have this specific set of skills could be considered great music teachers.