How teaching benefits your own music practice

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by Lara Levitan

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When considering a sustainable career, young musicians often worry that teaching will leave no time for their own pursuits.

But consider this: when you’re teaching music, you’re always practicing. In fact, teaching is one of the best ways to stay immersed in music while getting paid.

We talked to our teachers about how teaching enriches their musical lives.

You become a teacher to yourself.

If you’re having trouble with a song, your well-rehearsed “teacher voice” will chime in to guide you. Okay, Jack. Time to slow down. Let’s try this again without rushing. You’ll find mega-appreciation for, and patience with, yourself: the inner coach who is always on call.

You start to take your own good advice.

Practice, practice, practice, music teachers often say. Sooner or later, you succumb to your own prescription.

“If I have to be an example for my students, then I’m going be a better pianist all around because I’m practicing a lot more,” said instructor Peter Groch.

You enter the exciting, unpredictable, and illogical world of children.

Children keep you on your toes. Uninhibited and honest about what kind of music they like— and about how they’re feeling on any given day— children are wired to surprise you, and their whimsy is infectious.

“Kids often enjoy music for reasons they can’t really explain, and they gravitate toward different things,” said instructor Matt Gold. “Maybe they gravitate toward things you wouldn’t expect them to, and that keeps you feeling fresh about making your own music, too.”

You know what’s cool and popular.

Even if you couldn’t care less about music that’s cool and popular, it’s fun to know what the kids are into. And who knows? Maybe studying that irresistible pop hook will unlock your own composition.

“Even if [what I’m teaching is] not my own music or the kind of music I’d like to play, it still keeps my mind working,” said instructor Brian Stark.

You remain steeped in the fundamentals.

No matter how advanced your skills or how complex your playing, the basics will always be important. The basics are your building blocks, and teaching keeps yours nice and polished.

You become a better critical thinker.

Teaching transforms the way you listen, improving your ability to analyze music.

“Whether I can help it or not, I often frame the way I think about music in terms of how I would communicate something to a student,” said instructor Andrew Clinkman. “I think it’s shifted my musical brain-space a little bit.”

You become a better band member.

Teaching a music class is like leading a band. Even when teaching private lessons, you’re leader to a band of one. Your ability to lead, teach, and relate to your students will help you to lead, teach, and relate to your bandmates.

“Teaching helps me better understand how to break things down to make things easier,” said instructor Andrew Lawrence. “It helps me to better understand how to lead a band, and how to help other people achieve their goals.”

You become an all-around better human, which may make you a better artist.

Good teachers continuously deepen their capacity for empathy. Teaching any subject is about more than simply relaying instruction — it’s about connecting with your student and meeting them where they are.

“Every student gives you the opportunity to learn different ways of making people feel comfortable in their own skin,” said instructor Deanna Varagona.

Interested in teaching for Piano Power? Click ‘Apply now’ to fill out an application.

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About the Author

Lara Levitan

Lara Levitan is Communications Manager for Piano Power. She is a freelance writer and a professional music-appreciater. You can reach her at lara@pianopower.org.

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