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The Woodshed: The most important lesson

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JJ Rocks Article # 210:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 41, February, 2010
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As a music teacher, I often wondered what lesson I teach is the most important to my students. And for the longest time I thought it was the basic math of music like intervals, scales, and chord construction, along with improvisation and finding ones true self. But these musical elements dont seem to mean all that much if you spend years just practicing in your room. Its a whole different trip when you play for someone who is really listening.

I can remember back in the early days playing in cover bands 6 nights a week. Every once in a while a hard tune would show up on the bandleaders list and it would take me all week to learn it. Im talking about bands like Steely Dan, Yes, or jazzy artist like George Benson. And many times I dont know how I made it through a rehearsal without being tagged for mistakes. It was probably because someone else in the band was screwing up more than me and had everyones attention. But as soon as I got on stage it all changed.

I dont know why, but the first time I played a song in front of a crowd, my musical worries were all downhill from there. And its not that people in the audience made me play without mistakes, I still made the same amount. But after that the parts that I didnt perfect stood out more and it was easier to repair them. And most important, my fear of playing the song would go away and it would be forever etched in my mind as long as I reviewed it once in awhile.

So I made sure that playing on stage showed up very early on my music students requirements page. As soon as they can play even the simplest of songs, I put them up in front of an audience to jam with my band. That one experience has changed the lives of so many of my students. It is now mandatory for them to play something with my band, even if its only at a rehearsal with their family watching. Thats still a good start and a great pre stage exercise that will give the student (any age) more confidence about getting up under the lights.

So if you are a teacher and someone asked you what the best thing to show a student is, just tell them show them where the stage is.

 
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