Three factors went into me deciding to take lessons again. Each involves a story that occurred in the last few years. One story involves an influential friend. One involves an influential student. And one includes an influential demonstration of skill by my future teacher.
I have a friend who has done remarkable things with the violin. I’ve seen her progress so much with her skill over the years I’ve known her. She has ambition, patience, kindness, and a great work ethic—the perfect combination for achieving great success. Her name is Kerstin. She always has profound advice. Once I was asking her about her recent album on Light that she produced and if she had any tips for achieving personal goals. I wanted to know how to follow in her footsteps, but with my own style. She said something simple but with quiet assurance; something along the lines of, “If you really want something, God’s going to help make it happen.” I left that conversation with more hope and conviction.
Second story: I love all my students. Every now and then, you get one who stands out as a true inspiration to you as a teacher! I was so impressed with my student Emily’s preparation for lessons. She really took this part of her education seriously, and as a result, like my friend Kerstin, made leaps and bounds of progress. She took weekly hour-long private lessons from me, which meant a lot of time and material for a high school student, who was involved in many activities, to prepare on a regular basis. Yet, she always seemed to come to her lessons having practiced whatever I assigned.
I see myself in a lot of my students. But Emily had more wisdom than I did when I was young. I hate to admit that when I was particularly young, I often faked my way through my lessons, having the gift of being a good sight reader. I don’t think it ever occurred to me, at least until I saw it personally, as a teacher of similar students, that my teachers were probably aware of this habit of mine.
Emily was not that type of student. In fact, I specifically remember the one day that she came to her lesson and admitted she hadn’t practiced. She was legitimately concerned. As this was an unusual case for her, I was not concerned, and I immediately told her not to worry about it. But her genuine worry at her lack of preparation got the wheels spinning in my own mind. I suddenly remembered words of prophets, both in scripture and in modern times, which spoke of strengths turning into weaknesses if we’re not careful; or the parable of the talents: to paraphrase, 'that which they had being taken away.' And to quote, ". . . weakness is not our only vulnerability. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong—in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths." (See Matthew 25, KJV, and Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall.") I realized I had started taking my talents for granted.
Third story: I was playing in an orchestra where my now-teacher, Julliard-trained violist Joel Rosenberg, was the conductor. At one point in rehearsal, he grabbed the concertmaster’s violin to demonstrate how he wanted a passage played. He only played a handful of notes, but immediately, my head came up from the back of the group. That was the tone and articulation I wanted in my own playing! I lived far away, but I approached him afterwards about the possibility of taking lessons. The COVID-19 pandemic struck in the months after we talked, interfering with the possibility of in-person lessons, but after the danger was past, a few years later, I again initiated the conversation. I was ready. I have been taking monthly lessons from him since that time: since the summer of 2022. (See Music Opens Doors post.)
For a long time, I thought, "I have my master’s degree in music education. I don’t need to take lessons anymore. What more can they possibly teach me?" But unbeknownst to myself, I was probably merely waiting for the right opportunity! I needed to find the right teacher in order to be inspired! Someone who was a more advanced musician than me.
Inspiration goes a long way. When you find someone who is both a good teacher and a good performer, that’s golden. It’s even better when they’re a caring, conscientious individual, as I’ve discovered Joel to be. Seek and ye shall find, the scriptures say, for a reason! I have been awed by possibilities that have emerged in this chapter of my life. I’m grateful for people placed in my path who said or did something meaningful, for it effected great, long-lasting impact on my future!