I think that teaching is like telling a story. If someone wants to learn the double stroke roll on the drums or the I-IV-V on the piano, it is my job to make it comprehensible and easy to grasp. And I don’t know any better way to do that other than story telling. In our digitalized world, there is something that has not perished: the interest in a tale well told.
Now, of course, as a story teller, the first thing you need is to be aware of your crowd, as in “Who are the people that I am speaking to today?” Because you don’t present a double stroke roll the same way to a 4th grader as a middle aged man. Oh, don’t make me say what I didn’t say, both of them are interesting. The 4th grader might need some tom tom exercises, some musical examples, some play along exercises, while the middle aged man will require a few talks about the metronome, the notation on paper, the snare drum charts associated with the concept. It would be the same story, ultimately, but told in different ways.
I talk about this aspect of teaching because it determines a lot of things. I’ll try to give you a for instance. As in: Let’s go to Hollywood. Every script is trying to explain something to a crowd. There are the characters, the situation, the relationships, the setting, the chronology, etc. A thousand elements are thrown at the spectator in as little time as possible. And every body is critic, of course. Is it a science fiction flick that happens in a spaceship? Yes! No horses, then! Is it a period piece set in the 19th century? Ok, then no iPhones. Simple things like that.
Now, when you teach, it’s a bit the same. There are some things you don’t want to go to depending on who you’re talking to. I sometimes fight with my own references because I am from another country. For example, I know that I can’t talk about the band “Telephone”, the biggest French rock band of the 80’s. But that’s all right. I’ll mention The Smashing Pumpkins or The Police instead. There is always a way to get the point across.
I love teaching because the process is not about me, and when I say that I tailor my lessons to the student, that’s mainly what I mean: Telling the player a story they’ll understand and get enthusiastic about. If I can insert a few devastating jokes in the process, well, now, I know that I’ve done my job.