When I was expecting my first child, my mum told me something strange. “You’ll see, she said, you’re going to rediscover the world through her eyes. Everything will seem fresh and untouched because of her.” I wasn’t sure what she meant until I started spending time with my daughter, then later on, my son when he joined us. Did their eyes catch the colors of a butterfly? Oh, the wonders, the sparkles, the surprise! Did they shove half of the toy into their mouth? Oh, the ecstasy, the pleasure, the nirvana! Did they go down the slide with their arms up in the air? Oh the thrill, the wind, the excitement! Everything was a source of amazing sensations. And it was not only the physical sensations they were discovering, they were also experiencing their first pride, their first laughter, their first sense of comfort or safety, their sense of justice, etc. The most insignificant event for my blasé eyes were taking on a value and a magnitude I had forgotten about.
I will confess that it helps me out a lot in my teaching. I witness first hand some brand new beginner flying through their first song, the wind in their hair, a big smile on their face and the excitement of the possible failure commanding their full attention. It doesn’t matter their age. People are people. If they discover something they happen to like, it’s always exciting, it’s always a spark. I, as a teacher, look for that light in their eyes, it is one way for me to know I’m doing my job, providing something precious for them. I am convinced that music has to be first experienced, tasted, then practiced and refined and shaped. Without the discovery, the appreciation of where this could go, without that arrow pointing in some kind of direction, they aren’t going anywhere.
My children are grown now. They each have chosen their own path. But I know that those first steps of their young age were absolutely essential. Those discoveries were the first building blocks. I think it is the same for anybody studying an instrument: how you first approach it will determine a lot of what will happen next.