April 24, 2014

Lessons for Lifelong Growth

Tomoko asserts that everyone needs to take music lessons. “It’s important. It helps so much. It pushes one to grow.”  Tomoko is quick to say that growing up in music is a long term process,” like growing an oak tree in contrast to growing a tomato plant.” Tomoko likes to help the seeds of her students grow, and recognized that it’s OK for each student to have a different pace. At the same time, it is also good to challenge and stretch students; “Have them work hard and do B work rather than to do a simple piece at A level.”

“To be a teacher is to be a dictator sometimes,” says Tomoko. For instance, her students might come in with broad gestures, heightened arms, and swaying bodies, mimicking some commercial performers. Tomoko has to correct their posture as she teaches them; "How the body is aligned impacts the performance," she says.  Nevertheless, Tomoko does not punish her students. “They know when they are not doing their best, or do not perform well; they punish themselves enough already.” Instead, Tomoko looks for each student’s possibilities, and helps each one self-monitor and self-improve with her experienced guidance.  “It’s like tending a garden, nurturing it and removing the negative elements so each plant grows fully.”

Tomoko’s youngest student was eight years old. She thinks that the child should be old enough to be able to think and reason. They must also have large enough hands, and show some hand coordination. At the other end of the age spectrum, older people can learn to play the piano, Tomoko thinks. Sometimes these people have to experience life and learn to value personal performance before they are ready to try it for themselves. That personal enjoyment can be very rewarding for the older student; they can still grow.