Four Aces: Yasss

I’m rewriting my course syllabus. This task, usually fairly straightforward, with a few revisions each time–some larger, some smaller–seems monumental this year. I feel like I need to rethink it all. Here’s the thing: Sometimes those of us who have been teaching for some time get in a bit of a groove, a rut, and it feels hard to change. We are pretty good at what we do, and we become a little complacent, a little routine. We become less curious, less willing to take risks. But who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks? Indeed, the global pandemic has caused each of us to review our situation. Many things that we took for granted have become rare commodities. Things that were commonplace even 18 months ago are no longer desirable or even acceptable. Things that seemed outlandish and extreme are suddenly palatable–even desirable. At the very least, they seem to merit our consideration.

It is within this landscape that I discovered the article “From Dilemmas to Experience: Shaping the Conditions of Learning” by Lee Bartel and Linda Cameron (2004). It literally blew my mind. Not because it’s all news to me, but mostly because it’s stuff that I had heard before but didn’t think applied to me. I thought it was on the fringe. And reading it now, it makes ultimate sense and I feel ready to embrace its ideas. The central one for me is the teaching paradigm in music: the notion of all-knowing master and eager apprentice. This article and its thesis upend all that. And it’s what I want to work toward as well. I am eager for a world where everyone feels they have a place in music making, where the investment in its beauty and mystery–authentic performance based on the love of the art form–is paramount. It seems to me that this should be the starting place, the place of joint discovery, of empowerment, of joy. I’ve learned some new tricks. And I’m eager to try them out this coming year.

If you’re curious, check the article out. It’s well worth the read, and well worth considering the paradigmatic shift it suggests. I’m going for it. Maybe you will too. Here’s the link: