In this month’s Pianodao reflection, I consider the onset of winter, seasonal illness, and Studio Policies …
Guest post by Simon Reich
Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brian Wilson & Johnny Cash all had things in common. Not only were they gifted musicians and composers, but they managed a depressive side to their lives.
What can piano teachers learn from stepping into the shoes of the beginner and taking up a new skill or pastime? Quite a lot, in my experience…
Like many adults, I periodically look to introduce a new discipline or hobby into my life. And as a teacher, it is always fascinating to put myself in the position of student.
The latest activity to find its way onto my list of exploits is Pilates, the exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates and often mentioned in the same breath as Yoga (though I think, quite different!)
This lot are learning Pilates too. They look happy, don’t they?
And certainly I was hoping that I would find Pilates enjoyable – and hopefully beneficial for my health and fitness too.
And inevitably I also hoped that putting myself in the shoes of the complete beginner, there would be teaching parallels that I could reflect on, and which would give me fresh insight.
In this post I am going to list a few observations I made, followed by questions which make connections to piano teaching – these are for self-reflection only.
To what extent does the place we live, and the community we are a part of, shape the person, musician and teacher that we become?
That’s a question that I have been reflecting on, prompted by the recent BBC documentary ’Milton Keynes and Me’, in which documentary filmmaker Richard Macer returned to Milton Keynes to reflect on his childhood growing up here, and celebrate Milton Keynes’ 50th Anniversary.
Macer’s film was at times thought-provoking, informative, personal, historical, and moving. I didn’t agree with his sometimes negative perspective (and nor did many in Milton Keynes, it would seem!), but that hardly mattered. What was so much more important is that the programme inspired me to reflect on my own experiences of living here over the last nearly three decades.
We probably all wonder from time to time what impact we have made for the good. Hopefully piano teachers such as myself can recall students who gained a lifelong love for music, which sometimes defined their future. But this post isn’t about my contribution, but rather the imprint that has been made on me.
Having lived in Milton Keynes for 28 years – more than half of my life, and more than half of the city’s existence – how has this shaped who I am today?
“Leave your thoughts in a place you will not visit …”
Most of the pianists that I have met are easy to describe as “deep thinkers”, and I would argue that an aptitude for analytical thinking is an essential skill for the advanced piano player.
But the jump from analytical thinking to overthinking is a small one. And here’s the problem. In recent years, we have become increasingly aware that overthinking any problem can break rather than solve it, and can often lead us to bizarre conclusions. Overthinking is inextricably linked to anxiety.
If we overthink an upcoming performance, this can undoubtedly contribute to performance anxiety. And in the same way, if we overthink life in general, this can have a significant and debilitating effect on our whole lives.
A growing body of research supports our suspicions that many physical health problems are rooted in the activities of the mind. Overthinking can be associated with anxiety, fear, paranoia and mental instability, all of which can have serious physical as well as social consequences.
Do you ever feel a bit uncomfortable about shaking hands with people when you meet them?
Concerned about hygiene, and all those germs you’ll pick up “pressing the flesh”?
Worried about having your piano-playing fingers crushed by the over-enthusiastic clench of Mr. Assertive?
Then read on, and I will go over a few points that might help!