While living in a coffee growing area in SE Asia, we observed the whole process from tree to cup. Coffee there certainly didn’t come from a glass jar labelled ‘Nescafé’. The real thing was a new experience and to begin with an acquired taste, but I came to realise how good it was, and to appreciate that it took a long time: from picking, crushing, drying, pounding off the dried flesh, sifting, roasting the beans, grinding, sifting again, finding wood for the fire and fetching water to boil – then finally getting that coffee! Our friends always liked it very sweet if they could afford sugar.
All this to say that good things do take time. And this includes musical skills. If you really want to develop as a musician and gain skills that last a lifetime, there does need to be a commitment of time.
I’ve been thinking lately about the challenges we face in today’s ever-busy world. It seems that our time is so compartmentalised with the many things we do in a day: quick texts here and there, checking facebook, checking a range of things on the internet in a short space of time, emails that seem to demand immediate attention – all part of life that breaks up our time into little bits.
‘Instant’ may appeal, but there are worthwhile projects that don’t happen overnight, like the commitment needed to a long term project like learning to play a musical instrument. It is worthwhile and it is going to involve time.
When I compare teaching music 10 years ago to now, I’ve observed a shortening trend in average time commitment among pupils (at least for young learners).
- There is less specialisation, and children are doing a whole range of different activities during and after school. Whilst the privilege of opportunity is wonderful, there is less time given to excel at any particular field. ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ comes to mind.
- With both parents working, in many cases, there is less time for parental support of the pupil’s (daily?) practice. Without this support a child would barely maintain what is taught in the lesson and may not go much further in the next.
- An outcome of the above points is that goals need to be set at a lower level to be attainable before other activities, distraction or weariness takes over.
Children really need support through their learning an instrument, and one of my reasons for this blog is to encourage parents in the time and patience it takes on their part too to help children stick with it. They will have good moments where they are enjoying their new piece and all is going well, but they still need a big person to give some of that precious time to hang on in with them where their learning needs encouragement and incentives.
It will be worth the effort, and, like good coffee, it all takes time.
These are just a few of my personal observations. I’d be interested in knowing if you agree, disagree or have something to add.