Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Wisdom Seekers

I've mentioned in a previous blog post that the verb for studying and teaching is the same in Yiddish: lernen. I'm reminded of this concept over and over again while in our studio. One of the greatest aspects of teaching classical music, or any creative art form, is that the capacity for knowledge is limitless. Students learn from teachers; teachers from students.

Presently, I've been resuming piano and theory studies in order to add yet another dimension to my mentoring. I've not studied piano since my year in the Heifetz Masterclass. It is gloriously fun to attempt piano accompaniments with several of my students, for in some ways, my blunders might prove empowering to them. For if I can laugh at my own mistakes, and wish to improve upon my silly errors, what better way is there of demonstrating a will and desire to learn? I'll admit, it's humbling to multitask as a pianist in my advanced years! I can well appreciate performers who possess more than one instrumental skill with expertise. It has been noted that Jascha Heifetz's first love was the piano. Heifetz demanded that all his students learned viola, in addition to the piano. By doing so, a violinist could succeed in experiencing the inner voice of a string ensemble piece, provide a supporting role to the diva first violinist, or better yet, crawl right inside the music. My most cherished memories from masterclass days were when we enjoyed rounds of string quartets and quintets, Heifetz included, never knowing which of us would be offered whatever part.

Recently, I've formed and joined a spirited book club. We call ourselves "The Wisdom Seekers" and have begun with Shakespeare and Goethe. My fellow seekers in this journey are a bit older than I am, for one of the readers, concert pianist Randolph Hokanson, is 97 years old. After listening to Goethe's poetry aloud in German (the Wisdom Seekers are fluent, but I can comprehend much of spoken German through my smattering of Yiddish), the issue was raised that today's youth are bound to be distracted or put off from learning classical music due to peer pressure. "Certainly," stated a Wisdom Seeker, "your students must face social isolation if they admit to their friends they'd rather practice the violin or viola than spend time texting and messaging on facebook!"
Which gave me pause. My husband Ilkka and I were set to present another Talvi Studio recital the very next evening. We do so regularly.
"No," I replied, after much thought. "I think the opposite. For instance, when we form groups and join together for chamber music, it's a thrill for our students. Just like what we're doing here. How is it much different from reading Shakespeare together as a quartet, or reciting Goethe's poetry? It is cool. So cool, in fact, that I'd imagine other youngsters might feel envious for what they're missing. That is, if they only knew what it was they were missing."

We, as mentors, can never know what path a young learner may seek, where the journey will lead to those who have communed with the great spirits of art, music and literature. We only know that our children's lives are all the richer for it, and it is time well spent.

Here now, a magic moment from our most recent Talvi Studio Recital. Ilkka's wonderful violinist/violist student, Sage Mitchell-Sparke, a testament to the youth of today.