I love Wednesdays because I get to see “The Laughing Student.” He’s been taking lessons for about 4 months and working on the same material over and over. He works hard all day, then goes home, grabs a bite to eat and his guitar and poof, he’s in my studio regular as clockwork.
He sits down, his eyes full of wonderment, I ask if he’s practiced since our last lesson, he smiles and says, “Yes, of course, you told me to.” So off we go, reviewing old material, he tries so hard, makes mistakes, laughs and tries again. He promises that he played it perfectly at home; I smile and tell him, that I too, suffer performance anxiety when taking lessons.
What sets him apart from my other newer students is he doesn’t get frustrated and down, instead it seems to tickle him that learning is a struggle. I suggest that he holds his guitar at a better playing angle, he tries, it slides and he laughs.
I suspect it’s nervous laughter, a coping mechanism to help him survive his 30 minutes with me. We play some blues; he almost gets it, stumbles and laughs at his stumbling fingers. I tell him that he’s exactly where he should be at this stage of his learning; he accuses me of being a politician, always persuading him to vote for himself. I love his approach to learning, feisty, fun and friendly. He knows he doesn’t know yet and for him, that’s just fine.
I think of the times, I’ve performed with my students and other musicians and how sometimes, I’ll stop mid-song and ask them, what key they’re playing in? The audience seems to enjoy that they’re watching a live “teaching” performance. It brings a reality to the time spent learning, allows us all to step back and allow for the human condition.
I always say, “when you make a mistake, cows don’t stop giving milk, planes don’t stop in midflight, doctors don’t stop mid-surgery.”
I remember taking piano lessons and being struck with performance anxiety during every lesson, part of the problem is I didn’t practice until right before the lesson and I knew I couldn’t bluff my way through. I just didn’t take to the piano the way I took to the guitar; one reason was that while practicing, everyone could hear my mistakes. Another is that something about holding the guitar close to my heart creates a special bond.
This morning, one of my students showed up sick, I sent her home. When I asked why she came if she was sick, she replied that this is how I make my living, to which I replied, that her health is much more important than her lesson. She seemed surprised at my response, which surprised me and touched my heart. The lesson of her lesson for her is that she matters, for me; it’s about compassion and flexibility. I’m also a great believer that the relationship between my students and myself transcends cash and turns into Karma. I’ll make the money back, the Universe always provides, and after all, tonight I get to spend time with my Laughing Student, all is right with the world
Today’s Musing: The whole point of growing up is to stay on the laughing side ~ Lauren Oliver