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Danielle Gomez

A Constant State of Learning

October 26, 2010 at 6:33 AM

 One of the best things I ever did for my teaching/playing was not sign up with an orchestra; I signed up for Tai Chi instead.

When I had finished with my Bachelor's degree and my teaching was just starting to get underway, I was looking into activities that would get me out of the house.  My first inclination was to check out orchestras.  I figured it would be a great way to meet local musicians and network.

For several months, I looked into various adult volunteer orchestras.  I talked to conductors, checked out past and present concert lists.... the works.  In the process of doing this, I started really thinking about something a teacher trainer once told me about how it's important to always be in a constant state of learning.

I most definitely do not know everything there is to know about music.  And being in an orchestra would have for sure put me in a state of learning.  But I realized how easy it would be for me to be consumed by musical activities.  Music is my job and my passion.  It would take almost no effort for me to spend my entire day just completely involved with teaching and playing.

It's one thing to learn new facets of an already lifelong pursuit.  It's another thing entirely to be in a situation where you are a complete beginner.  I came to the conclusion that in order to prevent teaching/playing burnout, I was going to have to make a point of creating time to do hobbies that were not necessarily music related.

So I took up Tai Chi in the evenings instead of orchestra.  It's been about a year now and I'm still happier than ever about my decision.  For one thing, it gives me a chance to stretch and build muscles.  So I can actually play for longer amounts of time and I don't feel so stiff anymore after getting up and down all day with my younger students (if you've taught young students, you know what I mean).

Another, and quite unexpected I might add, side effect of pursing my non-musical activity is that it actually made me a better teacher.  The philosophies behind Tai Chi (never use force against force, learn to redirect) have helped me to cope with approaching difficult parents and/or students.  I am also much more empathetic with my students, especially the adults.  By putting myself in a constant state of learning and "being a beginning student," I keep my teaching self in check. 


From di allen
Posted on October 26, 2010 at 11:16 PM

it's me again, in another guise.  i agree that learning new stuff is really important, and stuff outside your expertise is good because it is a growth experience that challenges (or destroys?) your ego .... my other thing is writing poetry.  when i started with my violin teacher, i stopped writing or even thinking about poetry.  then one day, almost by magic, i wrote a really good poem about my lesson and the dogs who always attend.  they dont mind the screeches, they just want to be with my teacher.  the poem is on the blog PLAYING TO THE DOGS.    I wonder if you've read the book EFFORTLESS MASTERY by Kenny Werner.  This is a great approach to learning anything.....diane


From Danielle Gomez
Posted on October 26, 2010 at 11:38 PM

 I have read that book.  And it is most excellent.

If nothing else, I think focusing on another hobby for awhile lets things sink in.  Otherwise it's like staring at a puzzle for too long.  The dog must of swallowed the piece! 


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 27, 2010 at 1:37 AM

I agree with you!!!  Just that now I'm learning way too much things outside my violin... (in a universitary non musical field...)  

But as a professionnal musician, you make a very good choice to try a non musical activity!  I agree that it must be good for the grey cells, the balanced ego, you and your students! 

Good luck!

Anne-Marie


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 27, 2010 at 7:13 AM

I agree that diversity is important.  I'm glad your Tai Chi brought you unexpected benefits.


From Julian Stokes
Posted on October 28, 2010 at 7:15 AM

Everything is connected. I'm a great believer in lessons learned in one field having connections to many others.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2010 at 6:46 PM

Julian took the words right out of my mouth. And I gave a big, emphatic nod, Danielle, when I read this: 

>It's one thing to learn new facets of an already lifelong pursuit.  It's another thing entirely to be in a situation where you are a complete beginner.  I came to the conclusion that in order to prevent teaching/playing burnout, I was going to have to make a point of creating time to do hobbies that were not necessarily music related.

Well put! And welcome to the club! (Violin, however, is the new thing for me, among my much easier pursuits of yoga and dance and writing and such.)

And well-put, Julian!

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