"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’"
This is what the sadistic jazz professor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) tells young drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) during a defining scene in the Academy Award-nominated movie Whiplash, by way of justifying his cruel ways as a teacher.
Naturally, I agree. But probably for different reasons than the fictional tyrant of a teacher does.
For example, I do not subscribe to the idea that cruelly eviscerating a person's self-worth will spur that person to practice until his fingers bleed. In fact, on the topic of practicing until your fingers bleed -- I don't view it as the best path to developing surefire technique, sound musicianship and inventive self-expression.
So what's my problem with teachers telling their students "good job"?
You might think I'm joking, but I'm not. "Good job" is discouraging, disempowering, and it turns students into praise junkies.
If a student aspires to a high level of musical accomplishment, he or she needs good feedback from teachers, colleagues and audience. But it needs to be specific feedback, positive and negative. For example: your high D was perfectly in tune and made the instrument ring; your bow thumb is placed correctly; you made that phrase so poignant; you did it the same both times, change it up; accelerate the vibrato there; that moment is so special, hold it longer; soften your hand for the double-stops; you are using too much muscle to go fast; the arpeggios were clean; slow the tempo three notches on the metronome; that decrescendo to niente chilled my bones; make the audience hold their breath by holding the last note as long as you possibly, possibly can. Students need to know what is working and what is not working, and they need the courage and tools to boldly implement changes where needed.
They don't need, "Good Job."
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