Chris Padilla/Blog / Books

Music Teachers Expand Dreams

Having been a teacher and, generally, someone who places a high value on exploring the world through learning, I end up reading a few books on education.

I'm only just coming across Seth Godin's Stop Stealing Dreams, a manifesto on education. It also happens to be about the values in our society, but education is the driver.

The illustrated version is beautifully done. Here are my favorite points from first glance:

33. Who Will Teach Bravery? The essence of the connection revolution is that it rewards those who connect, stand out, and take what feels like a chance. Can risk-taking be taught? Of course it can. It gets taught by mentors, by parents, by great music teachers, and by life.

44. Defining The Role of A Teacher. Teaching is no longer about delivering facts that are unavailable in any other format... What we do need is someone to persuade us that we want to learn those things, to push us or encourage us or create a space where want to learn to do them better.

56. 1000 Hours. Over the last three years, Jeremy Gleigh... has devoted precisely an hour a day to learning something new and unassigned...This is a rare choice...Someone actually choosing to become a polymath, signing himself up to get a little smarter on a new topic every single day... The only barrier to learning for most young adults in the developed world is now merely the decision to learn.

If you've been in music, likely you've had an instructor teach bravery. Sometimes it's the director that encourages you to give it one more try. Or the drum tech that's not giving up on a section of percussionists struggling with a tricky passage. Or the private teacher that so wholly embodies their instrument and the musicianship of a piece. So much so that it's impossible to resist the allure of striving for that sense of awe and wonder in our own musicianship.

Those teachers have also created environments where students can be fully immersed in a world of music, no matter how big or small. It's what makes classroom band more special in my mind than solely taking private lessons - you can't beat a thriving community of learners where you're playing a unique role in the musical process. Every band needs a kid on tuba and another on flute playing together.

A somewhat disappointing truth is that many students that graduate high school, having played an instrument for 7 years at that point, don't pick it up again. I think there's a missed opportunity - leading with greater creativity and exploration in the classroom. I'm sure Seth explores those ideas in the book as well.

On the other hand, though, it's still one of the best vehicles for learning resourcefulness that we have. To the last point I've quoted - all the musicians I know have absolutely no problem applying creativity, persistence, and bravery in their endeavors beyond the instrument. I have musician friends who are also photographers, who knit, work with aquaponics, code for fun, mountain climb, and write novels. Many of my colleagues are now master teachers. A significant number of them also have skillfully transitioned into roles in tech, finance, health, marketing, entrepreneurship, and sales.

The vision of the once young musician grows beyond music, beyond the self, beyond a local tribe to a larger community and a greater opportunity for contribution and the wonderful lives that support that.

In that case, music education is doing exactly what I think it is uniquely best at: Expanding Dreams.