Arts Awareness Monthly E-Newsletter | July 2013

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Whose Lesson Is This Anyway?

When I first started to teach music lessons, I was shocked at how much I learned. I found that the true test of whether I really understood what I was doing as a performer was when I tried to teach it to someone else. Since then, my understanding of this observation is one of the most important insights I have gained that positively influences everything I do in life. Artists who make a commitment to teach others learn that the more they are able to communicate successfully, the more they know themselves and the more consequential their art. As they teach their art form, they use the self-reflective aspects of their arts experiences to become effective communicators, good listeners and excellent observers. These are tools that are important to use in everything we do, whether interacting with a friend, a coworker, or a child—at home, at work, or at the grocery store.
How do you know if you’re successful as a communicator, listener, or observer?

I once asked a gifted high school clarinetist to consider taking private lessons from one of the people on a list of teachers in the area. She hung her head and said in a shy, soft voice that she didn't want to because she had tried that once, but the teacher kept telling her to look at her embouchure in the mirror; she went on to explain that she didn't know where to look because she didn't know what her embouchure was! If you’re not familiar with the particulars of wind playing, the embouchure is the position and use of the lips, tongue, and teeth in playing. Even if she had known where to look, she wouldn’t have known what to do with it. This teacher truly cared about the progress of the student but wasn’t communicating exactly how to accomplish what he knew would improve her playing and wasn’t fully aware of her dilemma. They had both made some incorrect assumptions.
  • The teacher assumed the student knew what the word embouchure meant.
  •  Since she was looking in the mirror, he assumed she was trying to do what he asked.
  • He assumed she simply wasn’t capable of doing what he was asking.
  •  The student assumed she would appear ignorant or disrespectful if she asked what it was she was looking for in the mirror.
Situations like this are frustrating for both the teacher and the student. The teacher may think the student isn’t able or isn’t trying; the student wants to do what the teacher suggests, but she doesn’t know how to accomplish it, and in this case she was too embarrassed to ask.

Once the problem was brought to his attention, the teacher was able to adapt quickly by connecting to the same commitment and self-reflection he used as a performer.
Artists continually participate in a process that informs their learning and awareness.
  • Artists are self-motivated.
  • They are fully committed to pursuing more knowledge and understanding.
  • They use conscious self-reflection to expand their ability to communicate artistically.
  •  As they create or perform their art, they strive to make meaning.
  • In artistic collaboration or performance, they set themselves aside to really be with others in attentive creative cooperation.
This story serves as an important lesson for all of us. When we understand how to truly see—to observe and listen with awareness—we can positively impact events in our lives. Everything we do requires communication with others. Knowing how to use the awareness of an artist—the creative consciousness—will help you learn how to participate more effectively in individual activities or conversations, in teamwork, and in family life.
It’s now more important than ever that we make a commitment to lifelong learning—learning that comes not only from formal classes and lessons but from interactions with those around us. Learn to use a self-reflective process similar to that of an artist to help you actively become an effective communicator, a good listener, and an excellent observer.

Interesting—Check it out:

Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, contends that we need three things to feel enthused and satisfied with our life: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Becoming a lifelong learner helps us meet these needs.
Education of a Wandering Man is Louis L'Amour's memoir of his lifelong love affair with learning and the fascinating life he created for himself as a result.
Change is the end result of all true learning.
−  Leo Buscaglia −
Contact Dr. Patricia Hoy for media appearances, to book her to speak at your event, or to engage her workshop or consulting services—

Customized Consulting; In-Service Workshops; On-Site Training Institutes; Seminars; Conference Sessions; Seminars; Round Tables; and Guest Speaking that provides motivation for launching the beginning a project, keynote theme inspiration, or setting the foundation for a goal to be achieved.

About the Arts Awareness Newsletter:

This newsletter is meant to spark ideas and develop a deeper understanding of artistic processes and their use in everyday life and work. Content, which comes from personal experiences and a variety of sources, is based on the Arts Awareness concepts developed by Patricia Hoy. Questions? Comments? Contact Patricia at or 901-229-1955, Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA.

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