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Unleash the Musician in You

I used to learn the harp with Daphne Boden, the pedagogic genius behind 99.9% of British professional harpists of my generation. You could spot a Boden pupil a mile off: they swept the board at competitions and played with a level of polish you rarely saw elsewhere.

My mother, also a teacher, sat in on the ends of lessons when she came to pick me up. “How does Daphne do it?”, I asked her one day. “Is it the minimum one hour’s practice a day thing?” “It’s partly that”, said my mum. “You need some courage to require it, because you have to let pupils go if they don’t do it. But apart from the fact all Daphne’s students practise, she is absolutely clear. By the time she’s been through a new piece with you, you know exactly what she wants you to do. She’s also a master of choosing pieces that will stretch you, but which are not too difficult for you. The combination of good preparation, well-chosen repertoire and knowing exactly what you are supposed to do means you almost never have a bad experience with a piece of music. You never question whether or not you can do it, because if you do what Daphne says, you always can. And you are so well-prepared for a performance that you don’t spend much time worrying about whether you’ll wipe out on stage, because it has never happened.”

Unleash the Musician in YouWe recently gave away three copies of Katryna Tan’s super new book, Unleash the Musician in You. This guide also has great clarity of thought about how young students can successfully study music, and indeed there are few examples of great teaching that are not clear. Katryna’s book also disproves the amateur psychology – sometimes lurking on the margins of poor teaching – that clarity, and emotional expression or intensity are somehow mutually exclusive. On the contrary, Unleash the Musician in You constantly stresses that emotional expression, and artistry in music, are not only essential, but that they can be nurtured.

It is true that exceptional talent exists, and doesn’t come from anywhere we can easily explain. But music is bigger than this realm alone, and this is why it is important. It enriches the lives of all sorts of so-called levels of talent, if it is properly taught:

“Most successful musicians in the world simply have a strong passion in music, and they develop their own music artistry through determination and hard work.In my years of teaching, I have met many students of all characters and sizes and of course different levels of natural music talent. It takes but a few lessons for an experienced teacher to be able to guage the level of natural music talent in a young child. Some teachers believe in not wasting time on “less talented” students. But I could never bear to do this because these students are usually the ones who are most shy and introverted, but they are undoubtedly the ones who try the hardest, and put in the most effort. Their determination was clear as day to me, as they strived (and struggled) to enjoy freedom in their music playing and to experience the joy of music…The unique thing about these students is that they often know where they should be, and will try their best to understand what I am trying to teach them. When encouraged, they also don’t give up easily. It usually takes a number of months or even a few years in some cases before we see any improvement. But it always happens, and when it does happen, it is sudden.Often the catalyst is an event (performance / competition) or a certain piece of music that just resonates with them and something magical happens. Everything just clicks into place and from then on, their playing goes to a whole new level. When I see a breakthrough with each of these students, it really is the highlight of my teaching career. These are the special moments with my students that I will always remember.”
Unleash the Musician in You

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