I prefer to call it guest teaching: teaching away from home. One of the reasons I like to do guest teaching is that I can say the same things I say to my students over and over again yet for my new audiences those things sound fresh and new. I have often asked myself what I like about this situation of guest teaching and what about it is so different from the regular teaching at The Jerusalem Academy. Basically the same types of students exist everywhere, don’t they? I have just done the same thing I hated when my teachers did to me: I categorized the students. Some teachers categorized the students by how talented they seemed to be. Other teachers categorized us by how hard we worked and some valued us according to our manners and discipline. I, for example, was categorized as a troublemaker, although a fairly smart guy and I also had the honor of being under the category of: “He is a could do more-er”.
Well, I look at students in a different way and maybe, if my teachers had looked at me this way, I not only could have but actually would have done more.
I always want to find out what motivates the student. Is it pure learning? Is it her life goal to become a professional? Is it overcoming technical challenges that drives him? Maybe it is the wish for fame and glory? I have students who love the stage and live for being on stage and students who are extremely expressive but despise the stage. Some students would give anything to discover a new piece of music while others would only play the most standard pieces. Some are motivated by competition and some are ruined by competition. When I understand what motivates the student, I can help him better and I can also make sure that he or she understands what motivates them. Once we know that, we can explore new opportunities and we can explore if it is possible to be motivated by other things as well, things we never thought about. In this respect, the difference between being a guest teacher and being with my regular students is that as a guest teacher I have very little time to find out what motivates the student. Sometimes the right answer will come towards the end of the lesson, sometimes after the lesson when I am long gone, and sometimes not at all. Still, I love guest teaching for those moments when I sometimes manage to show a student or two something that has to do with their motivation, something which is not about the “how to play” but about the “why to play”. Nothing needs to be said anymore. Our faces show it all.
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Sjur Bjærke and Dan Styffe teach at Barratt Due Institute of Music and at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo. Thank you both so much!