It’s so far been a great summer of teaching for me, and there is no shortage of great talent out there these days to appreciate. I have been working with a great player named John Philbrick, who has also been studying this past year at Berklee. He is one of those students who brings so much natural ability to the table that it makes teaching so much more rewarding for me! Of course, it’s the kind of “give and take” that helps me, the teacher, also learn a lot. The act of teaching someone this good also helps re-define the very notion of teaching for me as well, because it changes the “balance” of how the lesson goes, and how the information is gotten out. For example, as he starts to play, and he plays beautifully, the ideas of what he may or may not need automatically come to me as I hear and watch him. This is important to me as a teacher, because I have a very “customized” approach towards teaching, which means that I absolutely tailor the lessons to that student’s specific needs.
I would say, certainly, that if you are already teaching guitar, you must always endeavor to keep the lessons focused towards that particular student. Each player’s needs are so varied that they all create their own unique teaching challenges for you to address. There are some for example, who need absolute structure to their learning process, with all that comes with it: strict practice schedule, distinct goals, etc., while others can be much freer with how they learn, and can take the real “natural” approach, as I did. That’s why I love having a gifted student, because I can then pass along the “real” stuff to them with very little effort, but with maximum effect.
John is this kind of student and player. He can immediately “get” what I’m talking about, and can truly plug in whatever it is I’m showing him directly into his own unique approach. To be influenced by another player, you need only grab “snapshots” of their style and technique to really capture what they’re about, as opposed to feeling like you must “immerse” yourself in their style before you can move on to any other material. His was always the case with me…no need to learn someone’s playing note-for-note, but certainly a need to understand what it is that really makes them “tick”, and to utilize it right away in my own style and learning curve.
So, here’s to those great and rewarding students out there like John Philbrick! Hope you may even be one like him, or at least get to teach someone like him one day…you’ll learn as much he will!