Lindsie Katz, violinist and educator
Even as a professional musician, taking music lessons can be an important way to continue your own learning.
It’s a way to stay on top of new ideas, repertoire, and pedagogical methods while keeping you curious and humble. I have always been a proponent of life-long learning, and having supportive mentors who nurture your desire to learn is as vital as valuing and listening to your own ideas.
This is part of the reason I look for opportunities to further my education. For example, I have always loved the environment of wonder that an encouraging school can create for its students, so being a part of different academic and performing communities is enticing and valuable for me.
If attending an academic program is not for you, another possibility is to create an online studio class with musical colleagues. You can play for each other, do projects, and discuss interesting topics, including ones that you may not have found time for in the rush of regular life.
The people in my online group remind me of the value of opening ourselves up, of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in a world where we regularly face rejection and failure. This is an important lesson for all of us, no matter what field you are in. For musicians, this means the difference between becoming stagnant and bored versus curious and excited. A worthy goal is to think like children, where there is a mindset of curiosity and willingness.
Having hopefully evoked your curious inner child, here are…
5 reasons professional musicians might continue taking lessons:
#1: Stay curious and open-minded.
Although it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to become an expert at our instrument, it’s simple enough to become proficient at playing your instrument and find employment, whether that be playing, teaching, or a combination of both.
However, the hard but valuable work is to continue trying new things and be willing to be “bad” at them. This mindset supports us to find new ways of looking at things, like different practice techniques, and helps us to be continually brave. What if we discover something new that we didn’t even know was out there or possible? If we always play it safe and don’t expand our comfort zones, we might not find some of our truest passions.
#2: Cultivate compassion, empathy, humility.
These are important qualities for yourself and everyone else, including your students. Modeling behavior that embodies connection and gentleness will seep into how your students approach their instrument and what they think about themselves.
Part of this is being real with them about being human, that you are also continuously working on yourself and striving to do better. In my experience as both a teacher and a student, a commitment to living through these qualities creates a deep connection to yourself and others that music can facilitate if you allow it to.
#3: Improve and support teaching.
Professional musicians are often also teachers. As teachers, we are used to being in the position of having the answers. Of course, we all know that it is impossible to know everything, try as we might. Giving ourselves permission to not know something is freeing, and taking music lessons is a way to support ourselves in our curiosity. This approach helps us connect with our students in a very real way because we continue understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes.
When you are consistently taking lessons, you are working on yourself all the time. Lessons help you to remain in a state of openness, which helps you remember what it’s like to learn something new. Our students are always in this state of learning, so putting ourselves in their position helps us understand and relate to them more, which leads to more patience and empathy.
After playing the same instrument for many years and working on perfecting our skills, we often forget what it feels like to be new at that thing, and we can become jaded. No one sets out to feel this way, so the more spark and fun we can bring into our musical life, the better.
#4: Build creativity.
Signing up for lessons, workshops, and anything that helps us open up to what we don’t know — rather than focusing only on things we do know — will support our creativity. That can be learning new styles or ways of playing, like fiddle, jazz, early music, or a different instrument! There are infinite possibilities.
What’s important is having fun, which illuminates our creative selves. We each have so much to offer — many things we already know well, but many things we have yet to discover. Taking music lessons, even as an expert, helps us be humble and open to other possibilities.
#5: Look to the future and create intentional space for social justice.
As artists in this world, it is part of our duty to continually make space for everyone, no matter their background or who they are. Taking music lessons helps us stay on top of the ways in which the world is changing.
Approaches to teaching are always in flux — values change and different voices come to the forefront, which is not only vital for the future of music but for humanity.
Do you have more ideas as to why it’s important to continue music lessons as a professional musician? Let us know!