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Teaching My 1st Student

Another Art of Learning

By Christian LeePublished 2 years ago 3 min read

In early October this year, I became a music instructor. In New York City, that is nearly impossible without a bachelor's degree; I don't even have an associate's. Fortunately, after a lot of searching and submitting many job applications, a private organization responded to my application–two months after my submission.

So far, nearly two months in, and I'm thrilled to be teaching music. Specifically, I teach drums and guitar. I have more proficiency in the former (16 ½ years) and 2 years playing the latter. But strong musicianship and extensive performance experience aren't the sole ingredients required to cook a good lesson. As the cliché goes, "Everything is mental."

In my own words, mental clarity makes for effective planning. However, I'm a jazz musician. I like to improvise.

I am also attracted to the tension between chaos and order. Art thrives in the clash of these polar forces. Every creative individual learns this by consistently creating. It's a special way to make conversation with the universe.

Speaking of conversations', Ezra Pound–one of my favorite 20th century poets–once wrote, "Having a conversation is as good as having a home." I read this simile many years ago, but didn't grasp it in the context of my life until now…writing about teaching my first student.

She's a seventeen year old from Brazil, highly creative, with a penchant for fashion and music. Our first lesson was a mix of playing drums and her inquiring about the hardship of becoming a successful artist in New York City.

I was candid with her about the Big Apple, that countless creative individuals come to the epicenter of the world to build a name for themselves. But also that some come here for spiritual reasons e.g., self-discovery, freedom, love. I spoke more and said how she defines "success" is very important. This is advice I needed when I was a young aspiring musician, although I can't say my mentors didn't lead me out of the darkness.

On the playing aspect of the lesson, she told me she wanted to learn "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", a song by Arctic Monkeys. After listening to it I knew she could learn it. But I sensed two challenges in her mind: building confidence to learn the song, and balancing the tension between pursuing fashion and drums. I eased her mind by telling her that focusing on one thing is a surefire way to success–no matter how one defines it. Then I mentioned she isn't alone in this twofold struggle: I'm a musician and a poet, and not by choice.

The beauty of being an artist lies in our ability to converse with the universe in a unique way. In addition, what we have to say to others through our art can't be taken away: the ability to create is invaluable.

Rekindling my admiration for Mr. Pound's poetic phrase, shelter is enhanced by verbal exchange of those resting beneath it.

Understandably, my first student is no longer learning drums. At least for now. Her love for fashion exudes from her spirit more than the love for drums. And that is a beautiful thing. I told her it took me a decade and five years to become a professional musician. Even though I chose drums when the clash between the interest for poetry and drums came to light, I found ways to indulge in poetry along the way. The space for that becomes clearer with life experience. I have found many connections between these two crafts and applied them to my life.

For our last lesson, my guitar happened to be in the room. I showed her an easy way to learn "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" In the middle of demonstrating a method to help her find her learning curve, she asked to play my guitar. Out of nowhere, she accurately played the melody, note for note.

That's what I love about moments. No experience is certain until the experience transpires. And when it expires it filters to a memory. Besides love, the present, friendship, and family…I think that's all we have.

I learned so much at that moment; whoever said the teacher can't be a student?

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About the Creator

Christian Lee

My nom de plume is Lee Arachnid; think: spider-poet. Here you will find non-fiction and poetry. I interweave elements of nature and my personal experience into uniquely crafted stories. I love idleness, Felidae, literature, and soundscapes.

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    Christian LeeWritten by Christian Lee

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