Sometimes I think the most important things that children learn from private music lessons have nothing at all to do with music itself. I was reminded of this through a recent experience with a student that was struggling with the implementation of creative skills as he was working on arranging a piece of music. This young person was absolutely paralyzed by the concept that he could do whatever he wanted with his arrangement, even after he had accumulated a significant number of specific skills and techniques through teacher-guided arrangements previously. In other words, he wasn't even being asked to come up with ideas “out of thin air,” but rather to embellish, add to, deduct from, change, or otherwise manipulate the concepts we had already been using. And he could not – or would not, more accurately – do it.
To me, this was a basic exercise in creative problem solving, which is a necessary life skill for every human being. Not only is it a necessary skill for most jobs, but also for daily life. The individuals that are especially good at it have the opportunity to become inventors and leaders in their fields of expertise. But what I've noticed as an educator is not only a decline in this particular skill, but also a decline in the willingness to engage with it, which is very troubling. In the case of the student that I mentioned, I will not give up on finding ways to help him develop this skill in whatever way I can. Although we may have to take a new direction at times due to the mental roadblocks that come about, we will, at the very least, make some progress in getting to our destination.
Good teachers (in any field) understand that they are usually providing more for their students than information or guidance that is related strictly to that particular field. Teachers of private music lessons can have an even greater impact in that regard than classroom instructors because they are dealing with students one-on-one all of the time. Private lessons are one of the best ways, in my opinion, to help children develop essential life skills and good personal characteristics in a practical way – one that also happens to be quite enjoyable and fun!
This article, which was designed to demonstrate the positive influence a good music teacher can have in a student's creative problem solving skills, will be the start of a series of related articles that explain how private music lessons aid in the development of a whole host of life skills (such as time management, in-depth problem solving, self-expression, self-assessment, self-discipline, interpersonal communication with an “authority figure,” and the ability to take constructive criticism and effectively utilize it) and personal characteristics (including patience, perseverance and humility). More to come...