Do we as teachers really make our students better? Or do we give our students the tools to improve on their own? I believe it is our job to give our students the knowledge and skills needed to problem-solve and improve as they spend hours in the practice room!
I like the analogy that music teachers are similar to medical doctors. If you are sick, you go to the doctor who will diagnose your ailment, write a prescription, and send you home with a list of things to do to make yourself better, i.e. drink more fluids, rest or apply ice. It isn’t the doctor that makes you better. It is the knowledge and expert advice that the doctor shares with you, and your subsequent execution of these suggestions that make you better.
This idea doesn’t lesson the importance of a private teacher. In fact, it strengthens our role. As teachers, we listen to and observe our students; we diagnose their problems. Is their embouchure too tight, fingers uneven, tongue a bit weak, rhythm not accurate? We then “prescribe” various practice methods and techniques that will solve the problem and strengthen the skill. It is up to the student to go home and “take their medicine.” As we do this, hopefully our students learn how to diagnose their own problems and utilize problem-solving techniques. This doesn’t eliminate the need for a teacher. On the contrary, it creates a great student, which is a reflection of a great teacher. If students come to lessons having worked out the majority of their fundamental problems, teachers have more time to work on my favorite part of teaching: interpretation, style, character, phrasing, etc. Interpretation is not something students can learn on their own. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get to interpretation more quickly and truly teach our students to play music and not just notes??