Seeking Instruction

I think many people make a big mistake when they initially seek instruction in any field. Whether the person is an adult looking for help for themselves or a parent looking for lesson for a child, the logic usually goes something like this: I’m just testing the waters to see if I really like music lessons. I don’t want to waste some serious instructor’s time in the beginning. Or: We don’t know if Jane is really serious – there’s a young woman down the block who is in her high school band. We’re going to start with her. Or: Sam has been begging for riding lessons for years, I think we have decided to let him try this beginner package of six group lessons at this local stable. Let’s just see if he likes it.

People look for instruction that is convenient; the reputation of the school or the resume’ of the instructor is not the most important requirement to them. The cost of the lesson will often and unfortunately be one of the most important factors in the choice of guidance. I think this is a very false economy for a couple of reasons. Probably most important is how people undersell the seriousness of any decision to pursue a new avenue of learning. It takes a lot of effort to suspend one’s habitual routine and allow a dream or wish a little soil and water to possibly take root. People don’t give themselves enough credit for trying to bring a thought to action. These processes are very important, but like little seedlings, they are fragile. They possess great unknown capabilities – an acorn can turn into a magnificent oak tree. But, in the beginning the seedling is very vulnerable. From an instructor’s point of view, I can tell you that it is easy to get someone to quit and wonder, “What was I thinking? Obviously, I have no talent for this.”

That is why, in my mind, especially in the beginning, you need the best instruction you can afford. Always pick the resume’ of the teacher over the lavishness of the facility. From the technical side, expert teaching is more likely to nurture the seedling with good techniques; this by itself is extremely valuable. There are hundreds of examples where the learning of poor fundamentals puts a ceiling on the student’s level of performance. This is often a delayed finding all the more debilitating when you find you have wasted years of effort practicing something that limits your performance or even physically harms your body. The inexpensive introduction now becomes very expensive, both psychologically and physically.

From a more philosophical point of view, to be in a school or to take lessons in an atmosphere where you get to experience excellent work is inspirational. You get to see live examples of what you are trying to do, what the instructor is talking about. To be in a place where the work is ordinary will not inspire you to try harder, to do something difficult. The seedlings of our dreams are very important. They can become a lifelong passion, but they are very fragile. They deserve the best chance. Look for bargains in other places in your life.