I’ve watched the DVD “Nurtured by Love: The Life and Work of Shinichi Suzuki” several times recently, and there’s this fantastic spot where David Cerone talks about music instruction. He begins, “We mustn’t forget one fundamental concept here, and that is: we are in the communication business, first and foremost.” He then goes on to say that the study of music is the study of translation—basically, we must learn how to understand what is written by the composer, take it into ourselves, and then communicate it with others in a way that they understand the same thing. He points out that it’s a sophisticated learning process, and that the “giants” of teaching are able to help students through it at a spiritual level.
I think this is a profound thought. All the mechanics of learning an instrument—all the focus on posture, technique, intonation, articulation, tempo, dynamics, you name it—it all serves a higher purpose. Learning a skill is a fantastic thing. Boosting test scores is nice. Learning how to hear, translate, and communicate in a second language is another thing entirely.