As I contemplate the upcoming school year and the prospect of gaining more students, I find myself reflecting on the teaching methods that have proven valuable. Regardless of age, many students may benefit from incorporating stillness into their practice routine. The ability to maintain composure and a controlled mind, while keeping the body entirely relaxed, holds great value for any form of art and proves beneficial in various aspects of life.
Over my fifteen years of teaching, I’ve encountered students from as young as 5 to seasoned seniors, each with unique situations that have shaped their musical journey. I’ve come to realize that lifestyle plays a significant role in determining how far someone can go in their musical pursuit. As we grow older, we tend to carry around hidden stresses within us, often without even noticing. One time I had a student who seemed to be holding their breath and tensing up while playing, resulting in an uneasy performance. But after a few breathing exercises and addressing posture, they transformed into a more relaxed and controlled player, achieving a newfound sense of rhythm and ease. But that tells me that that person probably doesn’t do great under pressure or maybe in general. But really, we all could use breathing exercises everyday no matter what the situation. We as a society tend to put so much pressure on ourselves and other people without realizing it. If we don’t consciously relax ourselves throughout the years these habits may take a lot of work just to break.
As an artist and educator, I take great care in observing my students when they first walk through the door. I pay attention to the way they carry themselves, how they speak, and the subtleties that offer a glimpse into their potential at the piano. But beyond that, I’ve learned the importance of knowing ourselves. Our habits, both good and bad, shape who we are, and questioning them becomes an essential part of growth. This curiosity and self-awareness are crucial, especially in the face of rising mental health concerns among students and society as a whole.
I also have to consider how I find stillness in my life. Meditation has been great for this. I recommend some form of meditation daily, even if it’s just a few minutes. It really helps, especially when doing any kind of art. I pay attention to my breathing and how I sit every day. If I feel physically uncomfortable, it’s usually a sign of stress in my body. Over the years, piano stretches and yoga have been very helpful for me. I’ve tried different things before finding what works best. At first, I only got massages, but they became expensive. So, I learned yoga to have a more affordable option when massages weren’t possible. As I got older, I had some minor health issues, and acupuncture was surprisingly effective in addressing them. I also made changes to my diet and exercise routine, which made a big difference. Now, I try to combine all these things to help me relax and find stillness. It took some reflection to realize how important it is. Pain in the body can really disrupt the creative process. Whether we are playing the piano, drawing, singing, or creating, we all need to be physically comfortable and focused to do our best.
As I rethink my teaching methods, I’m reminded of the importance of passing on these insights to my students. I encourage them to explore their own sense of stillness, to understand their bodies, and to embrace curiosity in their pursuit of art. By fostering a deep connection between body, mind, and music, I believe we can create a new generation of artists who express themselves with authenticity and passion, much like I’ve discovered in my own journey.