There is an old and infamous saying that goes, “the one who cannot perform, teach.” It was used with much abuse that I almost have tricked into believing in the same delusion like most people do.
I once had a teacher, a very famous pianist who had won big prestigious competitions early in his performing career. I could not believe I could be one of his students when I first attended graduate school. However as times went by, I began to feel much pressure and depressed every time before the lesson and find myself much relieved after the lesson. It was a painful process of one and a half year that lasted for too long. Then a fellow pianist mentioned to me her wondrous teacher. And so I went to sit in her lessons. It was a life-changing moment. I had never encountered a teacher like that before. He was so lively and energetic, positive and passionate about piano playing. His teaching was philosophical and filled with words of wisdom. And I just thought, “this is it, this is the teacher I want.” Switching to another teacher/piano studio was no easy matter (as a matter of fact, a no-no matter especially in a big-name school if you still want to survive in it). It was a scary process, but I eventually got through it, because the thought of getting the opportunity to study with the new teacher persisted and I knew I might give up playing and not be able finish my degree should I continue learning with the old teacher, who was a marvelous musician but his teaching methodology and philosophy was not suitable for me and compatible with my character. From then I fully understood that even one could be a great performer one might not be a good teacher. or one is not a good teacher for you. Because when it comes to teaching, it is not just about how well the way one plays, but it’s about how well one teaches. it’s about how passionate one is about teaching, that one explores the different metholodogies, the details of techniques and the application of the techniques into a well-informed playing that is enriched with musicality and philosophical depth. Therefore a good teacher is not only an expertise about piano performance in various aspects, in terms of the instrument itself, the techniques required, as well as performance practice, but one is also knowledgable about the vast topic of music, in areas of music history, theory and composition, in the larger context of world history, that how the growth and change of society effected the way music styles developed and composers wrote their music in response. Above all, a good teacher is always compassionate to the students, that one is positive and encouraging so that the students are allowed to think creatively and try out their ideas with imagination. A playing without independent thinking and individual interpretation is simply, dead.
So here, I salute to my great teacher and pianist, Shigeo Neriki, and I am aspired to be one great teacher to my students.