Even Music Instructors are Always Learning
Teaching music has multiple layers, some of which are often overlooked. Of course you teach a musician about their instrument and how to play it, but the greater challenge is guiding their emotions and helping them understand themselves a performer better than any instrument. Recently I got the pleasure of working with five talented Wickham Road Music students in their first group recording session together. I learned so much about myself as an instructor, but the best part by far was watching them all grow a much better understanding of themselves as performers through this experience. Recording with the students was not only a blast, but a breakthrough for all of us as artists.
The first song we recorded together was titled “Light Blue” written by myself and I was so fond of the piece after initially creating it; but the way that the students took to it and made it apiece that more represented the group was really what made me love it. It was obvious to me as an instructor that they didn’t have to relearn who they were as a musician and they all had the confidence in themselves that would take them to new highs. They dared to improvise, they made bold moves, and every student had their own personal style that blended beautifully with one another.
All of these musicians were astounding to me, but not everything came easy to them through the recording workshop. Only 1/5 of the students had ever recorded in a studio before and studios are a whole different animal compared to live performance. Adjusting to the equipment is an off putting experience at first,especially when considering the features to live performing the students were already used to. They had to learn to listen to the playback and grow into a better version of themselves. I saw all of the students adjust to the equipment well, but every now and again adjusting to hearing their own mistakes was challenging for them. We recorded “Light Blue” on the first day of the workshop and at the end of the day the students didn’t like what they were hearing out of themselves, but they came back the next day and got a final product that they were entirely proud of. All five musicians came out of the other side of this experience learning something about themselves through the equipment and I loved that aspect of the recording workshop.
We then recorded two student written songs both so different in style and emotion. “Three Days Riding” written by Ethan Greek was a fun western tune that took me back to a John Wayne film. His music was technically interesting and it was so fresh to me because I don’t often hear that style of music as a new modern piece. Ethan teaches me just as much as I teach him and playing his piece schooled all of us in rhythm. Our student drummer, Mitchell, had so many different challenges in that song from learning a new beat to changing up the style for a drum solo, but he lit up the entire studio with his heart and drive, ultimately shining in this song despite having to adjust to so much.
“Clowning Around” was a jazz piece also written by a student and proves just how well the students grasp the fundamentals of music composition. Ian Hendricks, our bass player, was excited as soon as I suggested he write something for the recording workshop and the passion showed in the writing. The song has a relaxed feeling and a whole lot of soul, and because of this it easily connected with every musician and listener. If we’re speaking of soul, we really can’t forget our acoustic guitar student, Sophia, she would’ve played this song until her fingers bled if that’s what it took to perfect the recording. The students all exemplified great dedication throughout the two day recording workshop, but Sophia is the first to come to mind when I think of working your fingers to the bone.
Lastly, "Walking Tall" was a metal piece written by myself that we recorded. This piece was inspired by some of the best and the students were taking on the essence of a diverse set of bands such as ACDC and Avenged Sevenfold with ease. One of our electric guitar students in the recording experience, Peter, was actually very seasoned in rock and his knowledge impressed me and exemplified his raw passion. Everyone took on this song with incredible energy and I it was inspiring to see the students play the song for the first time like they’ve been playing it their whole lives.
If a musician has passion, they can do anything. They can write, learn new songs in a day, perform live, record their music, you name it. I’ve been teaching music for 30 years and just being in the studio with these students for two days changed me. The students I worked with are living proof that no matter how great you are you’re always learning and that only makes you stronger. Every musician can benefit from lessons and trying new things.