Recently I heard from a friend that her guitar teacher had died. I don’t know if it was sudden, I don’t know if was expected. I don’t know anything more than a “beloved guitar teacher” died.
I was immediately struck with sadness, and was instantly reminded of learning a few years ago of my high school band director’s death. Thinking about that connection made me realize how important both music and teaching can be to a student, regardless of the age or circumstance.
Music is many things, but regardless of its style or even its usage, all music has an emotional connection of some kind—whether it’s celebratory and spiritual, or formal, or energetic and exciting—music always connects to the listener’s emotions. Even that horrible muzak you hear on-hold or in elevators or stores, it’s all done to set a mood for the experience. (Of course its intent may not equal its effect, especially in the case of on-hold music.)
It’s no wonder then that combining a discipline of such personal experience within the element of a teacher/student relationship can be a powerful thing. Teachers, good teachers, are far and few between. I don’t know if I could count the number of teachers I had from the time I started school in kindergarten to the time I took my last class in graduate school, but I can count, without the use of my toes, the number of them who meant a lot to me, who inspired me, who gave me hope and confidence, and whose deaths would strike me with such sadness.
It was only after my band director’s death a few years ago that I wished I had told him what he had done for me. Not just the music, techniques and music theory he taught me and all the knowledge I gained being his student, but also the life lessons and the character building that were behind it.
This wasn’t the first time I should’ve learned that lesson. A number of years before that incident, one of my acting teachers died. A great woman, who touched so many, many lives, and talents. I remember thinking then of all the things I should’ve….I wished I had….I ought to have….
Perhaps teachers are too often taken for granted. And sadly, we’re all too often too busy to recognize and honor any of the “beloved” ones in our lives.
I’d like to find the right way and time to send those kinds of messages to the teachers I haven’t thanked properly, some of whom are already gone:
Mrs. B., middle school choral teacher who encouraged me
Mrs. M., high school choral teacher who gave me the chance
Miss A., art teacher who saw and supported my visions
Mr. P., the drama director who kept casting me and gave me dreams, even if showed me everything I shouldn’t do as a professional theatre artist
My inspiring acting coaches Jean, Patrick, John, Cal, Nancy, Doug, andConnie
And Mr. Ken Miller, my beloved high school band and music director, who challenged me to be better, taught me so much, and never gave up on any of us.