As I say on the main page of this little website, I've only really had two music teachers. And Glenn Gould. There was another teacher, but she doesn't count because I never heard her play a note in a year (you might have read all about this teacher if you've read my Bollywood-style life story blurb). In fact, most lessons were spent on me playing a few bars of whatever piece I had been working on, and then the teacher beginning her weekly rants at me - " you shouldn't run around after adult students" or "your technique is up a creek" "why did you have to get married so young, what a silly thing to do" " you're going to fail your practical" "you're Indian, you shouldn't bother playing Chopin" - and on and on it goes. In fact, when I received a distinction in my final examinations, I was so badly brainwashed into believing I was useless that I actually thought the result was a mix-up or error. I guess I was too young/foreign/insecure/shy - I could not understand that this was NOT teaching. This was racist, xenophobic, nasty bullying of the worst sort. I simply thought all European conservatoire professors must be right - after all they know "western classical music" - I'm just a girl from India playing catch up!
What saved me was teaching. My first two music teachers never left the polluted city of Pune, so they never studied with any famous people. They were never wealthy or gave a damn about money - an ethic that has been ingrained in me (never asking or expecting money from family - being a self-made person). Both Enid Roberts and Veera Pooniwala were modest, humble women, devoted to their students and to music. I have never met a teacher in the West with their ability to teach and inspire pupils of all ages irrespective of their musical ability. Ever! For a year or so, I studied on and off with a big name concert pianist and highly respected professor (who works with many amateur students at a very, very high fee). He was superb at fixing technical problems, and I enjoyed lessons with him but when I watched him work with amateur pianists, I found that he was unable to show any empathy towards pianists at a lower level - especially beginners and intermediate students.
I don't believe anyone who is just doing masterclasses really knows much about teaching. I realise I'm going out on a limb when I say this, but I find it very easy to teach students in masterclasses - including amateurs and adults. They learn pieces to a very high standard and my job is to improve or enhance their playing by offering a few technical and musical suggestions. But the piano teacher who has done all the donkey work for months on end, week after week deserves way more credit. It is very true that it is important to be a reasonably competent musician if one is to teach in any capacity, but every concert pianist is not qualified or equipped to teach. I am obsessive about helping adult students or anyone who has come to the piano after a long break, or someone who is a complete beginner. I have no problem with weeks of slow, slow progress and I also believe that devising practise techniques and choosing the right music for each student is one of the most important jobs I have.
For many years, I taught piano (and singing) full-time, and because I tried to do it as my bread and butter job, I had to take on many more pupils than I would have had to had I been working stacking shelves and teaching a little on the side, for instance. Big mistake. Teaching insufferable, obnoxious children (whose deluded but very wealthy parents were ignorant to the level of dedication playing an instrument demands) was painful. Though I always gave each student more than my all, this was a great regret of mine - casting pearls before swine and all that! And because I could not afford to give this up, I had to do this until I became seriously ill and was forced to just stop. Some years on, I no longer need to devote my energies towards draining students who speak to me as if I'm a glorified baby-sitter (who happens to play the piano). I have separated "having a job" from "teaching music." I can devote myself to a very select few adult piano students who fill me with inspiration and joy that I travel for 8-9 hours on a train just to teach them. Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced students who really WANT to make music, those who value having a teacher who is committed to their musical development. I guess the fact that it isn't Daddy's money paying for a lesson helps - they have worked hard and are choosing to spend their hard-earned money on a music lesson instead of on a night out, for instance. The very least that I can do is give them my all, strengthen their fingers, develop their musical knowledge and give them the same love and enthusiasm for music that Enid Roberts and Veera Pooniwala gave me. And then watch them progress from trembling novice student to sensitive pianist and outstanding performer/teacher in some years.
I did not choose the life of a music educator because all else had failed, or because I never got the break I was so desperate for.
For me, music in its purest form is as beautiful and mysterious as nature. Music must never be tarred with power, money and fame. I teach because I cannot help it - I have so much to say and such an intense desire to get ordinary people to connect with their extraordinary, divine, creative selves through music. That's the only thing I know.