Old guard music education

ClassicalGuitarMagazine.com posted Michael Chapdelaine’s performance of Albéniz’s “Mallorca,” to comemorate the Spanish composer’s birthday, and the performance is delightful.

In the notes at YouTube, nonetheless, the artist links to a masterclass Segovia conducted at USC, in which Segovia berates Chapdelaine’s performance of the same piece.

Segovia’s manner with the student exemplifies everything that’s wrong with music education as I remember it. Each remark aims to belittle the student and aggrandize the teacher. He implies (rather than says) that Chapdelaine’s fingerings aren’t good. Why not just tell him what he’s doing wrong? Was he doing something wrong? Why leave the student bewildered, as though it were a rhetorical question for which no conclusive answer exists? A kind of Zen Koan? Do the fingerings of the “Mallorca” really pose the kind of existential crisis that necessitates a degree of consideration on par with “the sound of one hand clapping”?

When I remember my own music education, much of the pedagogy felt more like religion than social science. How many techniques are taught because Liszt (or Miles Davis, or Jascha Heifetz, or whoever…) did it like this–or whichever musical “hero” the music community reveres by consensus? Because who better to tell you the most ergonomic use of your hands than an 19th-century pianist who probably thought bleeding with leeches was a good remedy for a number of ailments? How many of those techniques lead to injury?

People do stupid things, for stupid reasons.

Exemplifying the Zen Buddhist analogy, Chapdelaine goes on to extol the manner in which he was chastised, much in the way a Zen practitioner thanks the monk who strikes him for his lack of focus.

One wonders whether these erstwhile pedagogues weren’t hurling strident critiques as a means of dissembling severe cases of impostor syndrome.

Featured image by Pablo Picasso – The Art Institute of Chicago and jacquelinemhadel.com, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31832131

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