My last blog was about reading music versus not reading, and this installment will deal with that concept on an even larger scale; that of “music school versus the school of life”. Of course, in the end, it’s ALL about the “school of life”, even if music school is part of that equation…….but what I refer to here is how important the “real” learning experience is verses the one that is taught in schools.
I have always been a self-taught musician, but I also love to teach. But my way of teaching has always been to pass on the “real”, hard-earned “life learned” info that simply can’t really be passed on within a set format, as would be sometimes prescribed by a music school. I do know that in the past, when I did go to regular school, it was never so much what I learned that I remembered, but it was the teachers themselves that I remember most. This is because it is all about the teacher-student relationship that is built up over time, and there’s no question that it is the great TEACHERS that make LEARNING so valuable, and it is sometimes even one teacher alone that will make an entire school worthwhile to go to! I can clearly recall this when I applied to various schools for photography when I was going to go to college, and wanted to go to one school specifically, because two of my all-time favorite photographers were professors there. As it turned out, that was the only school out of four I applied to that turned me down, only further hastening my desire to go off into the real world of music!
Even while I did go to the Philadelphia College of Art, I was living with my band, “Steel” there, and we were playing anywhere we could in Philadelphia, and were making weekend journeys up to Woodstock, N.Y., so we could be heard by the right people. Little did I know that as I was getting heard in Woodstock by some of my idols, such as Paul Butterfield, and other folks who “actually made records”, they were really singling me out as a guitarist they could use for their own purposes, and were not so interested in my band.
So even at that time, when I was just seventeen years old, the tough training ground of playing block parties, school dances and impromptu jam sessions in Philly was already preparing me for the life of going out on my own as a “guitarist for hire” in Woodstock, where I ended up moving to the following Fall. This was already “chapter 3 or 4” in my life as a musician, even though for me, it felt like it was all just the beginning.
The “school of life” is the only school, and in the end, we are really all our own teachers. If you do go to a music school per se, remember to be sure to take away from it the most meaningful stuff for YOU, and where YOU see yourself heading as a musician. A lot of information is good, but can be pretty overwhelming for someone just starting out, and you certainly never want to be put into a position of feeling like you’re inadequate as a player, which is something these schools can make unnaturally happen to you! More next time….stay tuned!