Monday, August 8, 2016

Scold and Praise

Today Master Schultz taught me two wonderful things through glorification and chastisement.
At my last lesson, he asked that I run prepare the Bach Sonata No. 2 in A minor and familiarize myself with it again. Today, he asked me if I had played through the Bach and if I could perform it for him first thing. I replied, "Yes, but isn't not as good as I'd like it." He nodded and asked me to play it. After I finished, he praised my performance, "That's the best I've heard you play it. It was amazing. Really, I mean it." He held eye contact with my gaze until there was almost an uncomfortable silence and I thanked him. He added that I should take more time with the phrases and pauses, adding that there was a particularly lengthy pause that he really appreciated and that I should 'take my time' more often. Master Schultz regularly reminds me not to 'short-change' myself. He asked me to play it again two more times but he insisted that the first time was best. I think it was due to my nervousness that I played it better. Once I had relaxed and basked in the light of his praises, I may have slackened.
I was reminded of two lessons from his praise: I should not underestimate my own ability or convey shortcomings to others. Also, I remembered that I shouldn't rest on my laurels. Mrs. Wittrig, my first violin instructor, once asked me if I knew the meaning of that expression or where it originated. When I responded in the negative, she explained that in Greek society laurels were a symbol of accolade, merit, accomplishment and that 'resting on one's laurels' meant that one becomes innert after achieving an honor, an accomplishment or something to that effect. Essentially, she warned that if I rested too much, I would become stagnant in my studies and possibly regress. She wasn't ever heavy with me, but she often laced my violin lessons with complex life lessons in ethical behavior. I realize now that my instructors all taught me valuable lessons; they taught me violin technique, ingrained theory, engendered musicianship, and infused musicality but the most valuable thing they gave me was their life experience and wisdom.
After hearing me, Master Schultz moved onto a Dvorak violin concerto for sight-reading. During the piece, I failed to play a grace note with a double-stop and he stopped me. "Did you play that grace-note?" he inquired, to which I quickly replied, "I'm sorry, no, I didn't play it." He scolded me lightly, "Don't apologize. It was a simple mistake. You made a mistake and you move on. We're reading through it for the first time, if you'd had it for ten weeks and you missed the grace-note, then you can apologize and I can give you hell about it." he added that I shouldn't apologize all the time because people are likely to rub my face in it when I apologize, even if its a tiny mistake. He made a point of telling me that he wasn't lecturing me, but that he wanted me to learn from his own experiences.
He then related to me that he often apologized for simple mistakes to colleagues or superiors and they would berate him instead of accepting his admission and moving on. It is the behavior of uncivilized and uncultured people, I believe, but an interesting lesson in human behavior nonetheless.
After that, I promised not to apologize again, and jokingly said, "I'll stop apologizing all the time. In fact, I promise I'll never apologize for anything ever again." He chuckled but then reminded me that he was serious.

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