I was standing here at my computer counter (which is in the chitchen) looking at some little artifacts one of the beach urchins made in grade school art class. This brought back memories, specifically that some of my fellow parents weren’t crazy about the art teacher. I dunno why. I thought she was pretty good.

One friend of mine (a normally reasonable parent) explained that her daughter “viewed” herself as “talented” and didn’t necessarily want to follow the teacher’s rules. Sigh. Yes, your kid probably *is* talented but she’s a *fourth grader*. Art is a very creative subject (heck, accounting can be a creative subject) but good teachers can help talented kids hone their skills and grow their talents.

I have always been an autodidact. My Detroit grandparents gave me a wooden recorder for xmas as a kindergartner and I taught myself how to play the carols in the book that accompanied the recorder. When my parents finally managed to swing the cost of a piano, I banged my way through the Leila Fletcher method books on my own. I needed help with dotted quarter note rhythm for a while but my cousin Uber Kayak Woman helped me through that. She was taking lessons from a real piano teacher. And then The Commander signed me up for lessons too. I was reluctant at first but I quickly figured out that a piano teacher was a *good* thing.

And then there was the flute. Fifth grade. I had been HOT to play the flute forever, emulating a couple of my older cousins who played it and also I was fascinated by flute pictures in my Golden Book Encyclopedia. What do all of those keys and other contraptions do? It was complicated but also fascinating.

There were three flutes at my grade school and three of us wanted to play flute. Of course I got the worst flute. Nevertheless, I persisted. And managed to get through the whole Rubank beginner book the first week. After that, what to do? I didn’t exactly languish but I had no clue about how buy music, not to mention what to buy. There were no *real* flute teachers in my small ice-bound city. The band director (not a flute player) and the first chair flute in the high school band. Make no mistake, she was pretty darn good and I loved her but she was *not* a professional teacher. At this point she had me using the Rubank books (that’s all she knew) and I knew I *needed* a REAL teacher.

With some amazing luck, a professional flutist moved to town when I was in 8th grade. The Comm signed me up for lessons immediately and to make things easy, this woman lived across the schoolyard from us. She really got me going with scales and formal finger and tone exercises (which I loved) and anthologies full of all varieties of classical pieces. My parents were not rich but they sprung for whatever music my teacher suggested. I now suspect that when making lesson arrangements they may have told her to load me up with music at their expense. Alas, my loverly teacher was in town because her husband was in the Air Force at the nearby Kincheloe base and they only stayed there a year so I lost her.

In eighth grade, I challenged my way up to third chair in the high school band (long story). In high school, I beat my way through the gauntlet of old ladies who ran the scholarship process to get into the Interlochen all-state summer camp. (My parents could afford the tuition but first-year campers couldn’t enroll without a scholarship.) I got first chair there even though I no longer had a teacher.

Long story short, I got a music degree and then not knowing how the heck to make a living, I ended up in the tech industry. That began as luck and a connection but I was also a tech autodidact. As with music, I eventually formalized my home-grown skills with education via a wonderful, challenging program at our local community college.

The moral of the story is that self-teaching is GREAT and there are people who succeed at their art or whatever without a formal education. But a good teacher can give a leg up if one is needed. Hats off to all of the wonderful teachers I’ve had throughout my life. (Boo to the very few bad ones. They do exist.)

I’m not sure who took this ancient pic but it could well be my cousin’s husband’s professional photographer brother who probably took pics at that wedding. If so, credit to him and I hope he doesn’t mind me posting it.

One Response to “Autodidact”

  1. Margaret Says:

    I get easily frustrated so I needed a piano and violin teacher. I could have been very good if I’d practiced but I mostly had my nose buried in books.