The Art of Teaching Adults
Updated: Jul 20
It would be easy to assume that kids, with their (comparatively) short attention spans, are more difficult to teach music to than adults. Not so. Not by a long shot.
While it's true that kiddos --- with their fidgets, runny noses, (adorably) rapid thought-streams, and focus difficulties --- present an array of challenges for instructors of all types, they often possess a certain quality which many of their adult counterparts seem to lack. They are fearless.
If you're a parent, consider the way in which your kiddo learned to walk. A baby taking her first steps is a delight to watch, because when she falls -- as she invariably will -- she takes a startled look around, perhaps, but then resumes her work. She is utterly un-self conscious about her "failure" to grasp the skill at hand. She hasn't fully developed her sense of "self", and as such, doesn't feel shame or humiliation in the way teenagers and adults do when they are unable to quickly grasp a skill.
It's been fascinating to observe this reality over the past few years at The Music Lab. With kids, any time not spent working through the nuts and bolts of music theory and performance is spent on behavior management.
With adults, any time not spent on these foundational musical skills is spent, instead, managing insecurities and quelling various made-up and projected concerns. Here is an example:
Kid: "I don't understand how this rhythm works"
Adult: "You have to bear with me, I'm musically challenged"
Kid: "What is this note, Mr. Michael?"
Adult: "I know you told me a million times, but what is this note?"
Kid: "oh my gosh, can I play two songs in the recital!"
Adult: "Are you kidding? You want me to play in front of people!?"
Kids are confident. They are fearless. Life hasn't yet taught them to compare themselves to others (hopefully not, anyway), and so they learn with much more joy and freedom than their adult contemporaries. Isn't that why we're here, anyway? To have fun, to deepen our sensitivities, and to grow our brains through discipline and the acquisition of a new skill?
So chill, and play on <3 .