October 2016 Music Notes

Catherine Shrubshall Musician

“Oh how wonderful – I’ve ALWAYS wanted to play the saxophone” is a frequent reaction when someone I’ve just met discovers I’m a saxophonist. Of course my response is usually: “So why don’t you then?”…and with a twinkle in my eye but with serious intent, the gauntlet is thrown down and the challenge set…..

All those of us over school leaving age (!) will, I am sure, resonate with the next part of the conversation, which often goes something like: “My music teacher at school told me I was tone deaf” (followed by hysterical laughter) or “I’m FAR too old and stupid now”, or “I should have done it when I was a kid”. These simply spoken words show the damage that was done in an instant by the more dismissive or insensitive teachers of old. However, in this new age of creative and positive educational approaches, we don’t need to buy into anything self-limiting……and my ‘mission statement’ as it were, is to always be prepared to encourage someone on their journey of lifelong learning, at what ever age. “Well, lets not dwell too long on those haunting words of a bitter and misguided music teacher now. There is no time like the present to start doing something that you’ve always wished you could do!”  A conversation about self-development, choice and living your dream can go in many directions. It is always interesting to learn about someone’s life journey to date…. and sometimes I even find a new adult student signing up for a lesson!

Since arriving back in Essex (2 heady years ago now), I have encountered the aforementioned scene many times, and one never knows where a simple verbal exchange will lead to. There have been many reverberations which have surprised me…. including no fewer than 13 (a lucky number for some….and apparently Taylor Swift and I have this – at least – in common!) adult students from the local area signing up for lessons with me. Out of those 13 there are several complete beginners, all taking on the ‘new skill’ quest, and loving every minute of it. Their ages range from 20 to 80, and each player comes with their own distinctive stylistic preference….I enjoy this diversity immensely as it keeps me on my toes as an adaptive and flexible teacher/coach.

Life has a way of presenting learning opportunities in any situation if you are open to them, and I too continually learn so much from those I teach.  I am privileged to be able to pass on my deep passion, of both Music and of my Saxophones and Clarinets, to my enthusiastic students (and they call this work!). I think by now you’ve gathered that I am a firm believer in self-development dear reader, and I do take that proverbial spoon of my own medicine on occasion by aiming to shake off the old self-limitations which swoop down out of the blue like a Harry Potter Dementor!. This self-reflection helps me empathise with my more mature students, and I can really see how my teaching and communication skills have developed from when I was a very shiny and new younger musician. How fabulously timed all this is with the sense of freedom and expansion that I am feeling through teaching and playing these days (aka “Tricksy Trobairitz”).

So – with the thought that you are never too old to learn (even if it’s not the saxophone you’ve always wanted to play!), perhaps you may feel inspired to shrug off those bothersome self-limiting thoughts and to try something different….to expand your horizons and find another exciting way to express and embrace the joy of ageless learning. I do hope so!

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