Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Professing, Middle Fingers and Taoism

Students from the music school sometimes see me out in public (like in Sam's club as I'm getting socks). This one student walked by, smiled and said, "Hi, Professor."

It's my seventh year at USC and 10th year teaching college full time and, still, it is disconcerting when someone calls me "professor."

I guess it's nice for my ego. Certainly I've learned a lot and I think I share it well. Still, I've never been comfortable as a big authority figure.

Sometimes my students are surprised when they mention a piece of music I don't know.

I learn from my students. I think that makes me a stronger teacher, not a weaker one.
Here are two new things my students have mentioned:

One of my students shared with me some comments about slide technique from an Alessi master class. As I understood it, Alessi was suggesting that the thumb shouldn't be too flexible. Instead it should be like an extension of the arm.

Another student just visited the Edwards trombone factory to buy a new horn. The factory rep talked about gripping the slide between the thumb and the middle finger (as opposed to the second finger). Apparently there is a tendon that leads through the arm directly to that middle finger. Therefore, one's slide placement should be more consistent.

I never thought much about how to hold the slide. I've always taught: a light grip and keep it comfortable. I even have a section on my bonezone website where I talk about all the "spring hinges" from the shoulder to the tips of the fingers. Hmm, I may have to revise that.

I hope I never stop learning from my students (or from any other source). As soon as I stop growing and learning, I need to get out of this business.

I need to reopen that copy of the Tao te Ching...

Here's one:

Knowing you don't know is wholeness.
Thinking you know is a disease.
Only by recognizing that you have an illness
can you move to seek a cure.