Tuesday, October 08, 2013

There are no Pass-Offs

Many of my students use the term "pass off" in lessons.  For example, "I want to pass off that etude this week."
In music, there are no pass-offs!
In football, does a field goal kicker stop after one successful kick, announcing to the coach, "OK coach, I've passed off my field goals!"

Does a great violinist play the F-sharp major scale once in his life and then declare it passed off?

In my first of two lessons with Arnold Jacobs, I brought a lyrical solo I had been working on (I even brought an enlarged copy because his eyesight wasn't as good).  I started with that but it wasn't long until he turned me to those favorite pages of the Arban's Method and to buzzing Pop Goes the Weasel on my mouthpiece.  I had done these things before, many times, but by revisiting these familiar materials, he was able to help me see things in a new light.  If he were still alive, I'm sure I could bring those same things back in to a lesson and he could probably share still more revelations.  I can't imagine myself saying,
"But Mr. Jacobs, I passed that off last time."

There is a fundamental difference between knowledge-based learning and skill-based learning.  Once we've figured out that 2+3=5 or that the sun rises in the East, we can safely declare those facts as having been learned.  We've passed them off.

But, in skill-based learning, there are no pass-offs.  Yes, there is growth of ability.  Perhaps you might say that the ability to memorize a passage (knowledge-based) is a "pass off" item.  But, for the most part, we must revisit our basic skills all the time.

Just as a basketball player must keep working on that free throw...

Or a tennis player must always work on her serve...

In the skill aspect of music, there are no pass-offs.  What was that old Nike slogan?  There are no finish lines?  Hmm, that's a good one, too.