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Our Philosophy on Building Creative Musicians

This past month, The Music Space officially opened to the public. We have brought a terrific roster of teachers on board and are currently scheduling lessons and our studio bookings are beginning to fill up.

In selecting our teachers, we focused specifically on diversity of experience. Yes; our instructors have played in several symphony orchestras, Jazz big bands, and have been part of major theater productions, but they are also active in several Baltimore-area bands who gig around town in local venues like the Ottobar, Wind-up Space, and Metro Gallery. This diversity of experience is reflected in the type of lesson plans our teachers provide: they push students to find their own original voice instead of driving them down a path of rote learning.

This has been my philosophy since I started teaching piano and drums fifteen years ago to students in Frederick (and later Baltimore) County. Once my students figure out the basics, I encourage them to develop their own creative skills. On piano, for example, I get students to develop their improvisational ability through several exercises instead of moving them through the typical “learn piece + recital” path. Instead of learning the scales, I try to help the student put them to work! I also try to record them as much as possible to give them a sense of how their individual voice is developing. Our teachers at The Music Space will use similar methods to unlock their students' creative talents.

Our goal is to build musicians for life, not to mold prodigies who later burn out and stop playing. In fact, I recently read an article on child prodigies in the New York Times that resonated with me on this topic...Surprisingly, very few gifted children – whether it’s in music or sciences or some other field – become innovative in their fields as adults. Apparently, the over-burdening of rules and instructions stifles their creativity:

“What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”

Ironically, the very instruction meant to build high-achieving adults instead produces the type of person who blends in. On the other hand, those adults who DO accomplish great things in their fields tend to have a much more casual instructional path. They usually are guided by a natural love of music or science and they find a teacher who can help channel this passion:

“When the psychologist Benjamin Bloom led a study of the early roots of world-class musicians, artists, athletes and scientists, he learned that their parents didn’t dream of raising superstar kids. They weren’t drill sergeants or slave drivers. They responded to the intrinsic motivation of their children. When their children showed interest and enthusiasm in a skill, the parents supported them. Top concert pianists didn’t have elite teachers from the time they could walk; their first lessons came from instructors who happened to live nearby and made learning fun. Mozart showed interest in music before taking lessons, not the other way around. Mary Lou Williams learned to play the piano on her own; Itzhak Perlman began teaching himself the violin after being rejected from music school.”

With these principles in mind, we encourage all those with a love of music and a desire to play and perform to sign up for lessons. Our teachers will take you in any creative direction you want to go. And If you don’t which direction that is yet, we’ll try and help you find it.