Tuesday, June 21, 2011


As a guitar teacher, nothing is more gratifying than seeing a student dedicated enough to practice daily in order to really learn what I'm teaching and excel at the instrument. I had one of those students a few years back, and she's done quite a lot with it. I think just a few months ago she was in a show and brought her audience to tears with her performance. There's nothing like knowing that I had a little something to do with her success. I am so happy for her as well, because she knows what I know--having the ability to make music is one of this life's greatest joys. I'm also very sad, because she is quite rare.

Many of my students (and I'm sure I'm not the only teacher with this problem) do not progress very quickly. They have a basic desire to make music and are very enthusiastic in the beginning. They also have expectations as high as the sky--of me. After some time, the student doesn't progress into the kind of music he or she wants to play right away, gets very frustrated, and eventually quits, laying the blame at the feet of the teacher.

Ask these students how much they practice.

What they fail to admit to themselves--and to me, most of the time--is that they don't practice nearly as much as I require, if at all. Sure, they might practice a couple of chords, or a song they like, but they don't practice the scales or the exercises, which are what advance the musician beyond the limits of 4 or 5 cowboy chords.

Playing a musical instrument is one of life's greatest joys, but also one of life's greatest challenges. Having musical ability or raw talent is just not enough. It requires developing a skill, and developing a skill requires exercises and repetition. It's really that simple. A teacher can only provide the path. The rest is entirely up to the student. There is no magic wand, no secret formula, no fast track. There are exercises and repetition.

Exercises and repetition--DISCIPLINE.

Isn't our faith much the same? Every human being may be hard wired for God, but it's just not enough to think that's enough. We need the discipline gained in practicing our faith to really overcome our sinful condition and grow into the person that God intended. There is no fast-track to heaven, no secret handshake that gets you past St. Peter.  The way is not easy, but the rewards are countless.

How sad that so few people find any value in taking that harder road.

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