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Musicians Need Trainers, Not Teachers

By working together with a trainer, musicians can improve their on-stage performance much more efficiently than with a teacher in a classroom.

The head of the jury closed the score in front of him, looked at me and said “Well, that’s that." — Simeon Morrow



 

BY SIMEON MORROW


Have you ever seen a tennis championship?


To me, the most interesting moment has nothing to do with points and comes after the match has already been called. It’s when the adrenaline has subsided and silence falls over the entire stadium: both contestants – first loser and then winner – are invited to directly address the viewers. Inevitably, both players start by thanking their “team”.

“What team?!” you’re probably thinking. For the past several hours, there have only been two players on the court!

That’s where the interesting part comes in: every move a tennis player makes is evaluated by the watchful eye of her/his trainer. That trainer is a like a teacher, but much more invested in the pupil’s ongoing performance.

Rather than a student-teacher relationship – which is dictated by a syllabus and a student’s mastery is definitively evaluated through grade letter or GPA number – the trainee-trainer relationship is a dynamic team effort in which the trainee’s mastery is constantly in flux: at some trainings, progress is noted, at other, regress.

I, personally, have been fortunate enough to benefit from this music trainer/trainee model.

It all started last September. Since the Pandemic, I had not conducted a single orchestra and was haunted by thoughts of never again expressing myself through conducting music. Knowing that I would be the oldest and most out-of-place candidate, I swallowed my pride and applied to pursue a professional degree in orchestral conducting at a leading U.S. music school.

This effort called for the moral support and expert guidance of a team, so I engaged renown conducting teacher László Marosi - who taught conducting classes both at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris and the Franz Liszt Academy of Music – as my trainer. His task was to train me to conduct at the audition as if I had conducted an orchestra every day since the Pandemic. And WOW did it work.

At the audition, I walked on stage, shook the concertmaster’s hand and conducted the orchestra so well, that during the break, orchestra member after orchestra member went out of their way to express their approval. Berlioz even seemed to express his approval: in a lovely twist of Berlioz’ depiction of the clueless conductor (closing statement of The Orchestral Conductor: Theory of His Art), the head of the jury closed the score in front of him, looked at me and said “Well, that’s that.”

Classical musicians are brought up in an environment where human interaction must be sacrificed so practice for upcoming performances can be done in solitary confinement. Yes, it does sounds strange, especially because musicians are preparing to perform for an audience. Which tennis player eschews the court up to the start of the match?  

Classical music world: I implore you to imagine the efficiency to be gained by musicians teaming-up with trainers to improve, rather than “learn” performance. My training experience has been stellar and I’d like to thank my team, László Marosi!


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