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Re: Neuroscientist debunks the myth of musical instinct
I would put forth that such intellectualist discrimination isn't exclusive
to the realm of music.
I've been drawing and doing cartoons since I was three. Shock!
Self-taught! :) In the late 70s I was at Syracuse and decided albeit
briefly to change my generic "Arts & Sciences" degree program into just Art.
My parents were of course appalled but that didn't have the negative effect
that some professors/PAs did.
I was already getting some work in the area from a fledgling paper called
the New Times, and in the school paper.. The New Times didn't pay much but
it was more than nothing, for something I love doing. I was in a General
Drawing class towards the end of the semester I'd changed my major, and the
professor asked the class, "What kind of artist do you want to be?" He went
through the entire class, and didn't ask me. A girl sitting next to me who
liked my work piped in, "Why didn't you ask Steve? He wants to be a
The jerk sniffed and said, "Why doesn't he want to be an artist?"
That kind of crap was something I hadn't learned to disregard, of course. I
had received similar disdain from my teachers in other classes, with the
wonderful exception of my Art History professor, who loved cartoons of the
past and shared my love of the classics like Krazy Kat, Buck Rogers, Little
Nemo in Slumberland, and The Katzenjammer Kids. His view, which I obviously
appreciate to this day, was that of someone who looked at the big picture,
and not just a pump-out-the-graphic-worker mentality. Unfortunately between
the other view, and that of my parents who were footing the bill, I reneged
and changed my major back to Arts & Sciences. I dropped out of Syracuse, a
place with terrible weather and only 50 sunny days a year, a little more
than a year later.
I don't blame academics completely for this kind of crap, myself, having
made the decision on my own - but I won't say they don't actively discourage
original thinking that doesn't fit in their little box. How many people end
up not pursuing the thing they love and are quite good at, because of such
I grew up with piano lessons as long-time members of this list may remember;
but my teachers usually lasted no more than 3-4 months: the first right
before we moved from Kansas City MO to a really nice town in NJ; the second
died in his 80s; the third ran off with her travel agent and was never seen
again; the fourth had all the demeanor of a child abuser, would stare at me
with Marty Feldman eyes and would close the shades when his students
arrived; and the last one was the best, a fellow who did arrangements for
Barry Manilow, and brought me Mozart pieces supposedly designed for children
to learn to. Unfortunately even he fell to fate, going on tour with Barry M
and for some reason never returning. My mother, raised a Methodist, was
more interested in the discipline of practice than the pursuit of Art. She
herself loved to bang on the piano quite a lot, and was quite open to a
variety of music styles. She used to teach herself pieces by slowly going
through the fingering etc herself, and was intrigued when I played the first
piece from "Music for Airports" for her... but didn't appreciate the
repetition. She liked "Dark Side of the Moon", but railed at the lyrics to
"Tommy". A weird combination there.
I taught myself guitar, and found 10 years later much encouragement from
articles written by Brian Eno, and Robert Fripp at the time. They always
seemed to me to be putting an example in front of me, challenging me to do
the same. Not having a parochial education in the arts, I may have missed
out on some of the stuff you folks are going on about... but I also don't
"know" what I "can't" do. Perspectives from outside the defined box are
necessary, and are often met with a great deal of criticism or worse. So
aspects of Ayn Rand's "Fountainhead" ring quite true for me. :)
Had to chime in after the great responses to this thread... which despite
this not being in BBS format, I was by the way able to follow quite easily.
From: Rick Walker
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 4:53 AM
To: Sylvain Poitras
Subject: Re: Re: Neuroscientist debunks the myth of musical instinct
On 2/22/12 7:29 AM, Sylvain Poitras wrote:
Eventually, I took lessons with a local pro who shared much of his
experience being the lousiest player around, having all the faults you can
imagine and working through them to become a phenomenal player.
I've privately taught over 3,500 people how to play music in my teaching
The very slowest learner I ever taught was a young kid who wanted to
play the blues.
He learned at such a snails pace that I honestly thought he just didn't
He was the first person I ever truly thought this about.
But he kept coming religiously.........we kept working on the same
material, basic blues
beats which are quite simple for over a year.
One day, he was warming up as I chatted with a talented student from
the hour before
and my student said, "wow, he's really sounding good in there."
I was astonished...."He does?" I asked somewhat incredulously.
and my student said, "Yeah, really, really solid"
and then it hit me, like a Buddhist monk hitting me over the head in
I so had this guy in a 'place' in my mind that I was not being present
really listening to him.
It changed my entire perception about music and musical skill.
Passion, energy and discipline frequently trump so called 'talent' and
speed of learning.
This man has grown up and is a professional blues drummer.
I'm absolutely certain that he makes more in his career than I do in mine.
I'm really friggin' proud of him and only sorry that it took me so long to
Whenever I get students who are insecure about how long it takes them to
I always have this salutory story to give to them.