Growing up, I loved listening to and playing music. What felt like “play” to me was actually considered “practicing,” and I soon found the perfect marriage of work and fun. As I became more serious, the rigor and focus of how I practiced changed, but my love of music only grew, and in fact, it evolved. I’ll be the the first to say that I never thought I would teach, but as a regular component of music making, I soon found I had a knack for it, and devoted many hours to honing that aspect of my craft along with my own personal performance. Now, I love teaching. I consider myself, first and foremost, a musician. The fact that I’ve dedicated myself equally to the art of music making and teaching leads me to a term I’ve been thinking a lot about, which is the “Teaching Artist.” The Teaching Artist approach is important not only out of necessity for survival, but the fact that one identity feeds the other is something I’ve observed for many years now. For example, there are many performers that can play, but cannot teach. There are many teachers that teach, but cannot play. But in a time of uncertainty and a constantly changing musical and educational landscape, why would you not try to be amazing at both? Even Yo-Yo Ma, one of the world’s greatest cellists, is an amazing teacher and clinician. Many of the musicians I admire most are the ones that are equally great at playing and teaching. How does someone have time to do both? It doesn’t take twice the amount of time, but those that are most successful are working on both in tandem. There is a great deal of writing on the Teaching Artist, but I’ll start with a definition by Eric Booth:
A teaching artist is an active artist who chooses to also develop the skills of teaching in order to activate a variety of learning experiences that that are catalyzed by artistic engagement.
He beautifully describes how the two identities of artist and teacher work to feed each other. Take a look at the video below and see what you think. Are you a teacher, an artist, or a Teaching Artists?
Eric Booth’s explanation of a Teaching Artist