Truly, my little studio of 37 students is not a hotbed of international talent. Whew! Did I just insult my students and wound my reputation? As I read the Talent Code I started feeling a wee bit unsuccessful until Chapter 8, "The Talent Whisperers". In the early 1980s a University of Chicago team of researchers led by Dr. Benjamin Bloom undertook a study of 120 world-class pianists, swimmers, tennis champions, mathematicians, neurologists, and sculptors. They found, especially among the pianists, that their first teachers were mostly average. What does average mean? A non-professional neighborhood teacher.
"Bloom's pianists, for instance, had typically stayed with the first teacher for five or six years. From a scientific perspective, it was as if the researchers had traced the lineage of the world's most beautiful swans back to a scruffy flock of barnyard chickens. As the study concisely put it, “The initial teachers were largely determined by the chances of proximity and availability.”
Did Mr. Coyle just describe my studio as barnyard? But wait, here are the statements made by these world-class pianists about their first teachers.
She was really great with young kids.
She was very kindly, very nice.
She liked young people, and she was very nice, and he liked her.
He was very good with kids, liked kids instinctively and had a good rapport.
He was enormously patient and not very pushy.
She carried a big basket of Hershey bars and gold stars for the music and I was crazy about this lady.
It was an event for me to go to my lessons.
“Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding. Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game. These teachers gave much positive reinforcement and only rarely were critical of the child. However, they did set standards and expected the child to make progress, although this was largely done with approval and praise.”
Daniel Coyle (2009-04-16). The Talent Code (p. 175). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
This chapter inspired me and encouraged me to be that first teacher and continue to love my students and expect them to be the best musicians they can be.