Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The best lessons your teacher may be offering

I would like to relate a couple of things that happened to me this last summer that made me think about teachers and our relationship to them.
The first thing that happened is a well known drummer (forgive me, I can't remember if it was Adam Nussbaum or Joe La Barbera)  was posting photos of drummers that inspired him, and so he put Alan Dawson on his feed. What followed were many posts about his teaching and the rudimental ritual, but no mention of seeing him live or on video performing, or some of the great recordings he made.
I had a similar experience a few weeks later with the tragic death of my friend and great vocalist Shannon Gunn. Shannon also had taught at Capilano  and Humber colleges, respectively. As tributes came out to this wonderful musician on the scene, I was shocked at the number of young student musicians who had never seen her perform live, even though she had been doing so fairly consistently her whole career.

In both these cases, people were missing the best lesson of all, seeing these great artists perform!
When you get to see someone live, you get to see how they interact with the audience, their fellow musicians, and even the management of the venue. You can check out their body language, hear how they sound in the room, etc. Now, I'm aware that sometimes checking someone out live is impossible ( Mr. Dawson passed away in the 90s) but often there is available video footage and recordings. In short, if you are involved in the performing arts and your teacher is out there "on the scene', check them out! I guarantee you will get things from it you won't get from lessons alone! 

So, here's some great footage of Alan Dawson performing and TEACHING us all while playing with Sonny Rollins


Unfortunately, there's isn't much footage of Shannon Gunn online but here she is singing "Who Sang the Songs We Always Sing", dedicated to Frank Sinatra.

In closing, I certainly in no way want to denigrate or minimize the influence a great teacher can have, even if that teacher never performs. I just want to emphasize that we can learn a lot from our teachers/mentors when we observe them in "battle' conditions. Stay safe all……..

1 comment:

  1. I love this performance, you can see how Alan deals with a sudden problem during his solo: