Recently, I received the sad news that my last horn teacher died suddenly from a stroke. She was only my teacher for a little over a year, but there is still a list of important lessons that I learned from her.
She had an infectious love for horn music. What made her a great teacher was her ability to create space (in a very no-nonsense way) to help other people cultivate their own passion. She wasn’t playing in an orchestra. She wasn’t making recordings. She was a teacher and, believe me, she could play the @#$% out of the Brahms Trio.
One of my favorite memories was when the university paper interviewed her about being a female brass player*. Apparently, she told the student (who was likely expecting a feminist manifesto), “Look, sometimes you just need to learn to drink with the boys.” She taught me how to choose my battles. She spoke up for me when I needed it. She supported my decision to put my instrument down, even though she didn’t fully agree with it. She held the space for me.
When I heard the news, I felt simultaneous sadness of her loss and gratitude that I was able to study with her. I clearly saw the tremendous gifts, opportunities and responsibilities of being a teacher. I hope to hold the space for my students the way she held the space for so many young musicians. I realize that even brief moments of connection with a teacher can resonate throughout a lifetime.
I feel gratitude, inspiration and can’t wait to teach my next class!
*For those of you outside of the industry, being a female brass player it’s not for the thin-skinned. Case in point: the widespread use and acceptance of the word brasshole.