In one way or another I’ve always been intuitively involved in it. Even as a child, as I can now see in retrospect. Getting my schoolmates to pronounce ‘weird’ German words, despite everything, and then being fascinated by the barriers that then arose. Finding ways to explain things.
This intuitive interest was fed and made conscious by working with Jan de Dreu in the Pulsar Academy. That’s where the penny dropped: of course that’s how it works, it makes sense, I knew it already emotionally and now I knew it consciously. It was an exhilarating period of learning about learning.
And now, a few years after finishing at the academy, I find myself back at my writing desk to write Play Yourself, a guide to developing your inner musicianship. That began this summer in France. I was giving a week-long music workshop there. Instead of starting to play straight away – business as usual – I threw the participants (and myself, I soon discovered) in at the deep end by first asking them the question “what do you want to learn this week”? That led to fantastic learning themes and of course the responsibility, for me and the participants too, to also do something about them.
And so began the interweaving of Jan de Dreu’s working method – ‘learning from life’, briefly put – with my own role as a teacher in the world of music. And there’s something inside me that drives me to do that well. Just as in many areas of education, there is also a patchwork of wealth and scarcity in music teaching, in which the learner is often overlooked. In our world learning is often seen from the perspective of the institution or the teacher. They have a lot to offer, and they really want to put it across. The learner is expected to take it all in, because he or she ‘can gain a lot from it’. But once he or she is admitted to the institution the learner is hardly asked anything more. Why do you want to learn? What exactly do you want to learn? How do you learn?
In this way we disregard the inner motivation that is the source and the motor of the learner’s learning. Have we, the teachers, forgotten that the learners came to us of their own accord? With a question, a need, a hunger to learn? The entity of the teacher-learner relationship is found in seeking out and maintaining that relationship. What does the learner want, and how can I help him or her with that? The learner can take an active, and thus a questioning, approach in this. But the learner can also be aware of his or her ability to develop. In my view, the ideal learner is not a follower but an initiator. Not well-behaved, but difficult if necessary. And the teacher can cherish this troublemaker, because that demands the ultimate of his or her teaching talent.
In this way both teacher and learner can develop themselves in the learning process, and this process can lead to enormous deepening. By writing Play Yourself I want to invite all learners to take themselves as the departure point. And to be troublemakers if necessary. That’s something we can build on.
Would you like to help me to publish Play Yourself? Then support the crowdfunding campaign on Voordekunst.nl. You’ll receive a copy of the book by way of thanks for your donation. The presentation of Play Yourself will be on 29 April in Teatro Munganga in Amsterdam.