Leave the Nest

I can remember clearly when my teacher finally kicked me out of the nest. I say kicked, because it was not a gentle nudge, but rather a very direct throw into the world of music. I have had the privilege of studying with Judy Loman throughout my masters, and again during my doctorate. It was at the start of my doctorate when Ms. Loman informed me that it was time for me to work on preparing a piece on my own. Only once I had the piece at what I believed to be a performance level was I to bring it to her. I had mixed feelings following that conversation. Part of me felt really proud of myself that Ms. Loman thought I was ready to learn pieces all on my own. The other part of me felt abandoned and a little scared. I had no idea how I was to go about learning these pieces on my own. I had always learned the notes and rhythms on my own and then had musical discussions in my lessons on how best to interpret the music. But how was I supposed to do that by myself? Who was going to tell me when I was playing things wrong? It was not until I began the process of learning new music on my own did I realize that my former teachers had equipped me with many of the tools I needed without even knowing it. Like so many students, I had become comfortable in the lesson setting and was relying on my teacher to give me the answers.

 So how do you land on your feet when you leave your teacher’s nest? How do you become your own teacher? No one can replace your teacher, as she often ends up being your teacher and mentor forever, offering guidance in a pick-up lesson, or over e-mail or phone long after regular lessons become a thing of the past. Taking those first steps in learning and exploring on your own can be challenging. Whether you are recently out of school or a seasoned veteran, a professional musician or an amateur, it can be overwhelming starting a new piece of music. With the help of some of the best teachers and young professionals in the harp world, we’ve come up with a list of steps you can use when learning new music.

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About Author

Angela Schwarzkopf is a professional freelance harpist and teacher in the greater Toronto area. President of the Toronto Chapter of the American Harp Society, Angela is the first harpist to pursue a Doctorate of Music in Harp Performance in Canada. Angela is a course instructor at the University of Toronto, and a regular adjudicator at the Glenn Gould School of Music. This season Angela can be seen performing with Orchestra London, the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, the Kingston Symphony, and the Talisker Players, among other orchestras and ensembles. In her spare time Angela enjoys writing for Harp Column.

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