Teaching classroom guitar is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I get to share my musical-self’s greatest passion with a whole bunch of people at the same time. It’s a curse for the same reason.
This year I have 25 in my high school Guitar I class, and as is usual, I have some who are so eager to learn they are falling all over themselves; some who hoped the class would be taught by a begrudging (and ill-equipped) band/choir/orchestra director who didn’t care what they did with their 50 minutes of guitar every day; some who imagined it would be easy and who have already given up because it isn’t.
I make it my practice to hold Fridays as “forum” days during which students can bring in songs they are interested in learning and use class time, their peers, or their teacher to work on what has captured their ears and their imaginations.
The two most ambitious young men in my class have found each other and use their “Forum Fridays” to share what they are working on, and to teach those songs to each other. Yesterday they had their heads together over the tabs that would capture their ambition for the period.
I watched, glowing with that teacherly pride when something you’d dreamed up does what you’d hoped it would, and then was astonished to hear a familiar pattern, played haltingly and cautiously, barely discernible; a broken chord, ascending, a major triad to the major seven. A broken chord, descending, from the 6 and down through the same major triad…
They were making strange faces, shaking their heads in confusion. “This doesn’t sound like Sandman.”
Hoping they had acquired the means to learn “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, they had, in fact, downloaded the guitar music for “Mr. Sandman.” BIG difference. Let’s have a listen.
What happened next could only be described as the power of the Muse.
Their delight was deep for the rest of the period. They seemed not a bit disappointed, and dove right in to conquer the jazzy changes and the familiar arpeggios of “Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…” Captivated is what they were, and for very different reasons they had first been captivated by the idea of learning “Enter Sandman.” I don’t know who was more surprised by how much they liked Mr. Sandman; them, or me.
That was yesterday’s happy accident, a Sandman serendipity. It made me smile inside then, and the smile continues now; a pretty little stone plopped into the middle of of the pond of my teacher soul, and I am grateful for the very surprising expanding rings of joy joy joy joy down in my heart.