Before starting the United Conservatory of Music, I took a trip to Vancouver to visit a friend of mine. He’d worked at a number of different music schools over the years and arranged for me to speak with the director of the school where he was teaching at the time. This ended up being extremely valuable for UCM’s success.
I paid close attention to everything they were doing at the school. I remember seeing a lot of the good stuff and trying to learn from it. When the director and I spoke, I told him I was just starting out, and he wished me luck. He knew how difficult my path would be. As did I, which is why I asked him a lot of questions. I wanted to do right by the staff, teachers, and students who might one day come to UCM.
There are only two ways to learn something: Make mistakes or listen to other people’s experiences. The latter is usually a lot less painful, but to hear those experiences, we need to be willing to ask for help. Unfortunately, a lot of people are afraid. There’s a perception that asking for help and admitting what we don’t know makes us look ignorant and causes others to lose respect for us. But I think it’s more admirable to be willing to learn something than to be stubborn and try to do it all on your own.
When I was young and first started playing the violin, I didn’t often connect with my teachers. As a result, instead of asking for help, I would stubbornly try to do things on my own. I developed a lot of bad habits that ultimately held me back as a musician. It can take years to break bad habits in music. In the long run, it’s much better to take the time to build a strong foundation. When I start out on any new project, I try to learn from other people’s experiences as much as I can. The way you begin any project is extremely important.
At UCM, we try to give our students every avenue needed to ask for help. Our first priority is matching students with teachers they connect with. I know from personal experience how challenging it is to ask for help when you don’t click with your music teachers. Additionally, if students have to miss a lesson, free group make-up lessons are part of the membership plan. This option is incredibly beneficial during the summer months, as families leave town for their vacations.
Some people are really good at learning from scratch. Others, like myself, look at a project and realize they have no idea where to start. That’s when you benefit from asking for help. However our students need help, we strive to provide options for granting that help and building the strong foundation they need to thrive.