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Music Education: What is your Definition?

It is 6.45pm on a Monday evening and I just ended a class with my student. Suddenly, my phone buzzed: It is a Whatsapp message from a parent.

A’s Mum: "Hi Teacher Marilyn. The result of the piano competition is coming out. I forwarded the email to you."

Excitedly, I quickly opened my e-mail inbox and read the forwarded email. In it, the organizers informed me (or rather my student) that he was not selected for the piano competition’s Regional Finals. A lot of thoughts went through my mind, but the first thing that came up was this:

"I need to call my student and check on his psychological well-being. "

And so, I called.

The mummy and I had a quick chat over the phone.

Honestly, I was slightly disappointed that he did not get through again - the first time he entered a competition of this pedigree was last year. The amount of effort and time we have put in for this competition was immense.

Yet, in the conversation, A's mum touched my heart by saying:

"'A' has been with you for close to 2 years. In these years, I have seen such a huge progress in him. From the first time he was struggling to now, playing one of Mozart's Sonata pieces in second movement. If he continues to keep his interest, all else doesn’t matter anymore. Competition or not, this is just a phase of his life, and we are just very happy that he has gotten this far...

“Thank you, Teacher Marilyn, for everything. For instilling a lifelong passion and interest for music in my son.”

This statement automatically struck a chord and brought me back to the first day when I started out as a music teacher – greenhorn and extremely raw in my teaching. Back then, the 18-year-old me had started asking,

“What is music education to me?

Are chasing after grades and papers part of music education?

Or learning all the pieces that composers wrote?

Or perhaps music education is the joy of music making?”