I messed up in front of a student and they laughed at me! *GASP*

The giggles of my young violin student figuring out that I had totally botched up an easy passage…they echo in my ears, keep me up at night… Surely they will tell their parents that I am not worth the cost of tuition. I will be publicly shamed, my ASTA membership revoked and Itzhak Perlman will deftly snap my bow in half with a passing look a disgust. I will be ruined!!!

What is with this whole deal of teachers thinking they have to be inhuman musical machines?

I never saw some of my teachers mess up. Consequently, I thought that if I messed up then I wasn’t as good as they were. I thought that I would have confidence when I reached the point where I too would never mess up.


Never Happens.


Sure, I got over the fear of messing up – however, I don’t prepare purely with the purpose to minimize mistakes. I prepare to maximize the experience of the performance. The mistakes then disappear or simply don’t matter.

I want all of my students to see me mess up. After all, I am asking them to take risks and mess up in front of me.

“Now Daniel, I don’t want to lose credibility (after all I AM THE TEACHER) – I want to inspire my students to set high expectations.”

OK, I see you, waiving your flag of insecurity.

My musical friend,(assuming you have reasonably advanced students) consider this:

  1. You are not practicing their pieces
  2. You are not planning on performing their pieces
  3. Everyone “messes up”

First off, can we really call it “Messing up” when not getting it perfect is part of the journey 100% of everyone faces? Time and time again I see budding musicians deliver a solid performance, only to walk off stage/leave the audition room saying “Did you hear me mess up? That was terrible”…etc. Of course we all want to give the best performance of our life every single time we play, but can we settle for 99% jaw dropping, passionate musical connection between us and the audience? Rather than 100% accurate notes played safely and out of fear and shame?

I believe we should teach the same way. Encourage (by example) our students to attempt without shame, without fearing the occasional slip up. Why constantly feel like an excuse is needed after every missed shift or accidental?

Have you heard of Tony Hawk?

One of the greatest skateboarders of all time. Tony could have made a video where he talks about how great he still is and clipped the video to look like its one take – followed by high fives and champagne – But he didn’t. Instead, he fell again and again. He showed us that grit and tenacity (long after he put in the time and effort) is always needed for greatness.

So go my friends – screw up in front of people! Especially those people that look up to you.


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