The Ideal Music Student

Thursday February 4, 2021 by Jason Mohlenbrock

What makes the Ideal Music Student?  

I have no idea, but I know it wasn’t me.

I rarely practiced what I was supposed to.  I never could memorize the notes fast enough.  I rejected music theory almost completely.  I liked Enya and The Lion King way more than classical music.  I’d rather play around with different settings on my synthesizer than “put in the work.”  I was really good at coming up with new ideas, but could never finish a composition correctly.  I could improvise for hours, but I could never find the right scale to use with the chords in real time. 

My teachers could never describe what the ideal music student was, but I learned to know that I definitely wasn’t. 

I ended up playing in countless bands, finally embraced classical music and jazz, composed music that was premiered by a member of the Phoenix Symphony, and helped start my own music school.  I even hit the illusive 10,000 hours of practice required to be an expert in my field!  

So maybe I was an ideal music student afterall?  

Still not sure.

I still don’t know what makes an ideal music student; but I know full well that I never had the ideal lesson on the circle of 5ths, the ideal support to know why chords and scales work the way they do, the ideal freedom to fully experiment with sound, the ideal empowerment to know 2 hours of practice on my own project was valid, the ideal patience to embrace the fact that I learned slowly on purpose, the ideal trust to know that who I was actually mattered.  

I’m very grateful that a series of lucky breaks allowed me to continue to make music the primary focus of my life, but I am quite aware of the fact that I probably should have experienced a very different fate.

What does Music Education’s relentless search for the Ideal Music Student typically result in?

“I loved playing music as a kid, but…” over, and over, and over…