About The Method Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset

Learning Life Lessons Through Music Lessons

This past week my 13 year old son performed in the NYC Opera Renaissance production of Tosca.  We luckily got to see it before the blizzard (Snowmaggedon 2016) hit on the weekend and the show was lovely.  For my son, I think it is one of those experiences in which he was irrevocably changed.  It was a life changing experience, one in which you can never be the person you were before it.   It was like walking through a door that closed behind you to the life you had before.

Life’s Doors

Novelists and screenwriters know this concept well as this is what has to happen in a successful story.  Their character needs to move through some life-changing turning points, a door that closes behind them.  But, we can do this for ourselves.  We can be the heroes in our own story that is still unfolding before us.  We can choose the red pill or the blue pill as Neo had to in the Matrix or “Follow the yellow brick road.”

What Are Your Turning Points?

Think back on your life.   Go way back to your childhood – maybe 6 or 8 years old.  Now spend some time and write down every turning point going forward.  They could be singular events or an experience of a person you met that changed you over a period of time.  Maybe a recital performance?  Or a track meet?  Or maybe you had a speech or lecture?  Or perhaps it was a first job, or a firing from a job.  I’ve had a bunch of these.  Or it could be a physical move to a new geographic location.

Positive or Negative

How many turning points have you experienced?   Was each of these points positive or negative?  If they feel neutral, that would mean they are not changing you in a significant way.

What is your Life Purpose?

By becoming aware of your own life story, you can begin to see your own greater meaning.  They say that hindsight is 20/20, but only if you examine it and find the links in your story.  What has your life been leading up to?  What is your life purpose?

In looking back at my life, I have had at least 25 turning point moments.  Most adults will have at least a dozen if not more.  And I didn’t always know these were turning points at the time.

There was the birth of my son.  To think I was terrified of being a parent and yet it has forever changed my life.   There were the numerous times I was fired from jobs.  (Finally a wakeup call that I really needed to honor my entrepreneurial side.) There was the time when I made it to a 3rd callback for Miss Saigon on Broadway.  Or the year I wrote down the craziest outrageous goals and they all came true!   And so many more…

The Past Can Hurt

And then there were the difficult times like my mother’s passing from cancer and the times I hurt others with my words or burnt relationships out of ignorance, arrogance, and vanity.  Or the years I crawled back inside myself and tried to hide from the world.  Some of these doors closing made me more aware of my conduct, words, and attitude; and thus can be seen as positive in the end.  But they still hurt.

One of my favorite moments in the film, the Lion King illustrates this perfectly.  Here’s a short video clip.

Guiding Students Through Turning Points

In our jobs as music teachers we play a larger role which may not always be recognized by the student or even ourselves.  That role is a mentor/coach who can help our students become more aware, more conscious.  Music begins by listening to external sounds, but leads to listening internally to thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Every day, as I teach my students, I keep an eye out for “conscious moments,” moments where I can connect the dots between learning music and learning life.  Not every lesson can be a turning point, nor is every recital.  But as you probably know, there are things you heard your teacher say, or something they did, that has indelibly made a mark on your own life.

I remember in preparing for a recital years ago, I taught a young student to visualize themselves playing her piece perfectly and really making note of the feeling in her body, the sounds in the room, the feeling of the lighting on her shoulders, the squeak of the chair, the temperature…everything.  She really took this to heart and years later, she still mentions how powerful this was and how she uses it in school.

Advice To My Younger Self

There’s a popular question interviewers love to ask:

“What advice would you give your younger self?”

I think I would tell my 20 year old self to start asking:

  • “Am I experiencing a turning point in any of the activities I’m doing right now?”
  • “Is there a shift in mindset that I can help transmit to my colleagues, clients, and loved ones?”
  • “What am I most grateful for?”
  • “What am I looking to do with my life?”
  • Ask these of yourself every day and reflect deeply on what comes back

Consciousness is the start of growth. 

Your music lesson may be the spark that leads to a blazing fire of passion, curiosity, and growth in your student…and mankind.

I welcome your comments and feedback below.

Musical Quotes

Einstein and Music

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” – Albert Einstein.


Smart guy plays music, maybe we should listen and do the same?



Musical Quotes

Education is life itself


Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself ⁠— John Dewey

About The Method Lesson Plan Ideas Mindset

A Growth Mindset for Music Teachers

As teachers, I’m certain we are all believers of the “growth mindset” – meaning we believe people can change. But, do we truly live this by example?

The results in your life – good or bad – are the direct results of your thoughts and actions.

As we all tend to get a bit more reflective on our lives at the end of the year and start planning our goals, here are some beliefs that I want to fully embrace.

1) Negative emotions are change signals.

When you are feeling negative emotions, it’s like a warning light on your mental dashboard for a change. Something needs to change, whether it’s an action you are taking (or not), the environment you are in and the people you are surrounding yourself with.

2) The fog of confusion precedes the calm of clarity.

There is always a period of confusion right before the epiphany, “the a-ha moment.” If you are feeling confused, stop, take a breath, meditate, get calm enough to see the ripples on the surface of your mental waters, and reflect.

The clouds of confusion are burned away by the sun of awareness. A path forward is revealed.

3) You are responsible for ALL your results.

I remember when I first heard this and it was a feeling of shock.

“What do you mean I’m completely responsible for everything?” I was so used to blaming the world for my problems. And of course, the more you indulge in this kind of personal un-accountability, the more “proof” you get.

The traffic cop pulls only “you” over when everyone else is going at the same speed. Or the TSA official picks only you out for a random strip search. Of course the world is against you! Changing your mindset is akin to magic. By taking personal responsibility for your entire life, your health, your finances, your living environment, everything…it radically changes your world. And at first, it’s scary.

Start in one area. Pick a specific activity where you absolutely believe that you are responsible for your results like a sport, or a musical instrument or a language. By holding yourself accountable for your results, you begin to live in this belief. From there, you can expand to all other areas of your life.

4) Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.

I used to have a lot of anger and frustration. Taking on and conditioning myself with this belief has been a struggle, but produces fruit everyday. It really is unlikely that the world is conspiring against you. In fact, everyone is too caught up in their own problems, insecurities, and limiting beliefs. Hold your judgment and realize, they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have available at the moment.

5) There is no permanence. Success or failure are a temporary state.

If you look around you, there’s the illusion of permanence everywhere. The furniture in the room. The buildings, the mountains, the lakes, and the trees. But look deeper and you see that all is temporary. A snapshot in time. Apple is the biggest company on the planet…at the moment. But remember US Steel, one of the largest employers in the world in the 1950’s? Today they are a mere shell of what they once were. Or what about Pan American Airlines? These were seen as bedrock, unstoppable successes, for a while. Nothing is permanent. We are all in a state of motion.

Even the most solid of materials, at the quantum level, are in motion.

If we are not growing, we are dying. Keep moving, evolving, reaching for higher and higher levels. It’s the only way to stay in a state of success. Don’t be misled that it’s all sunny days from now on. There will be failures (or you can call them learnings) along the way. But as long as you are aware of the learnings, incorporate them, and move on, you will be in a more consistent state of success.

6) “My Actions Are The Ground I Stand On.”

I borrowed this quote from the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Without action, it’s all just daydreaming. And the most amazing thing is that you don’t have to know all the steps, just the next one or two. From there, you arrive at a higher place where you can see new things and new opportunities arise. New people come into your life. And the next two or three steps are revealed and so on and so on.