Once, while I was at Eastman School of Music, some Tibetan monks visited and chanted for us in room 120, a sterile room intended for recording: clean and dry.
Room 120 was illuminated that day and transformed as it resounded with strange and rich sounds, and each individual singer mysteriously broke boundaries—each singing more than a single note at a time; simultaneous chords from a single voice—and these individual sounds joined in a choir that was a unique celebration for a windy and cloudy day in Rochester.
Afterwards, a friend of mine who was a cellist went up to one of the monks and said, “I have trained myself to produce multiple harmonics while chanting...listen...” and sure enough he could actually move through overtones that sounded very close to Tibetan chanting. The monk listened carefully to him and then replied, “That’s pretty good, but tell me... what does it mean to you?”
Good teaching brings us back to what music means to us.
For me, teaching and learning have always seemed interconnected. Like many musicians I began to teach early in life—and for a long while only knew how to teach older students! But, as Roger Grenier writes, “Music doesn’t begin to cast its magic until the moment we hear the language of our own past speaking within it.” This language requires us to remain aware of patterns and surprises, of inspiration and the irrational twists through which music communicates. Teaching is invigorating, and teaching, learning, transmission and discovery so very connected in developing the total human being we strive to become; a confident, dynamic person capable of succeeding anywhere, perhaps even in Tibetan chanting.
Jeffrey Johnson, Director