Professor George Taylor’s Inaugural Address

So..what is it that you are here to do? You are here to follow a passion, a calling, something in you that says, “This is what I want to do with my life.” When you realize fully that it is not the only thing that you can do with your life, you appreciate the choice that you have made. You are all capable of many other things, and you should acknowledge and appreciate that fact right away. But, you choose to be a violist, and more importantly, you choose to be a musician. Your job is to graduate from being a violist towards becoming a musician who plays the viola. I take that metamorphosis very seriously because it is in the act of becoming a musician and striving to be an artist that you become a better violist. It is not one or the other.
Now, of course that does not mean that it is all pie in the sky. Guess what? If you miss that run in Don Juan and someone else doesn’t, they get the job. There is a great deal of work and self-observation in front of you. But, it is all modeled, formed, and driven by our love for sound. We are all sonic creatures, and you are all creators. Truth is, the viola does not really give two shakes about you. If you put it in the case, go off and do something else, have a nice life,  and don’t come back for 10 years, It is still going to be in that case. Whatever it is that the viola means to you, you walk around with it every day. It is not some separate thing from you, it is something you live with every day. You put bow to string and you create worlds. There is a well known story where someone says “Mr. Heifitz, your violin sounds so beautiful,” and he walks over to his case and says, “Funny, I don’t hear anything.” It doesn’t sound unless you make it sound, and you get to build and choose the soundscape.
My job is to help to facilitate your dream. My job is to know what it takes for you to get a job and lead you towards getting a job but my job is not to help you get a job. So what is getting a job? What does being a musician mean? All of us have high aspirations, and that means lots of work. It’s been proven that doing anything well is one percent talent and ninety nine percent sweat. I don’t really like that analogy, I like things that are fun. It should be fun to practice scales. It should not be drudgery to play etudes. You should be using all of your faculties and hard work to enjoy what you do. Ok, some of it may be drudgery, but it will be mindful drudgery. Through it all, you will find your musical voice.
I’m very different from a lot of teachers. I don’t have a “method”, actually I teach and use many methods. Everyone here gets a different lesson. You’re different people, why should you get the same lesson? You hear and understand information differently. My first job with upperclassmen is to continue the vocabulary and the strategy that gives the most purpose and information to that student. For those of you who I do not know, we are going to dance. It is a wonderful dance. We will dance for a few weeks as I learn your vocabulary and you learn mine. I do not deal with teaching as a one-way street. I don’t give you information and expect you to say “yes sir” in dutiful and respectful acquiescence.   I like to engage you in dialogue. It is important to me that you become an active participant in your own training.
Remember at this point in your life, you’ve had more contact with your Kindergarten teacher than any of your string teachers. Think about it, you’ve spent hours a day every day with them-for a year!! You don’t get that many viola lessons. And you won’t get that many viola lessons in your lifetime,  so the goal of the lesson is to be effective. It has to be incredibly effective. It has to give you the information that sends you on the journey of exploration so that you may begin to think for yourself.

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