Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Keeping Up the Enthusiasm

By Ralph Fisher Smith

What valuation do you put upon enthusiasm in your endeavors? Do you realize when Emerson said "nothing is ever achieved without enthusiasm" he told one of the greatest truths a preceptor can learn. Enthusiasm has almost wholly to do with the imagination. The original meaning of the word implied being possessed of a Godlike feeling that the impossible is attainable. It is a synonym for inspiration. It is one of the few things which an instructor can communicate to the pupil. If an instructor's enthusiasm burns brightly he or she may ignite a pupil's musical soul and foster a fire which may illuminate the whole world.

What makes the study of music in all its forms a drudgery to some? The failure of the preceptor or presenter in creating the right enthusiasm. This demands something more than mere high spirits and a glib tongue. It calls for inventive skill in devising ways to kindle the pupil or listener's interest into the flame of enthusiasm. For instance, in playing for an individual, the presenter should play with the same spirit he or she would employ at Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert Hall before an audience of thousands.

Anything which will emphasize the "human" side of music will add to the listener's interest. The preceptor should employ pictures, biographical notes, historical anecdotes, in fact everything known about the composer which will make him stand in the listener's mind as a real man or woman, and not as some ink and paper effigy of a past long isolated from the living present. Even in teaching technical exercises an instructor must take great pains not to extinguish the sacred flame of enthusiasm by burying it under a needless mass of uninteresting digital contortions. Better by far take a few exercises at a time than attempt to give a whole long technical tome at once.

The greatest need for enthusiasm is at the start when the pupil or listener must traverse a somewhat dreary road through music theory and elementary technique. Once possessed of the ability which leads to the land of beautiful pieces, the pupil or listener will commence to develop a fire of enthusiasm which will light the way like a beacon.

An odd case is that of a man like me. One doesn't lead a natural life at all; yet to make it semi-natural, it would have to be much more artificial; somewhat as my artwork itself, which also finds no parallel in Nature or Experience, yet receives its new, its higher life precisely through the most consummate application of Art.

- Wagner

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