Parable of the two young music students

Once there was a great music teacher who only took a few of the most gifted and promising students. One of his students was a very disciplined young man, hard-working and eager to please. He had not at first wanted to play, but he realized it was something that pleased his mother, and because he desired to please her, he worked at his studies very hard. Every morning he would wake before dawn, practice his scales and finger exercises, and slowly perfect certain passages in the grand classic he happened to be working on. All marveled at his dedication and devotion. In the evening, when others of his peers played outside, he again pulled out his metronome and worked at perfecting the most difficult passages.

The great teacher recognized his discipline and talent. There was technicality and even a clean perfection to his playing that was rare.

The great teacher had another student who was also quite gifted. Although his parents balked at the trouble and time and expense of bringing their son to the lessons, he begged them and insisted against their wishes that he be allowed to take lessons. He too woke up, and from an instinctive and raw appetite he played every chance he could get. He imitated songs he liked from movies and recordings from all styles, and was constantly making up songs and trying his hand at everything he heard. In fact, often his parents would argue with him to stop playing so much because his obsession was intrusive and bothersome. His obsession was anything but discipline, because he would often ignore his other chores and duties, even his personal hygiene, in his insatiable need to constantly play.

In the lessons, the teacher had trouble getting this other student to discipline himself to practice the finer points of playing more difficult passages. However the music teacher was gracious enough to realize that a different approach must be taken to lead this student to greatness. In fact, although in certain ways this student’s playing was undisciplined and even a bit sloppy, there was a joy and life to his playing which hinted of true greatness. There was a truth and presence and ease to his playing, a natural musicianship that was indefinable.

The disciplined student went on to a prestigious music academy, where he played Mozart and Bach at music juries where teachers scribbled criticisms as he played. He did indeed receive the highest grades. Occasionally he played at recitals, and eventually he became a piano teacher and a professor of music at the academy. The other student travelled around the country, playing small concerts at bars and outdoor festivals.

Often what looks like success is only a prison made of fear of the opinions of others. True love counts the opinions of others as nothing, and though imperfect and humble of appearance, is impelled by real desire.

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