A Lesson is a Happening

A lesson is a happening. Something so special happens that the student ends the lesson different from what he was  before.  – Sam Holland

This quote is a real “call to action,” isn’t it?

Yesterday, while administering this site, something awful  happened:  I hit the wrong button, and seemingly destroyed everything!  That “fatal error” message is never a good sign.  As I was driving to the school to teach my first student, I felt like the energy surrounding me was an almost visible dark cloud.  Soon, though, a thought invaded my self-pitying reverie:  “A lesson is a happening.  Something so special happens that the student ends the lesson different from what he was before.”  My responsibility to the students I would teach was a big one. Though I see many students, my students just see one piano teacher.  They deserve the best that I have to offer, at every lesson.


Sam  Holland said these words when he was visiting the New School for Music Study as part of our faculty enrichment program.  His words to us in our pedagogy forum about what makes a good lesson were incredibly valuable.  He asked, “What makes a good lesson?  Why do some teachers always seem to have good students?”

 What makes a good lesson?

According to Mr. Holland, these things do NOT make a good lesson:

– Method Book

– Lesson Plan

– Technology

– “Politically correct” learning style

We need to have a vision of our student as an accomplished learner.  Great performance begins with clear vision.  Teaching is just the same.  We have to have the same vision of our students.  Where do we get that vision?

– Understanding the learner

Student Description of “Bright Orange” by Starer

– Understanding the music

Marvin Blickenstaff Describes Schubert’s Music

– Mastery of the tools at our disposal.

Amy Glennon Introduces a New Piece

Teaching is a performing art.  We should feel some anticipation.


What makes a good teacher?

– Absolute command of the subject

– Vision of the student as an accomplished learner

– Passionate desire to communicate to the student

– Activity vs. inactivity

– Single tasks

– Repetition

I plan to use Sam Holland’s as a daily reminder, and to examine his ideas about what makes a good lesson, and a good teacher,with depth and self-evaluation.


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