My friend Brad Broomfield is a brilliant percussionist I met while in college. He currently lives and works in Philly for an organization, called Play on, Philly!, that is a music education program that promotes social progress through musical collaboration. He just recently wrapped up a trip to South America where he studied the traditions and music in order to bring new lessons to his students. All around cool dude and one of the funniest people I’ve had the privilege of knowing, I think these thoughts he shared are a great concept for education.
Why I Teach Music For Free
February 13, 2013 at 1:41pm
*Public Service Announcement*
Just off top: This is not a call for nor am I looking for students. This is just my belief on how I plan to help preserve the knowledge I’ve gained and am continually gaining in my studies and how I plan to help others who seek and thirst for this knowledge as I do.
I’ve been doing it “unknowingly” ever since I left Louisiana, but It has been a New Year’s resolution of mine to notice it and embrace the reason why I teach music for free and Ash Wednesday seems like a good day to put it out to the masses right in time for lent as people are giving up something they should potentiall give up forever, so… I DO NOT charge for private music lessons. Wont do it. If you contact me because I have some knowledge or skill you are interested in acquiring or learning I am MORE then happy to share it with you FOR FREE. I will show you how to to do anything I’ve learned that you’re interested in on any instrument I know. Of course, many people really want to give some amount of money. So be it. But I am not asking for any.
Why don’t I charge? - I love music. I love the process of learning and experiencing music. I love storytelling. Nothing beats a great storyteller! I love the idea of sitting down and passing along knowledge, formally or informally. To me, all of my music knowledge is tradition.Folklore. Personally, I do not believe in charging for that knowledge. Knowledge that is learned through experience. The teacher should want to give it away and the student should want to acquire it. As long as those pieces are there I am happy. To me, it is simply an honor that someone else even WANTS the information. So sitting down and exchanging knowledge and understanding is a gorgeous thing. It’s how it survives! Furthermore, think of everyone who is denied knowledge because they don’t have funds. Or better yet, think about how information is free on the internet and youtube anyways! Might as well make it free and add the element of a personal relationship instead of a computer screen.
On the darker side: It is a horrible feeling to be passionate about something and then have money hinder that passion from growing. Or hinder your access to further understanding. Many of us have experienced this. Yes, money hindering things is a reality… but this is me changing it on my block. I’m taking away the element of people paying for my information. All you have to do is want it. It can be SO hard to acquire knowledge because people hoard it. For whatever reason, they don’t want you to learn it. Worse yet is when the information of the hoarder is not even used! What are they going to do sitting on all that knowledge? Music/art is the culture of society. Share it. Talent and knowledge are powerful, so everyone is afraid to give/share it for free because the next person could do more with it or make a bigger buck… SO? I’d be ecstatic if someone that worked with me ended up changing the game! DO IT!
Now, there is a catch, but it’s simple - my availability. I am happy to show anyone anything I know so long as you can fit into my schedule. This could be a couple of days or a couple of months from your interest date. However, if you need me to fit into your schedule (say, you have an audition and you need a lesson asap) then a fee only makes sense in my mind because I’m altering my schedule for you. It becomes a service. Or, if you intend to have weekly lessons at the same time every week. In that case you’re paying for me to make sure I am consistently available for you. BUT, it is very well possible that I may just have some open time EVERY week and you could still drum with me weekly FOR FREE. So long as you can see me when I have the time.
I completely respect and understand that charging for lessons is the way many freelance musicians make a full-time living. I am fortunate (as it relates to my decision) that it is not how I make my full-time living at this point in my life. I am not looking for more students or looking to steal others’ students, either. I am simply commenting on the idea that I will teach informal lessons for free, forever, because I have struggled at times to acquire information, due to finances, that in parts of the world is handed down and/or experienced without charge. Information that I want to preserve and spread, genuinely. I’m not looking for a handout from teachers; I’m only saying I don’t wish upon others a similar struggle in helping me preserve what I already know. Also, many of my most significant learning experiences came from friends and family who had knowledge and sharing it was simply part of the friendship. That’s what college was all about! That’s what youth is all about! There was no business attached to this sharing. We didn’t use our knowledge for gain. We were just so happy that we knew something and someone else wanted to know, too! But then we “grew up,” right? Hm…
I am constantly inspired by people of all ages who continue to share their knowledge, unconditionally. I’m not saying it’s any more right. I’m just inspired by it. Yes, their students are getting something for “free,” but you can’t deny there must be a level of “freedom” on their end too. Why is it something they feel the need to do? Or, says the entrepreneur, “how CAN they do it?”
I have spent good money acquiring knowledge and skills. And I have no regrets. But I want to make it easier for others after me. I don’t pretend to know everything, but I’ll share everything I do know and I’m continually learning without fee if YOU have the time. It could be one lesson. It could be twenty one lessons. Your availability on my time also indicates a level of interest. How bad do you want to acquire the information you seek? Are you willing to alter your schedule to sit down and learn what it is you love? This isn’t “save the world” talk though. Yes, I’ll teach people for free, so that is an obstacle that is relieved. I can give you information, but I can’t give you skills. It goes without saying that practicing is still the common denominator. Whether you’re paying for lessons or not this element never goes away. Studying with someone does not make you a great player - YOU do!
To be clear, I still pay for private music lessons. I can afford it, it is worth it for me, and it’s knowledge that I want. But not all of my teachers charge. It’s a choice, and I respect either. One way is obviously more convenient for the student, but I love my teachers equally and if they have a fee then I respect that. I’m merely stating how I plan to pass on my acquired knowledge and why.
I’ll close by telling a short story on what rekindled this in me. I have been struggling to learn a folkloric music tradition here in Philly based on resources and finances. A few weeks ago I ran into an extremely talented young, professional percussionist who is currently immersed in it. He invited me to his house to just jam and talk about the music. Afterwards he sat me down and gave me ALL of the resources he had been acquiring. Years worth! He then invited me to come over any time to work on anything… he said his door was always open. He didn’t need anything from me. He was simply happy I wanted to learn it all. Unconditional sharing. No ego. No selfconsciousness. No personal gain. His love for the music allowed him to feel completely open and comfortable to share it all without any catch. THAT is freedom. That is love. It reminded me of what I truly believed, but was losing sight of while “playing the game.” And so shined a good dead in a weary, weary world.
Bottom line: Not everyone can teach lessons for free. For many good reasons, I’m sure. I CAN teach for free, so I will. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Doing as much as we can and what we believe.
It is my hope that you have the opportunity to learn whatever it is you desire to and that it is fulfilling and enriching and that you are inspired to give it back, enthusiastically, some day!