The end of this academic year

So, I have decided to write from hereon some “journal-style” entries on this blog. After much of my activity on this site has become about cooking and food (which I will continue to blog about,) I thought a bit of variety wouldn’t hurt. After all, this blog is called This and That. And so I will write about whatever, whenever under the hashtag #this and that. This won’t be a regular thing and by no means a journal/diary. Just random thoughts and musings…

Here in Japan, the academic year begins in April and ends in March. Right now, it’s almost spring break for me. I teach at 2 schools, one university and one college,  and their schedules don’t exactly overlap. So I always end up having a very short spring break before the new school year begins. This year I will manage to get away for a short vacation at the end of this months and I will report on that in a future post.

Though I can’t say that this past academic year has been dramatically different from previous ones, I do have to admit that I’m more mentally exhausted than in previous years. There are only a few events left to attend and most of the preparations for next year are completed. I suppose the period between January and the end of the school year is always a busy one, especially when there are performances scheduled during this time. It’s funny because neither the actual performing nor the actual teaching is what gets to me. I love doing both equally. It’s the stuff around teaching and performing that need to be dealt with in order for both to function and succeed that can make me feel depleted at times.

For the performance part, it’s always difficult when there’s only a very limited time to prepare, as was the case earlier this year. I guess I need to improve on that aspect: reading, learning and making it my own quickly, though I’m not a fan or a believer of  “faster is better,” as I do value quality above everything else. I also believe that it takes time and space to really delve into learning new pieces. Analysis for the sake of analyzing isn’t my style, nor do I think it is fruitful. I usually take time analyzing while practicing, let things come to me, open up and making me see new aspects and hear things more acutely. After understanding a piece comes the part of making it ones own to be able to transmit, relay, evoke feelings. All that takes a lot of repetition, digestion and even some detours. Hence, it takes time. I guess I’ve never been one of those pianists who can suck in a new piece in record time and regurgitate them with flair and aplomb on stage a few weeks later. In any case, I’ll admit that having to cram for a performance ain’t my thing…But at least the performance itself turned out okay so the outcome was positive.

As for the teaching part, giving lessons and teaching classes still gives me immense joy. This was, is and will remain effortless. I guess this year in particular, several students are either graduating and/or beginning to take on a new direction. Every student has different goals, intentions, dreams and ambitions and advising them on their paths forward is one of the big responsibilities for a teacher. The weight of said responsibility can be heavy at times, though I never shy I away from it. In fact, it’s part of my job that I cherish very much. But it’s not always easy to lead without pulling.  After all, it’s about the path of each individual student, their career, their life, their choices and all I can really do is to try to point to a direction that seems responsible, realistic and doable. Sometimes I feel more like a pseudo “life-counselor” than a piano instructor. Sometimes, student’s attitudes can be exasperating and/or perplexing. But one has to deal with each instance and hope that with some advice, they can ride those little hiccups out. Sometimes it’s even better to leave them be and be quiet. Even though all this and more sometimes leaves me emotionally drained, I value this work and hope to be able to continue making a small impact and imprint on the journeys my students take. I do care, sometimes too much so.

In all, it’s been a busy academic year. Whatever the degree of stress this job brings with it, I still firmly believe that giving to my students is payback for what they give me: the experience to get to know and work with them individually, each with their own set of talent, ability and enthusiasm, the opportunity to pass on my own experiences and knowledge, as well as witnessing their development in this field and their lives, hopefully for the better.