At night, I often ponder deep philosophical topics or wax poetic (take your pick). Last night from 1am-2am, I thought about the definition of a professor and started to write. I immediately thought of the triangle or three intersecting circles of identity—how we view ourselves, how others view us and how society views us. However, as music professors are in fact providing expertise and a service, should their job be described as a service position? In the past, it certainly would have, as musicians were in the service of royalty etc. However, as it is one-on-one instruction, how are professors to be viewed, and how do they view themselves?

There is the cruel and untrue statement that those that can’t play, teach. However, to instruct at the university level, it means that one must have a sound knowledge of the viola repertoire (or the repertoire that one wishes to teach), and also be able to perform for faculty solo and chamber music concerts. In my opinion, to be a viola professor at the University level, it is one of the most privileged musical jobs that one can have, as one is teaching eager students who choose to be there. To teach younger students, it can be equally rewarding, as age does not determine talent or enthusiasm. However, to be a musical professor, the chief goal is and should be to help train and teach students all of the skills necessary to win and maintain a job. (…including teaching students about the necessity for punctuality at professional engagements, audition repertoire, CV writing, reference letters etc.)

A professor’s success is often deemed to be directly related to their student’s successes—often to the point that professors will establish alliances within the music world to possibly give their students an edge in competition. However, a lot of this depends upon the student’s motivation to practice, their mental, emotional and physical health, and the extra-curricular activities of these students.

Upon viewing the diagrams on facebook how famous great minds spend their time in the day and when they go to bed, it became clear to me that there were many differences in the personal habits of the so-called “great” minds. What does this mean? I believe it is saying that it is better for professors to provide support to their students in the ways that are needed at that moment, for if mental, emotional and physical health are jeopardized, then it doesn’t matter how much that student practices, because their whole bodily system could be thrown out of whack. How can a student be expected to succeed if they are not confident and happy with themselves? Therefore, if a professor’s identity is closely linked to their student’s success; to what point should a professor be willing to help a student?

Is a professor supposed to only help a student from a strict business-only policy (Good lesson—keep it up— yes, I’ll take that $100 now), does every University have their own policies, or is it largely up to the professor regarding how they wish to be treated/treat others/ be identified? As mentioned earlier, musicians used to live lives of servitude, and many of their work hours would have been spent in scheduled courtly performance or compositional duties—often meaning that there was fewer time for personal projects. Has the definition of a music professor changed from servitude to the point where professors are now free-agents (completely free schedules, to be organized from week to week), or should and are professors still considered a part of the service industry—viewed as being only valuable and desirable when providing a quantity that is necessary or popular?

Hmmm. Quantity vs. Quality. If one is popular, does it mean that one is doing an excellent job as a professor, or does it mean that one is no longer fully engaged in what one is doing, due to busy schedule and lack of time to keep track of each student?

The challenge in this scenario is to be able to market oneself, so that students will want to study with you, because of your high success rate, musicality and personality. However, have these high expectations and demands of professors and students alike created a stressful and unrealistic reality for musicians?

When the student-teacher, society (music world and public)-student or teacher-society relationships are out of balance, then  it is up to the professor and student alike to try to regulate the problem.

What if one party refuses to cooperate?
It is necessary to view and understand the motivation behind this refusal.

How about if the greater musical world refuses to allow a professor to make political gains despite the hard work of a professor, due to the political balance and power of other professors and musicians?
This is problematic, for if there is no just distribution of prizes to the most deserving students, then it becomes difficult for a balance to exist between professors in a city, much less in the larger viola-world, and the best students will possibly wish to study with the most powerful professor, as they know that by doing so, their chance of success will be higher.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that this professor is a better musician; it simply means that they are successful at establishing alliances. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the students of this professor are better, as talent is not dependent upon one’s teacher/professor. The job of every professor is to therefore nurture and help talent in each student to flourish with the method that is most suitable for each student. For, as I recently discovered, happiness can only be achieved with what one has, and one should not discard what they have without just cause, because our efforts and talents are a part of who we are.