Qualifications are tricky; I have a badge sewn to a pair of swimming shorts stating that I can swim 1km. The real question is, can I swim 1km today, some twenty-five years later? The answer would be a very loud “no”, with a close “don’t make me”, and a closer and louder still “Let’s avoid bodies of water for obvious safety reasons now I come to think of it”.
My wife, Samantha, is far more interested in swimming than I am. While on vacation, she will often find a pool and swim a few lengths, leaving me to bob on the surface in the shallows before we both retire to the spa for well-earned massages. You will be pleased to know, Samantha also has a badge stating that she also can swim 1km. Clearly, she would be still able to complete her 1km swim. As a wind player, her lung capacity is a necessity; unfortunately, my bobbing in the shallows suggests I most likely could not do similar.
The words to describe this are ‘reliability’ and ‘validity’. The more important of the two words, ‘reliability’, is referring to how consistent and repeatable a skill or action is. When Samantha and I arrived at the pool, we exhibited our ability to carry out the task, in this case, Samantha executed lengths without issue repeatedly and confidently while I bobbed on the surface. Obviously, this snapshot does not truly indicate my own ability to swim, however, this evidence should never be ignored.
The ‘validity’ of a qualification refers to its accurateness; generally speaking, this refers to the ‘what’ and the ‘when’. Both Samantha and I have a badge stating that we can swim 1km in the early nineties. If I chose not to exercise this skill since then, the further away time passes from that date, the less accurate this statement is; the fact Samantha kept this skill exercised since that date makes her qualification more valid than mine.
We must also consider swimmers who do not have any badges but have swum repeatedly every weekend of their life since their youth; they would not need a badge to state what any person can see by simply watching them swim. Obviously, we are not speaking about swimming, and this is all a sub-textual analogy to music, and music teaching qualifications. Qualifications do not always mean a teacher is qualified, particularly if they chose not to exercise their skill.
When approaching a new potential teacher, do your research on their background. Any respectable professional teacher would be happy to share their resume or CV showing their qualifications or experience. I am routinely asked by prospective clients and students to demonstrate for them; personally, and generally speaking, not a single lesson goes by without me touching the piano to demonstrate. Finally, be wary of any teacher who says: “I don’t practise because I do not need to any more”, these teachers falsely consider themselves the pinnacle embodiment of music performance and should be avoided; the simple truth is that we never stop learning.
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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