Reflections on the Nature of Teaching (Knowledge, Sharing, Education, Learning)

Sandbox Percussion Outreach Activities

I’ve always loved learning things. Whether it’s through YouTube rabbit holes, Wikipedia tangent links, stimulating conversation, or good-old-fashioned school, I’ve always derived satisfaction from understanding something. I think this is also what attracted me to percussion. This artform of striking, scraping, or shaking things is utterly open-ended. I can learn a new instrument every day for the rest of my life and never be done with it. There’s also a demand for repertoire which means I can constantly be learning new music, not to mention the millennia of percussion history to draw from. You would think this is enough learning for one person.

Even after twenty wonderful years of actively learning in school, I don’t think I’ve ever learned more than through sharing what I’ve learned with others. I suppose you could call that “teaching”, but that word feels unidirectional, and my favorite part about this process is that I am also changed by it. If you communicate an idea adequately to someone else, you must first have complete command of that idea. Sometimes this means thinking a little harder about it, or double-checking that this is really what you uphold. Sharing an idea also requires that you experience it again as if it’s the first time. You need to take that idea back to its first principles, and see where and how it lands with the other person/people. During this process you learn about who you’re communicating with, and gain a different perspective on your own knowledge. It’s like adding a dimension to your understanding of something, and my reality would be shallow without it.

This is why the essence of Sandbox’s mission is to share music with others. As you can see in the video above, we perform and give masterclasses for all ages and levels of expertise; we also commission composers and collaborate with other artists and art-forms. We record audio and video of our work to archive, study, and share. But whether we are performing, educating, collaborating, or recording, the first principal is the same. There’s always an exchange of information by which all parties are made better, and that’s what I find beautiful.

In one of my most recent YouTube rabbit holes, I learned that many physicists regard information as the most basic unit of the cosmos. I don’t think I completely understood those videos, but I’m starting to understand information’s reflexive nature. Giving and getting are interchangable, and that’s a lesson I’m happy to learn over and over again.