Early in my music teaching career, I recall working with a student, perhaps 10 or 11 years old. I’ll call her Mary. Mary was pleasant, easy to work with, and put practice effort in; however I never felt a strong teacher-pupil connection or that she embraced being a musician.
After a few years of lessons, Mary took the summer off. At the first class back, she told me she had been learning a new piece. Mary proceeded to play the melancholy ballad written by Randy Newman, “When She Loved Me,” from one of the Toy Story movies. I believe she had it memorized. As I listened, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Mary had connected deeply with the music and was playing it with more expression than anything I’d heard prior.
When the moment came to say something, I most likely offered positive feedback. I also felt tremendous pride for the beautiful music that Mary had created. But along with my sense of pride were voices cautioning against: “You should be humble.” “Being proud is selfish.” Expressing pride will swell that child’s head.” Inside my head, pride was not ok. Pride was negative and something to be avoided.
Along with my own feelings of pride, I felt with certainty that this was a moment when Mary should feel proud of herself! So I took a risk, something teachers often do, and expressed my pride towards Mary and encouraged her to feel proud of herself.
Now, many years later, I find it curious that when considering, “when have I encountered the Light through music,” that this is the scene that immediately returns to me. The Light began to teach me the positive side of pride from my experience with Mary, but as I continue exploring my relationship with pride, I’m left with these questions:
—When should we be proud of our family, our friends, ourselves?
—What might be blocking our ability to experience the positive emotions of pride?
— Aaron Pruitt