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Brianna Brown - 3B - Centennial High School

March 24, 2017


Topic: Musical Performance/Education
Event Evaluated: Book recommended by Dr. Holt

Mentor Assignment #2
I dwell in Possibility-
A fairer House than Prose-
More numerous of Windows-
Superior-for Doors-

Of Chambers as the Cedars-


Impregnable of Eyes-
And for an Everlasting Roof-
The Gambrels of the Sky-

Of Visitors-the fairest-
For Occupation-This-
The spreading wide my narrow Hands-
To gather Paradise-

This is the poem that opens the book The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander
and Benjamin Zander. A couple of days ago I had gone to my mentor, Dr. Holt, and asked if she
could recommend any books about music or written by professional musicians. She immediately
pulled me over to the back of the classroom and handed me this book, where she informed me
that this would be good for me since it was written by her professor at New England
Conservatory. The book covers philosophical topics in teaching, performing, and life. I have only
read about one-fourth of the book so far, yet those few chapters have already changed my
outlook on many aspects of the world.
The first chapter is titled Its All Invented, and talks about how we often construct
boundaries around ourselves. Take for example the famous nine dot puzzle where the goal is to
connect all nine dots with only four straight lines without lifting the pencil from the paper. Below
is the puzzle unsolved:
At first the puzzle seems impossible to solve. No matter where one starts, there seems to be one
or two always left behind, but why is that? The answer lies within the false boundaries many
subconsciously create when first looking at the puzzle. Notice how the puzzle is called the Nine
dot puzzle, not the Nine dot square puzzle. Mant simply assume that the outer dots represent
the boundaries of the puzzle, but where in the name or rules suggests that? This puzzle is
symbolic of how we often construct these abstract walls around ourselves that ultimately impair
us in our endeavours. Once we recognize these walls, the goal is usually to get around them.
Instead, we should strive to ultimately break them down. To achieve this, one must look at their
situation from different angles and think of the different outcomes of each. When we finally
break down our barriers, the puzzle becomes simple to solve,

And We now move on...which entails inviting a new universe to live in, a universe of
possibility.As a teacher, I would like to pass this philosophy onto my students in order to open
their minds to more than just practice and success. As a performer, I will strive to make this
philosophy a part of my daily routine. Instead of falling into the routine of playing the music
how it is, I will take risks each time a perform and will encourage my students to do the same. It
is important that musicians take these liberties, because it is that sense of wonder and creativity
that pushes them to fully express themselves, possibly even leading to new music or techniques.
Another practice mentioned in the book was titled Giving an A. The chapter explains
how we often use these arbitrary letters and numbers to grade others to our own standards.
Instead of looking at the individual on their own level, we compare and rank them to both others
and ourselves. This can often put people down, dismissing their thoughts and ideas because they
have been deemed inferior to another. In his classroom, Zander implemented this practice. He
began to notice that students who were not receiving the grade they had anticipated slowly began
to give up. After all, what was the point of trying anymore if they clearly werent as good as
one of their other peers? One day, he came to class and announced that everyone was going to
receive an A in his class, but in order to earn this, they must write him a letter starting with Dear
Mr. Zander, I deserve this A because...and explain why they deserved the grade. The students
had to write the letter as if it were the end of the year and they were reflecting back on their
accomplishments. Phrases such as I will, I hope to, and I plan were strictly prohibited.
This was so that the students were forced to make commitments to improve how they saw fit.
Many students wrote letters about how they deserved the grade because they were no longer
scared to try, or how they deserved it because they became a new person, finally realizing how
important they truly were and how they now had the motivation to accomplish so much more.
The practice of Giving an A may seem like simply handing out a reward for nothing, but in
reality, its a wake up call to many. It shows them that the grade no longer matters, what matters
is how they perceive their growth and accomplishments to themselves truthfully. It gives students
the confidence to take those necessary risks and to make those mistakes that forces them to
rethink certain aspects. The practice of Giving an A does not reward those for no efforts, it
rewards them for their future efforts that they can only realize once they break down their
arbitrary barrier of failure.
Though I have not read most of the book yet, it has already brought to attention many
things in which I had not considered. Was I holding myself back because I thought I wasnt good
enough? Why am I not taking risks yet? What was holding me back? How many of my other
peers were holding themselves back because they felt inferior to another, all because they were
being held to somebody elses standards? The cycle of building abstract walls, being safe, and
facing comparisons is lethal to many today. It kills their spirits and creativity, forcing them into a
monotonous way of uniform thinking and actions. In my future career, I want to break this cycle
in both my future students and myself. I plan to show them a world of mistakes and change
because it will foster them better than any world of perfection and dullness ever could. I hope to
show them that their imperfections is what makes the music perfect. If music was meant to be
absolutely perfect, then we would be using computers to compose, edit, and perform everything.
If music was meant to be perfect, than it would not be a universal language, because one persons
standard of perfection differs from that of another. If music was meant to be perfect, than it
would no longer be an art, open to thousands and appreciated by millions.

Dear Mr. Zander,

In reference to my future career, I deserve this A because I have inspired many into the world and
art that is music. I have fostered a sense of love and wonder in not only my students but in
myself. I have played every performance to the best of my abilities, while still working to
improve for no one else but myself. I walk away from my mistakes smiling, knowing that I am
completely imperfect, yet that merely enhances my music. I no longer compare myself to others
in fear and self pity, but instead I applaud them for their hard work. I look to them to appreciate
their sense of music and their individual style, rather than compare them to my own. I applaud
them for the time and effort that they have invested, just as I have invested my time and effort. I
deserve this A because I have finally accepted the invitation into the universe of possibility.

Thank you,
Brianna Brown