There is a popular phrase regarding teaching that goes something like this: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
The popular conception is then, if you teach, then you can't "do". Whatever "doing" is.
For a musician, and more specifically a jazz musician, teaching is a necessary part of what we do. Jazz, as an oral tradition, depends upon the handing down and mentorship of the art from older generations to the young. Period. That's how it works.
No musician becomes great inside a vacuum. They may achieve a high level of proficiency in some areas of music, but the total package, especially the ability to play WITH others comes from following the example of those who know how it's done.
Teaching is highly underestimated. I know because I wasn't prepared to do it myself. I took a lazy approach to it at first, thinking I just had to show up and bestow my great knowledge upon the student and they'd run home and practice 4 hours a day.
I thought I could make it up as I went, that I could just scribble down notes on random sheets of paper and they'd keep it all organized and fulfill my vision.
I thought I could apply the same stuff to each student who walked through my door, get them started in the Charles Wilcoxon book, Syncopation book, and let 'em go. I thought I could expect them all to have the same amount of drive and inspiration.
Not how it works. We're talking about human beings here.
I made some mistakes, and soon, I became the student. I became a student of teaching, learning and life.
I became more organized; devised lesson plans, wrote out guidelines for students and parents, required certain books and practice rituals. I learned to be specific, but adaptable to the student's needs. Strong, but not rude. Understanding, but not a pushover. Purposeful and urgent, without being overwhelming. Inspiring, but not preachy.
I revisited much of my knowledge and filled in gaps of things I thought I knew, but I really didn't know it because I couldn't explain it.
I teach absolute beginners and high school seniors looking to fulfill their dreams at Juilliard School of Music. No matter what their situation is, I put just as much into each one of them. The reason: Because the way we approach music and our practice is the way we approach life. I don't really teach drums, I teach life.
For example, I don't allow my students to use the word "hard" to describe a musical concept or a physical drumming skill. Instead, we use "challenging" or "difficult at this time". We take the "hard" out of it and it becomes less menacing. It doesn't become any less than what it is, technically, but in the mind it becomes more manageable. And the mind works in powerful ways.
I have a lot of work to do, but the harder I work at teaching, the better all my other life skills become. Including my own playing.
As a result of teaching, I have become a much better reader. My posture has improved, my time and feel have improved, my creativity and freedom have grown thru discipline because I feel I have to live what I teach. My business and social skills have grown, as I speak with parents and band directors, conduct clinics and master classes.
In the long run, it's all one thing. Music and Life. All in the same.
Consider this quote by Michael Carvin:
"A great musician can play great. A master can teach another to be great."