Max Friedman ‘11
Submitted by: Professor Mark Applebaum, Music
I suspect that students discuss the merits of their professors. They might identify which ones give effective lessons in independent study. What often escapes their consideration is the fact that some students are good at taking effective lessons. That is, some students know how to prepare for a meeting; how to productively use their lesson time; how to locate the most useful and intellectually engaging intersection between faculty and student; and how to invite a kind of challenging resistance that amplifies the rigor and vitality of the enterprise.
Max Friedman reminds me that some students are better than others at this skill.
Max was one of 200 students in my course “Rock, Sex, & Rebellion.” Not satisfied with the large lecture alone (and evidently a glutton for punishment), he enrolled in an independent study to extend his education. He came with significant questions about the nature and purpose of music. These were fueled by a passion to understand the complicated personal terrain in which an academic discipline emerges from a pastime, and the promise that one’s artistic and professional aspirations might elide. He steered our conversations on the basis of a powerful context: a genuine and rare concern about how he might improve the world through music, and specifically what role music might play in a life as a potential educator of children.
Our conversations were often free-wheeling, a mash-up of diatonic theory, the philosophy of aesthetics, and musical hermeneutics. But Max made it all work. Not only did he meet my challenges with an intrepid, open mind, he focused the discourse by preparing a daily agenda, bringing musical works and concepts to be discussed, and voraciously tracking down texts mentioned in conversation. I’ve grown because of the many provocative conversations we had over our weeks together; but I’m especially grateful to have Max remind me that students can take ownership of their education, effectively turning an imperfect teacher into a useful one.
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