I have several hobbies that I enjoy and are very important to me, but I have to confess that I’m not very good at them. I like golf and play regularly with my friends, but I carry a 33 handicap, which is about as bad as it gets. I also enjoy sailing and windsurfing, which I took up a few years ago when I was already pushing 60. These activities require balance, coordination, and instincts born of experience, none of which I have in great supply.
I will say that my windsurfing has improved to the point where I can get up on the board and sail, and I can tack (turning the board around into the wind), as long as conditions are just right (smooth water, light but steady wind). If the wind is strong or shifty and the water is wavy I’m going to be spending a lot of time falling off the board and hauling my ancient body back up on it. My biggest windsurfing accomplishment of 2022 is that I have not yet had to be rescued out on the water by the good people at the Northwestern Sailing Center.
My sailing is a little better, but by now most of my family and friends have decided that if I offer to take them out on a boat it’s most prudent to claim a prior commitment. Last time I went sailing by myself on a Laser dinghy this happened (conditions were pretty rough!):
My great passion is of course music, and I can say with some pride and justification that I am an excellent classical guitarist. I teach guitar and find great joy and fulfillment in this.
The point of this is that when I am working with my students I try not to compare their guitar playing to my guitar playing, or their rate of progress to mine, but instead I put myself in their shoes by imagining myself taking a golf or sailing lesson. Most of my students study guitar because they love music and want to do it as well as they can, and enjoy the personal satisfaction of doing a little better each week. For those students I tailor my expectations accordingly.
Some of my students are very ambitious, practice a lot, and perhaps aspire to become professional musicians, and I will push them to dig deep, work hard, and strive for excellence, even perfection. For the rest, I remind myself that their goals are likely similar to mine for golf. Maybe if I get out on the range and practice more I can finally break 100?
Author: Christopher Laughlin
Christopher Laughlin is the Program Director and guitar instructor at the Christopher Laughlin School of Music in Northbrook, IL. He earned his M.M in guitar performance at Yale University, and a B.M. in guitar performance from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University.
Christopher has performed extensively across North America and around the world. He has toured in 25 countries on five continents, performing in Portugal, Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Austria, Yugoslavia, Romania, The Czech Republic, Ghana, Cameroon, Bolivia, and many others. He has made two recordings for Peregrine Records, Danza!, and Simplicio.
After finishing his graduate studies Christopher was awarded a Fulbright Grant for study in Paris with Uruguayan guitarist Betho Davezac, continuing his studies for a second year with a grant from the French government. Christopher has won prizes in two international competitions, the Concours International de Guitar in Sable-sur-Sarthe, France, and the Concours International de l’U.F.A.M. in Paris.