Have you ever had a teacher who really wanted to teach you? As a teacher what is the most important thing you can do for your students?
You have to genuinely care about your students and believe in their ability to learn. As a teacher you must be kind and patient with your student and be willing to help them solve their problems.
I’m going to tell you about the greatest compassionate teacher I know. His name is William “Bill” Whitson. What was so special about Mr. Whitson? He had a burning passion to share his knowledge of playing the violin with you. He had a kindness and patience that he directed at his students.
When did I meet Mr. William Whitson?
The summer I was eight years old my Mom, Romayne Leader Frank, arranged for me to take violin lessons with Mr. Whitson.
Mr. Whitson was Mom’s last hope. She had tried every type of reading class available and still, I was unable to read.
What was my first impression of Mr. Whitson as an 8-year-old child?
Mr. Whitson was a tall, handsome, young man who looked at me with a big smile, with a bright light shining from his eyes, that said without saying a word, you can be a good student, and I will show you how.
His positive attitude just glowed from him. He was in the military. I did not know at the time that he was only 23 years old.
He looked delighted to be teaching me. It was the first time I had a teacher that smiled and really looked like he actually liked me and wanted to teach me. My first impression of Mr. Whitson is the finest example of what a teacher should be.
At our first lesson, Mr. Whitson taught me how to hold the violin, how to hold the bow, how to read the notes on the musical page, and where to put my fingers on the violin to play the theme from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. He also taught me how to maintain my violin and bow and to clean it after playing; wiping the rosin off the violin and bow with a soft cotton cloth.
When Mr. Whitson and I finished my first violin lesson, I asked my Mom to take me to the Library. I wanted to read all about Beethoven.
You see Mr. Whitson did the impossible. By teaching me to play the violin, he taught me to read the musical notes on the page, which is parallel to reading a book. That summer the light went on and I began my journey of playing the violin and learned to read.
During the summer, Mr. Whitson would give me a violin lesson and then he and my Dad, Dr. Robert J. Frank, would go fly fishing on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. They always had a wonderful time and we had great dinners during those summers.
Mr. Whitson asked my parents if I could attend his chamber music concert? My parents agreed and we traveled in his car, a 1957 Corvette, with another musician a French Hornist, named Ms. Linda. The Chamber Music concert was wonderful. It was my first time attending a classical music concert, where we heard a piano trio for violin, French horn, and piano. It was a terrific concert. The three musicians played so well together. I also enjoyed the ride to and from the concert in Mr. Whitson’s Thunderbird.
I studied with Mr. Whitson for 2 years until he completed his military service and returned home to Palo Alto, California to found his Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, where he was the musical director and conductor for 37 years.
Thanks to Mr. Whitson I became a good student in school and continued playing and studying the violin. At 17, I played for the first time at Carnegie Hall and went on to earn two degrees from the Juilliard School, where Mr. Whitson had also studied. I performed with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, played concerts with Frank Sinatra, Lou Rawls, Natalie Cole, and performed concerts and recitals around the world also teaching classes as a visiting professor. Later I went on to earn a Ph.D. in Administration/Management with an emphasis on Total Quality Management.
Mr. William Whitson made all of this possible because of his belief in my ability even when I had no belief in myself and could not read. I still remember as a child of 8, Mr. Whitson looking at me with his bright shining eyes that said, without saying a word, you can learn to read and be a good student, and I will show you how!
Many years later, the summer of 1990, Mr. Whitson asked me to coach chamber music and give a master class for his viola students in his Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra summer camp. I was honored to be coaching and teaching his students just as he had taught me all those years ago. Because of his love and passion for teaching and playing chamber music and working with his students, I have spent many wonderful years patiently and with kindness teaching students as well.
Some of these students were also unable to read and because of Mr. Whitson’s fine example as a teacher, I was able to teach them how to read, and become good students through playing the violin, viola, or cello.
Mr. William “Bill” Whitson taught for over 40 years, winning many awards, and making a difference in so many students’ lives. He taught his students to strive for excellence, to be the very best people they could be, and to share their love of music with others. His legacy is boundless. His many former students are playing and teaching around the world and I am proud to be one of them. With Mr. Whitson nothing was impossible.
What 3 things did Mr. William Whitson teach me about teaching students?
1) As a teacher he taught me how to be kind and patient with each student. Your students need to know you care about them and believe in them.
2) To always have a big smile on your face, a bright shinning light in your eyes, and have a positive attitude, and make it fun and inviting to learn.
3) Become an expert in your field, never stop studying and learning and always be willing to help others. Dr. Georgi Lozanov , Father of Accelerated Learning said, “ Learning is a matter of attitude, not aptitude.”
Remember to Mr. Whitson nothing was impossible.
What 3 lessons did Mr. William “Bill” Whitson teach his students that benefitted us our entire lives?
1) How to concentrate, be disciplined, be cooperative, stay motivated, and how to work as a team.
2) How to take care of our violins, violas, cellos, or basses, which taught us self-esteem and self-worth.
3) Reading musical notes on the page taught us how to read the words in a book.
William Whitson passed away on August 8, 2001. His family, his students, and his friends were blessed to have known such a wonderful caring compassionate person who shared his passion for learning and playing classical music. His legacy lives on through the many students he trained to be excellent compassionate teachers, musicians, conductors, and thinkers.
Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an author, sought after speaker, motivational teacher, researcher, business owner, and concert artist. She writes a monthly newsletter “Madeline’s Monthly Article & Musical Tips” and a monthly radio show “Madeline’s One Minute Musical Radio Show”. She has just published her new book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”.
Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org