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I’m currently in the Atlanta airport, en route to Puerto Rico. This is the third annual trip I’ve made to the island, to attend La Fiesta de Santiago Apostol in the town of Loiza, and to learn more about the traditional percussion rhythms of Bomba and Plena.

Before I get to the point of this post, a quick side note: This morning brought with it yet another travel hacking opportunity. I volunteered my seat for a flight (opting for a later one) and scored 600 more Delta Dollars, two meal vouchers and a First Class seat to San Juan, Puerto Rico later today! Oh, yeah . . . and I’m writing this while rockin’ the free wi-fi and drinks right now in the Delta SkyClub! But, I digress . . .

I was sitting here, reading Marc Dicciani‘s excellent article (“Lifelong Learning- What If?”) in the latest issue of Percussive Notes, when I suddenly became aware of something that happens to me each time I set out on one of these overseas study adventures. I consciously feel an internal transition from “teacher mode” to “student mode.” Taking some time to step away from my usual role as instructor is the single best thing I can do for all of my students. Putting myself in this position . . .

. . . increases my rhythmic repertoire and vocabulary, giving me more of the same to teach about.

. . . reminds me what “student mode” feels like- hopefully helping to keep me sensitive to my students’ needs, wishes and challenges.

. . . renews my own passion for music and making music, which is probably the greatest thing I can hope to pass on and inspire in others.

One of the most frequent questions I’m continually asked by new students’ parents is, How long does he/she need to take lessons? I’ve been taking lessons now for the past 23 years and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. As my bio shows, I have studied with Dave Stanoch, Gordy Knudtson, Marv Dahlgren, Paul Wertico, Payton MacDonald, Dane Richeson, Ed Thigpen, Rakalam Bob Moses, Graham Lear, Emmanuel and Rubben Agbeli, Daniel Thigpen, Rakalam Bob Moses, Graham Lear, Emmanuel and Rubben Agbeli, Daniel Alfonso, Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro, Jorge Alabe, Mamady Keita, Jerry Leake, Takaaki Masuko, Rafael Maya Alvarez, Hector ‘Tito’ Matos and Subash Chandran (whew!), and am still constantly on the lookout for new people to acquire more rhythms and concepts from. Many of my favorite musicians (and many of my teachers listed above) also happen to be among those who have proven themselves to be consummate and lifelong students.

Not sure who first said that “once you stop learning, you start dying,” but this is so true in every area of life. It applies to any and every worthwhile endeavor. No learning . . . no growth.

So, how long does one need to take lessons? Umm . . . I’ll get back to you on that.

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I’d love to hear about your experiences in ‘lifelong learning.’ Tell us all about it in a comment below!

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