How do you help rising superstars fulfill their potential? That's the familiar challenge facing Yoheved Kaplinsky, chair of the piano department at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York. She teaches some of the most talented young musicians in the country.
For Kaplinsky, the key is relating to her students as individuals. "Talent is often coupled with a high level of sensitivity," she says. "You need a varied vocabulary to express the same ideas with different students." As a result, she is as interested in her students' psychology as in their music. "You're teaching them to become comfortable with themselves and to express what they feel," she says.
Kaplinsky encourages students to evaluate their own playing critically and to maintain high standards while avoiding a perfectionism that can never be satisfied. She knows that this is tricky. The solution, she suggests, is inspiring them to be lifelong students, ever curious, always striving, never complacent. "I tell my students, 'Judge yourself by two standards: where you are today compared with last week and where you want to be next week.'"
Kaplinsky is particularly aware of her students' perspective, because she was a prodigy herself. Born in Israel, she began playing as a 5-year-old. At 16, Kaplinsky left home for Juilliard, where she earned her doctorate. She has been teaching there for eight years. "What it takes to be a good teacher is what it takes to be a good artist: creativity and the ability to express yourself and your emotions," she says.
LEVI WATKINS teaches all day, every day. He is a cardiac surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, a teaching hospital. Residents there learn by working alongside veteran physicians like Watkins.