Take Off Your Clothes

Barbara CookThis morning’s Times has a wonderful description of a marvelous teacher in action:

The students were hiding inside the music, inside their technique, and [Barbara] Cook set about dragging them out and making them lay bare their own truths, even if it meant awkwardness, embarrassment and some blunt criticism – leavened, in all cases, by sincerely delivered hugs and kisses. She put forth a telling paradox: “The place that seems most dangerous is exactly where safety lies.” In other words, self-exposure and the abandonment of technical propriety, scary as it was, was the surest, the best, maybe the only way to communicate with an audience. . . .
[T]he lesson Ms. Cook came to teach was that artists achieve their peak when they learn to stop proving themselves and simply, to borrow the Shakespearean phrase, let be. It’s their humanity we respond to in the end, their ability to strip away the self-consciousness that locks us inside ourselves, and reveal the stuff that really boils in our souls.