I have been thinking about music theory after working with some amazing instrumentalists, whose knowledge on the basics was very low. Of course, as a composer and copyist, I have music theory constantly shooting around my head, but it got me wondering, is it actually needed by a good musician?
Of course there are amazing professional musicians out there who can not read a note of music. There is also a whole new generation of producers and composers - who have been traditionally the theory superstars - who do not need knowledge of the finer elements of music to put notes on paper. I'm not saying theory needs to be a foundation - unbounded creativity and following the ear in creating music should be paramount.
We learn to speak by ear as a child, then we go to school and we learn how to read and write. Then in later years we develop these skills further and it only increases our level of understanding and ability to communicate. The same goes for music, and with this in mind, the thought some have that knowledge of theory can restrict musical creativity is crazy.
Is being an absolute wizard of music theory going to make you a better musician? Put it this way, there are amazing musicians who severely lack good knowledge in music theory, but can get by just playing note after note. Little do they know what they're missing! Similarly in creating a masterwork of your own at the piano, you can make something sound good but once you know what is happening musically, it suddenly comes alive and makes sense. To communicate effectively in music, whether it be via performing or writing, you need to have a good vocabulary in music. It is like English or any other language - speaking it is one thing, but once you are literate, it opens a whole new world of possibilities, allows you to actually understand what is happening, and allows you to express your musical ideas, and this, in turn, will dramatically accelerate your musical development.
So, instead of letting your students slip by, or being held back yourself, get up to play with music theory. You'll be far better off for it. If you want to learn from me, here are the details.