10 Rules for Students and Teachers

10mag-look-corita-slide-x88r-master1050Sometimes attributed to composer John Cage, these rules were actually created by Sister Corita Kent, in 1967-68, and later taken up by the art department of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent where Sister Corita went to school.

Teachers get their own chapter in The Practice of Practice, but these gems below didn’t make it into the book because I just learned about them.

Sister Corita’s got a wonderful book out called, Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.

Maybe the list is attributed to composer John Cage because he’s quoted in rule #10…. Here they are:


1: Find a place you trust and then try trusting it a while.

2: General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.

3: General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.

4: Consider everything an experiment.

5: Be self disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self disciplined is to follow in a better way.

6: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There is only make.

7: The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.

8: Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes. (aside: or, as Charlie Parker said, “Yeah, practice your ass off. But when you get up to play, forget all that and just wail.”)

9: Ber happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

10: “We’re breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” John Cage.

Helpful Hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything–it might come in handy later.

John Cage’s beautiful piano piece, Dream (1948)

performed by Stephen Drury


Below is another performance by John Cage himself. A classic in which he breaks the “rules,” a trait he was famous for. He was an excellent writer, too. Find his books and music here. Hope you enjoy the bonus Winston cigarette ad at the start of the video.

John Cage Performs Water Walk


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jon Harnum says:

    Reblogged this on The Practice of Practice and commented:

    Still great advice. I just reviewed it and got a nice shot in the arm. I’m off to make.

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