GUYS. I am constantly humbled by my line of work, and I'm so glad for it. I can't believe I took reading music for granted. At this point, it really is like reading English to me--I don't really think about it or sound words out. I just read whole sentences at a time, without a second thought about what all the individual letters are.
That's why it was so mystifying to me as to why some of my students can play anything (and correctly, if they're playing with a recording) but struggle to read music quickly. I couldn't understand how they can play but not read.
But you know what guys? It's totally possible. In fact, I do it myself, but with Chinese.
You see, I can hold a pretty basic conversation in Cantonese (usually mixed in with a bit of English), but I cannot for the life of me read Chinese, except for simple numbers, a few easy words, and my name. That's not any different from the level of reading some of my students have with written musical notation.
So what's the point of being able to read music if you can play it without reading? Communication. In the same way that I can't WhatsApp my extended family members in Chinese because I don't know how to write in Chinese, my students and I will have communication problems when I try to tell them to play certain notes, measures, or phrases. I'll say, "Start on the pickup to m. 28, on that high B there," but if you don't know what a pickup is or what a B looks like, you'll just end up staring at me like I'm speaking a different language. Because I am! Written musical notation is a language. It's a way for musicians to communicate music to each other in a standard way that can be understood by everyone.
So there we have it. I was so pumped when I made this discovery, and I just HAD to share with you guys. I hope it helps someone out there, be they a student or teacher.
Happy music making!