Monthly Archives: May 2015

Slow Progress: Finding Balance, part 4

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When a student is not going as fast as you, the teacher, would like, or as fast as you think he may be capable of, you might say he is making “slow progress.” But notice that this definition is centered around what you want and what you think. In other words, your frustration or fulfillment as a teacher. The important thing to remember, therefore, is that any qualifying adjective you choose to describe your student’s progress – slow, fast, not enough, poor –  is strictly your opinion. In my experience, there is only one absolute, which is NO progress at all. That’s pretty easy for anyone to see, any other modifier being a matter of interpretation. Of course, parents pay you good money to make sure their child does progress, but being happy or unhappy with the results depends on everyone’s expectations.

So let’s say that you are doing your best to stimulate your students to practice and still not “enough” is getting done. This brings me to a really important misconception that students, their parents and their teachers often have, which can wind up truncating our students’ music education:

How fast a child progresses on the instrument signifies how much talent she has and whether or not it is worth continuing. Continue reading

27 May 2015

Finding Balance, part 3: Teamwork

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What do sports programs offer students that we music teachers usually do not?

A team.

One reason that students put music practice in last place among their daily assignments is that they see playing music as a solitary endeavor. Traditionally, this is true. A student practices and plays alone for many years before he is eligible to participate in an orchestra and start having some fun. Always being alone with an instrument can be demotivating for a child, however. He just doesn’t understand what all the practicing is for. What’s the remedy?


This is where we music teachers can slug it out with sports programs  – by making music into a “team sport” which offers the camaraderie and fellowship of teamwork that young people love, but doing performances instead of competitive games.

But aren’t there local school and regional orchestras that take care of this? Continue reading

20 May 2015

Finding Balance, part 2

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My students sometimes tell me they can’t practice much at certain times because they have mountains of schoolwork, exams and other pressing activities. It isn’t that they don’t have time to practice, but that they often have mistaken ideas about how, how much and when to practice, which can lead to not practicing at all. Here are some of these misconceptions and their remedies:

Wrong: If they can’t practice for 45-60 minutes it isn’t worth opening up their violin cases. Continue reading

12 May 2015