Patience Need Not Apply, Part 2

Patience, as defined in Part 1, is not a quality useful to a teacher. But surely, you say, it must be useful to a student who needs years of study to achieve any kind of proficiency on a musical instrument. Perhaps, but are musicians really patient with themselves?

Let’s see how patience works in learning to play. You are in a practice room in a conservatory somewhere and:

  1. You practice and just cannot get something
  2. You berate yourself for being incapable
  3. You berate your teacher for not explaining it well enough
  4. You continue to berate your teacher for expecting too much from you
  5. You berate yourself for ever deciding to play a musical instrument
  6. You berate your parents for giving birth to you
  7. You pull yourself together, accept your fate, having patience with your miserable self and the world and resignedly try again

Guess what? You aren’t going to learn to play very well.  Patience and self-pity claim too much of your time and energy!

More likely, if you are going to become a musician, it would go like this:

  1. You start to practice, you just cannot get something but you keep trying
  2. You get mad, frustrated, upset (you decide) – you may even stomp your foot or kick the wall
  3. Still angry, frustrated, upset (you decide) you keep trying
  4. Sooner or later you get it. Your teacher really does know what she is doing!

In a perfect world, we would go from step 1 to step 4. While there may be some musical beings out there who are never “impatient” with themselves, I have not met one of them yet. Actually, those intermediate steps are vital to success. I often tell my students that if they play a note out of tune when practicing, for example, they should take it as a personal insult. “What? I am much too clever to make such a mistake. Let me go back and see why I made it and what I can do about it!” And then feel triumphant for having overcome the problem.

Too many students accept failure because they think they are unfortunate and incapable, destined to play badly, patiently tolerating their lot in life – this is also the easy way out for some students. They don’t get far that way. It is up to us to teach them to be impatient with not succeeding and encourage the determined perseverance they then need to accomplish whatever task at hand. On many occasions, I have observed master classes with famous teachers who were actually happy to see a bit of what they called “temperament” in a student. To them it denoted grit and determination.

Of course, when you teach, no one is suggesting that you get angry and kick the wall or stomp your foot. But you can remember to employ the same tenacious attitude you had as a student to great effect as a teacher (with certain comportmental modifications – no kicking or foot stomping). Perseverance, determination, non-acceptance of failure are what brought you to play your instrument well enough to teach it. Patience had nothing to do with it. Don’t change the basic attitude; just modify its application to the needs of your students.

Teaching and learning are active and dynamic. Patience is passive.

 

End of Part 2.   next……

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23 September 2014

2 thoughts on “Patience Need Not Apply, Part 2

  1. Zala

    Great! :) Truly great advice and the most important things wonderfully summed up… I might want to start writing some bullet points down for myself to remember this everytime I need it! ;) Great stuff! :)

    Reply
  2. Carol de la Haye

    “… if they play a note out of tune when practicing, for example, they should take it as a personal insult. “What? I am much too clever to make such a mistake. Let me go back and see why I made it and what I can do about it!” And then feel triumphant for having overcome the problem.” Fantastic. You’re a teacher, thinker, and feeler after my own heart and mind, Eloise! Brava!

    Reply

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