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#14598 - 08/21/05 10:27 AM What's the real point?
GeeTee Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/26/01
Posts: 391
Loc: Midwest
With the exception of 2 elem. beginners and 1 8th grader, my piano studio is made up exclusively of HS age students. Of those, only 1 girl has expressed interest in continuing her study & playing skills into the college level (still 2 yrs. away). Of the rest, they are what you'd call typical students who may or may not cont. playing much beyond their HS studies. iow, they're ambitions are primarily recreational.

In a previous post, I shared a situation where one of my more promising students was pulled from my studio by her mother who said that since she wasn't planning on majoring in music in college, she didn't really see the point in continuing with me as I hold the students to higher, more serious standards. Her daughter no longer wanted to study as seriously in HS.

Now, I've often given my speel about being able to play for one's own enjoyment at a satsifying level, earning extra income by accompanying or teaching lessons, playing for church, etc. etc. to help people see the benefit of piano study that's not geared toward a sole musical profession.

But still this issue has caused me to wonder, what really is the point of striving toward high end standards of technique, theory, musicality, performance practices, repertoire, etc. when a large percentage of students may not really be interested in working toward them at all, but be satisfied with mediocher standards? I'm so fearful now that if I push for excellence, I'll lose other students to teachers w/ "less" serious expectations.

So how exactly should we answer students who react to our higher standards objectives for them with "but I'm not going to study music in college so why does it matter."? \:\(

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#14599 - 08/21/05 10:55 AM Re: What's the real point?
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
I have several thoughts. First it matters because whatever we do we should do our best. Students should strive to do their best no matter to what degree they expect to play. However....each student can be taught to do their best in their area of interest. If one knows they don't plan to study music in college and be a musician, but know they may want to play for family gatherings or parties, then have them strive for excellence in this type of music and playing. Say they want show tunes or pop or easy listening instrumentals.....even then they need decent technic to be able to perform well. Just because they might not play serious, technical music, does mean they can be sloppy! I look at it this way......We are CRAZY if we think the majority or even a significant number of our students will be or even want to be a serious musician. WHERE did we get that idea? Those are the minority. For the rest I help them to reach their best potential and I still expect practice and work out of them. Even if they only plan to play for their own enjoyment...they need decent technic to get the sounds they want to hear and to play freely and with no pain. They don't have to strive for or have the abilities of a concert pianist, but they do need guidelines to do well at whatever level they want. I do not hold the same standards for all students. I totally teach student by student according to their goals and abilities and desires. Some are doing much more and entering evaluations. Some are not. BUT whatever I give them they need to work at to do their best. That's my take on it.

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#14600 - 08/21/05 11:05 AM Re: What's the real point?
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
P.S. I once had an adult student, who studied quite a long time. Her main goal was to be able to play Christmas music at Christmas time, at her home, for her family. We worked on Christmas music year round. She played some other things as well, but come Christmas she had some nice Christmas music to play for her family. She once performed duets with me at a local mall where I perform. It freaked her out...she was so nervous. Performing in public was nothing she wanted to do. I never expected out of her what I expected out of other students even other adult students. She came to me with set ideas of what she wanted. She also had limiyed ability. I accepted her under those conditions and that's what we did. She is no longer a student but became a friend who I have lunch with once a month.

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#14601 - 08/21/05 11:53 AM Re: What's the real point?
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
I tell my students that if you're going to do something, you may as well do it right. I also ask them if they want to sound like a kid banging on the piano, or do they want to sound good?

Have your other students expressed the feelings of the student who left? If not and they are happy with your high standards, don't worry about it. You can't make every student happy. Remember, we are not going to be a good fit for every single student.
For example, a mother called and asked me to teach her son so that when he got to band he would be ahead and maybe sit first chair. (Some how I got a reputation that my piano students do well in band.) She wasn't interested in festivals and all the other things I do. I told her she really needed a another teacher because I want long term students who are serious about the piano, even if they sign up for band, too. At least she was honest.
Many high school students want to play well, and appreciate your high standards even if they don't want to major in music. We need teachers like you for them!

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#14602 - 08/21/05 12:09 PM Re: What's the real point?
GeeTee Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/26/01
Posts: 391
Loc: Midwest
Nancy, thanks so much for your comments. I agree 100% w what you're saying.

I've been watching the show "So You Think You Can Dance" on Fox this summer with a lot of interest. Many of the judges comments could be directly applied to piano students as well. One comment was during the early auditions and directed toward a girl who had prepared a Classical Ballet routine. She had been in line earlier surrounded by Hip-hop & Jazz dancers thinking, "they'll never take me doing ballet." WRONG! They took her BECAUSE she did Classic Ballet. The judges unanimously agreed that if she could dance Classic ballet, then the odds were good that she could dance ANY style!

Isn't this the way with piano study. If a student is taught standard technic & musicianship with a focus on Classical music, then they will more than likely be able to play just about anything.

Then, I keep hearing over & over in this show how important technique is. Last week judges commented on how some dancers were obviously moving in and out of their technique while others nailed theirs. Then to one dance pair, the comment was that the judges didn't even notice the technique because their dancing was at such a high level of artistry.

Again, in piano study, technique is foundational. I want to help each student develop to the best of their ability technically AND musically. Without a strong & secure technique, the music is compromised. Personally, I don't want to settle for ho-hum technic when a student is capable of much more. I want them to be able to sit at the piano when they're 40+ and play in a way that is satisfying to them musically. But if they aren't willing to work to get the basics secured to the best of their abilities, or are too easily accepting of faulty playing, I don't know if they'll ever truly reach that place of satisfaction when they play. Who knows?

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#14603 - 08/21/05 05:24 PM Re: What's the real point?
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
A strong and secure technique, not to mention the ability to play musically, does not need to have a "classical focus" in order to be learned. The elements of a good technique are easily broken down by alert teachers such as yourself and can be taught with a variety of music, whether Bach or Bober. And once does not need to give up standards of excellence just by using different material for different occasions and persons.

If the long term goal is truly for students to be able to sit down and comfortably express themselves, both technically and emotionally, at the piano when 40+, then it is necessary for teachers to make a paradigm shift in how they approach the lesson. It is not about us and our wants and needs. It is about the student's intrinsic motivation and their path, not ours. It is also about learning to eschew so-called Perfect Pedagogy and understanding the educational psychology components of motivation.

I suspect you need to lighten up a little, especially on the A-Z lesson planning, and go with the flow a little more, learning to bask in the individual journey with each unique and special young person. And I also suspect you will completely ignore this post, based on past experiences here. ;\) But that's OK - sometimes the student just ain't ready. It's an interesting topic. And Nancy, I enjoyed hearing what you had to say about the subject.

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#14604 - 08/22/05 05:05 AM Re: What's the real point?
jaydub2 Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 01/29/04
Posts: 250
Loc: WA
Gee-Tee, I must confess that I find you very brave to post true thoughts and feelings on this message board. Often a person gets verbally assaulted so good luck :p

I have encountered these feelings of "what's the point" occasionally. Then I must remind myself that my personal goal is to provide a safe & nuturing environment to promote the love of music.

Of course I wish I had students that practiced 2-3 hours each day. And were working toward entering college as a piano performance major. But that's not reality for me. But isn't it sweet when you do get one of those kind of kids.

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#14605 - 08/22/05 06:20 AM Re: What's the real point?
Dolce Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 06/04/02
Posts: 934
Loc: USA
Every once in a while I go through the "I'm obviously the worst teacher in the world" phase. And why do I say that? Because there are times my students don't practice; or complain about doing scales and technique; or tell me the pieces in the lesson book are "boring"' and just in general don't have the same commitment to piano as I do.
The only way for me to get out of those blue funks is to realize that I'm doing the very best that I can, and they're taking as much as they are able to use. Of course I do my best to change those behaviors - like practice contests, technique contests, supplementary music, etc., but those are the times that truly try my patience, and make me feel stoopid.
Also, I find that when I've reached that point, that I've been trying WAY too hard, and I need to relax a little, and work towards their assimilating new concepts, rather than learning new ones.
Of course, I'd like to see the learning curve ascending every week, not becoming a straight line, but the hardest thing for me to do is realize that some things are out of my control!!

....these are true feelings. Feel free to slap me out of it.

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#14606 - 08/22/05 06:55 AM Re: What's the real point?
Musical Mom Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 07/26/05
Posts: 70
Loc: Dakotas
I'm coming in late on this discussion but after reading Dolce's comments, I can say I've had the same. Here's some food for thought. I went to a piano workshop and here's what clinician Joyce Grill had to say. Basically, she pointed out that kids today are not like kids of the past. Most will never practice or achieve what we think they should. They are over-scheduled, over-stressed, and have way too many things to "entertain" them. So we as teachers must focus on the the PROCESS of learning, not the PROGRESS. As long as we can make an impact on them in some way, even though it may be going slower through the books, we've done our job. She also stressed taking advantage of events around us. For example, there are new pieces out there about Lewis & Clark...now is a good time to educate them on that journey. There are pieces that talk about space travel...now is a good time to peak that interest, etc. I found her tidbits to be interesting and refreshing to me.

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#14607 - 08/22/05 08:47 AM Re: What's the real point?
Susan Offline
Star Member

Registered: 01/03/01
Posts: 2168
Loc: Texas
Lori has a point that sometimes a good workshop will get us motivated again when we get a little depressed, or wonder "why bother."
I think of piano lessons as a journey and not a destination. I'm going to post more about that on another thread.
We all have low points. Several years ago I was ready to throw in the towel, not because of my students or parents, but I was just so TIRED of the same old thing. I got over it with some good workshops and some new music.

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#14608 - 08/22/05 09:00 AM Re: What's the real point?
Natalia Huang Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 08/14/05
Posts: 88
Loc: New York, NY
My parents didn't let my brother stop piano when he wanted to because they felt that you can't just start something and not finish it. Not saying you can ever "finish" playing piano. Therefore, for students I have now, I explained learning piano is like learning anything in school. You don't stop learning science because you're not going to be a scientist.

When I am faced with the question, "Why does this have to be played better?" I simply answer, "Because I know you can. I wouldn't ask you to do something you are not capable of doing. If I push you to do better, it's because you're bright enough to do so." That answer has worked quite well for me right now. By letting them know that when we push them, it's because we care and that they should do their absolute best often encourages them to move forward.

Students should know that the skills they get from learning piano applies to everyday life. For example, if you are persistent in trying to finish playing a piece, it is likely that you can carry on this hardworking character into your future career. I let both the parents and students understand that. I think it's about trying to link music into everyday life that answers their "Why should I....?"

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#14609 - 08/22/05 02:11 PM Re: What's the real point?
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
I don't know if I completely agree with Lisa. "It is not about us and our wants and needs. It is about the student's intrinsic motivation and their path, not ours. It is also about learning to eschew so-called Perfect Pedagogy and understanding the educational psychology components of motivation."

As in so many things, it is about balance. I do not think that most children know what is good for them or what they like in a broad sense because they have limited exposure.

I find that students are more motivated by success than anything else, including the pieces they play. I make sure that they feel success each step of the way.

One of my jobs as a teacher is to educate their taste. I do this by exposing them to a variety of music, but placing a focus on classical literature. That's why I attract the students that I have.

That being said, I am not the right teacher for every student. It's usually because the parents' goals differ from mine. But you know what? I don't have to teach every student! That's why it's valuable to a variety of teachers. There is someone for everyone.

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#14610 - 08/22/05 05:51 PM Re: What's the real point?
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Oh, I agree, Arlene, and think we're really on the same page - you know how us "stir the pot" people can be (and I include YOU in the club!) ;\) My comment needs to be put in the context of Gretchen's unique situation i.e. consequence here.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Arlene Steffen:
As in so many things, it is about balance. I do not think that most children know what is good for them or what they like in a broad sense because they have limited exposure.

I find that students are more motivated by success than anything else, including the pieces they play. I make sure that they feel success each step of the way.
That is exactly my point. If we are putting every student on the same classical path, with the same methods & courses & whatnots, then we are not Good Listeners and are probably letting our studios lean to the point of Unbalance. And if we set ourselves up to control every cotton pickin' thing a student touches so that we can "make" them successful, then we have set ourselves up as little gods, which never works. Ask any gardener how well that scenario fares (for the record, it does NOT!) - teaching works the same way.

There comes a time when teachers need to realize it is OK to step back and not be responsible for every single pickin' detail of stuff that happens in or out of a lesson. Sometimes when we are so intent on being perfect we get out of touch with where a student really is. And that's when we can get socked in the stomach with something we weren't expecting. The question is, do we let the ego take over and try to defend ourselves or do we see if there's a lesson to be learned in the Big Scheme of Things.

Getting back to GeeTee, what my advice really means is that maybe it might be a fun change for ya to be a little less like Cameron and a little more like Ferris. And 5 extra stickers, btw, to the teachers who can interpret what I'm talking about!

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#14611 - 08/23/05 07:22 AM Re: What's the real point?
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
Ferris Bueller, of course!

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#14612 - 08/23/05 07:25 AM Re: What's the real point?
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
Here's to a shout out for Arlene, the little Teacher's Pet! And an extra Godiva dark chocolate truffle for you for speediness... \:D

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#14613 - 08/23/05 09:22 AM Re: What's the real point?
NancyK Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 03/27/03
Posts: 644
Loc: North Dakota
You guys "crack me up".

I was thinking....in a classroom there is a curriculum the class follows....and a certain pace the class follows. However, we, teaching private piano lessons have the opportunity to tailor the curriculum to each individual, and should take advatage of it. That is largely what PRIVATE lessons are about. There are as many different personalities in teachers as in students and we each have our own style. It is evident everytime you talk with other teachers and it is obvious in seeing all the methods out there being used.There IS a ton of marketing and money making going on with these publishers (UGH). It IS a business, and there is wide variety of methods being used by equally good teachers. Now that I am working in our local sheet music store, I see this even more. We are not all the same and neither are our students. Finding a good match with teacher/student is important and the teacher finding a good match in materials for her/himself and the students in important. I tried for quite a while to narrow it down and use all the same materials and curriculum in the same way with every student. It didn't work. That's what spurred me into the hobby of studying methods and trying many. Some things remain constant in our teaching but others do not. Anyway..just further thought.
Lisa and Arlene..it seems you ARE saying much the same thing. Lisa I totally agreed with your post right after my previous one.

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#14614 - 08/23/05 11:10 AM Re: What's the real point?
Arlene Steffen Offline
Star Member

Registered: 06/20/00
Posts: 2972
Loc: Fresno, CA USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Lisa Kalmar:
Here's to a shout out for Arlene, the little Teacher's Pet! And an extra Godiva dark chocolate truffle for you for speediness... \:D
I'll send you my address. I'm ready to redeem my prize! \:\)

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#14615 - 08/23/05 02:35 PM Re: What's the real point?
Deborah T. Freeman Offline
Contributing Member

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 32
Loc: South Carolina
 Quote:
Originally posted by NancyK:
I tried for quite a while to narrow it down and use all the same materials and curriculum in the same way with every student. It didn't work.
Exactly, "the teacher is the method"....... ;\)

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