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#1266930 - 09/12/09 08:50 AM Working above their level
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
I have one 16 year old girl who has had one year of lessons and has done very little work. She started in Accelerated Faber books but said it was all too "easy" yet could not play the pieces. So I went to the Jon Schmidt note reading course. Then to Level 2 accelerated. Week after week no practice and she only played well last year for piano parties.

Anyway after talking with her mother about the lack of practice she came this week having practiced. She brought the early intermediate "Festival Collection" which we had discused months ago...the appeal being she want to learn by ear and it has a CD. It is great to see her at last showing some interest and exciting for me to get to teach from this collection (something differnt to teach). However, I am wondering how much progress is possible with someone who refuses to count and does not have a foundation for early intermediate work. I think the lesson went alright...but it remains to be seen whether she'll be able to play a piece well.

Have any of you had decent results with a similar situation? Even if it is unwise to skip ahead, it's all she's motivated to do, so I am giving it a try. Still trying to work at her level in addition to working ahead of her level. Any consistent work at all would be great strides forward for her.

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#1266937 - 09/12/09 09:09 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Overexposed]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Sounds like a great referral candidate to me.

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#1266952 - 09/12/09 09:28 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: theJourney]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
LOL! This is one I had in mind when I started the thread about requirements to remain in lessons. I'll see how it goes over the next few weeks. I have let the mother know that "there isn't much I can do to teach her if she doesn't practice".

I had intended to talk to the student first, but mother had called about a scheduling issue, so I talked to Mom first. Then saw this improvement. She's made some effort to stay in lessons, but I'll be surprised if the effort continues. I think this is one where mother wants daughter to have piano lessons (although a younger sibling says, no the sister loves piano), so daughter is going through the motions. So I've done my part which is to let parent know that lessons without practice don't go anywhere.

I think that due to a difficult situation the mother is going through, the daughters are just trying to please her. You'd think a 16 year old would just tell Mom she's not taking lessons. The 11 year old sibling is doing well in lessons...slow, steady progress, and steady effort.

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#1267044 - 09/12/09 12:19 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Overexposed]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
It seems pretty popular that teachers prefer to dump students when they don't live up to expectations. Behavior like hers is a real challenge to me and I enjoy influencing and challening my difficult students to find their enjoyment level in piano study. It can be done, but it's at a level of involvement and communication that is up close and personal.

Kids come with things that are problematic to them in life's circumstances and they are sometimes totally blocked by it. Finding the thread and unraveling it is something that takes time and effort and patience from the teacher. I think they can be truly stuck with not knowing how to procede or succeed - it's like the spark of brain cells is not there for them - but they are simply disconnected - usually emotionally.

Teachers get to decide who they will work with and what a student needs to bring to the piano bench to work with. I was influenced by a teacher who said "Everybody deserves an opportunity to make music. I take them where they are and depending on our efforts together, we do the best they can, and that is enough."

I took Muriel Carnes' statements seriously because I feel that way, too. I was an example of that kind of teaching from my 3rd grade elementary school teacher who "adopted me" as her piano student. I was lousy for the first 2 years! But, over the next few years and with other teachers, I bloomed musically. And, then after a 12 year hiatus from piano, returned to piano to become a piano teacher. Look at me now with 38 years of teaching! Who would have guessed?

Betty

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#1267070 - 09/12/09 01:09 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Betty Patnude]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Ann,

I don't recall the other thread, so my thoughts may be irrelevant to this young person's case. But ....

There are some among the very bright -- or gifted, to use the technical but non-PC term -- who behave in the manner you're describing. Unwillingness to work at simple stuff, coupled with a fear of failure; this makes an interesting stew.

This sort of kid is often self-motivated (and often self-absorbed) in the extreme. Pleasing you, or satisfying their parent, doesn't come to mind very often.

How do you reach such a kid? Well, here Betty has a point:

Quote:
it's at a level of involvement and communication that is up close and personal.


I would add, that if this sixteen year old IS a bright one, you are not likely to succeed with lines like, "do it this way because it'll work and because I'm telling you to do it." Uh uh. You will have to reason as though you are talking to an adult who needs clear argument and strong evidence before they'll credit anything you say. Your experience? Pshawwww. Bright kids tend to accord very little respect to the supposed authority of age and experience. You have to grab them in other ways.

Alternatively, as theJourney suggests, you can always show her the door and make room for a kid without so much baggage!
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1267085 - 09/12/09 01:43 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Piano*Dad]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5461
Loc: Orange County, CA
"baggage"

If we could afford to, we'd toss the baggage. For many piano teachers I know, we're all struggling to fill our studios, so we take whatever we can.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1267088 - 09/12/09 01:51 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Piano*Dad]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thanks Betty and Piano Dad, for your responses. I like this girl and the family. Just feel a bit guilty over what I feel is my lack of success with her. And I suspect it's a mistake to try to work above her level. But if she gives it a good try, if it doesn't work for her maybe she'll be ready to work on things I suggest.

I have been very flexible with her and have worked to find pieces that interest her. (At the end of the last lesson she mentioned she has a book report due and has not read the book. Unprepared for school same as unprepared for piano lessons.) I intend to help the best I can, and as John mentioned before to get the monkey off my back and put it on hers...to tell her you decide how much progress you want to make this year...you decide how advanced at piano you want to be...whatever you decide I'll help you.

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#1267104 - 09/12/09 02:45 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Piano*Dad]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad



There are some among the very bright -- or gifted, to use the technical but non-PC term -- who behave in the manner you're describing. Unwillingness to work at simple stuff, coupled with a fear of failure; this makes an interesting stew.

This sort of kid is often self-motivated (and often self-absorbed) in the extreme. Pleasing you, or satisfying their parent, doesn't come to mind very often.

!


This exactly what I thought when I read your OP. Well said Piano Dad.

I would say you are on the right track. I wouldn't be afraid of taking a big leap in the levels. See how she responds. Gifted kids (PC accelerated learners) respond to a challenge. It may mean you have to go back and fill in the gaps. That is how they learn. It is called asynchronous development. It means gifted kids often do not develop within the normal steps. They take big leaps developmentally and good teacher will fill in the missing parts.

I know I have posted about my gifted son. He was a math whiz early on. We have often had trouble with teachers who expect my son to show his math work when he quickly figures the answer in his head. The teachers often expect him to learn the steps in a synchronized order like an average intelligent child. That is how these teachers were taught in college to teach math.. We found that the math teacher are not often aware or know how to teach a child that learns out of order. “asynchronous development”

I use the Festival Collection a lot. It is a very good series. Succeeding With the Masters is also well done and from the same publishers.
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1267124 - 09/12/09 03:35 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Mrs.A]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I know I have posted about my gifted son. He was a math whiz early on. We have often had trouble with teachers who expect my son to show his math work when he quickly figures the answer in his head. The teachers often expect him to learn the steps in a synchronized order like an average intelligent child. That is how these teachers were taught in college to teach math.. We found that the math teacher are not often aware or know how to teach a child that learns out of order. “asynchronous development”


I used to do the same thing myself. I remember always having found it pointless to show the working, when it was easier to just do it. However, there's a key difference here. If you don't show your working and get it wrong, you're not going to impress anyone- from any point of view. If a student cannot get something simple correct, it's not equivalent to not showing your working but getting it right. It's more like not showing your working but getting it wrong. It's worth trying to see if bigger challenges can motivate such students, certainly. However, I don't think the idea of someone being too talented to get something simple correct stands up. They may well have substantial talents in many ways. However, if it's not working, then it shows that there is a deficiency in what they are doing. It's vital to get to grips with what that is, rather than assume that teaching them to fake their way through more difficult stuff would sort out problems with fundamentals.

From my own experience, I used to skip ahead to highly advanced pieces, when I couldn't do simple stuff. I could get through Beethoven sonatas and Rachmaninoff preludes- but all with shockingly bad technique. I couldn't have played a Grade 4 piece to a truly high standard though. There are still fundamental problems that I'm trying to sort out now. The easiest thing is to try to ensure that these things are there in the first place. There's no such thing as being too talented to play a basic piece to a high standard. It's fine to mix it up, to keep the student interested. However, they really need to understand that you can't think of something as easy unless you can do it properly. I think it has more to do with learning the standards that you need to set for yourself (assuming you want to make progress), than anything else.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/12/09 03:41 PM)
_________________________
http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1267139 - 09/12/09 04:15 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thank you all for your posts. I am just in new territory with this girl. Last week I was discouraged due to several students who lack interest. Then one decided not to continue...he was in middle school and had ADD. Now I feel relieved and feel I can handle the students/issues I have left. Honestly I was so happy after this girl at last showed interest in some piano music! Later my insecurity set in as I thought what should I really be doing...how to best teach this girl. The idea to "mix it up" has met with approval so I feel better about it.As far as this girl being so smart she skips ahead...trust me it does not apply in this case. The previous poster was correct...a big difference between two who don't show their work (one gets the right answer, the other gets it wrong). One challenge for me is how to give a "clear argument and strong evidence" for working (at least part of the time) at her level. She has just dismissed couting and timing saying it's too much trouble and would rather learn by ear (listen to CD).

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#1267155 - 09/12/09 04:59 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Overexposed]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
from my own experience, I used to skip ahead to highly advanced pieces, when I couldn't do simple stuff. I could get through Beethoven sonatas and Rachmaninoff preludes- but all with shockingly bad technique. I couldn't have played a Grade 4 piece to a truly high standard though.


The problem, of course, is to convince the 15 year old you of the wisdom that the older you now has. This is the challenge, and in many cases (the super bright being a common one) this requires treating the kid as an equal, i.e. you cannot simply tell them what to do. You must convince them with reason and with example.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1267208 - 09/12/09 06:37 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Mrs.A Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 155
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
I know I have posted about my gifted son. He was a math whiz early on. We have often had trouble with teachers who expect my son to show his math work when he quickly figures the answer in his head. The teachers often expect him to learn the steps in a synchronized order like an average intelligent child. That is how these teachers were taught in college to teach math.. We found that the math teacher are not often aware or know how to teach a child that learns out of order. “asynchronous development”


If you don't show your working and get it wrong, you're not going to impress anyone- from any point of view. If a student cannot get something simple correct, it's not equivalent to not showing your working but getting it right. It's more like not showing your working but getting it wrong. It's worth trying to see if bigger challenges can motivate such students, certainly. However, I don't think the idea of someone being too talented to get something simple correct stands up.


I am not so sure how you read all of that into my post. I never suggested that any gifted child be allowed to Fake their way. Like I said in my post, a good teacher will allow a student to move forward and continue to monitor and fill in the gaps.

Nyro, I agree with your argument about playing pieces well. Consider if you had not attempted to learn those more complicated pieces and instead waited until you were stronger in the fundamentals. Do you think you would have continue learning the piano?

When my son was in kindergarten he did simple math sheet. The problem was 2+3 =5 The instructions were to color 2 beans red and 3 beans blue and count the beans to get the answer. He already knew the answer. In kindergarten he started failing math. In fact, the teacher didn’t feel he was ready for kindergarten because he couldn’t understand how to do the math. In other words, how to color jelly beans. There was even talk of holding him back.

The upper elementary gifted teacher got involved.

She began working with him. She told my son he could learn anything he liked. He wanted to learn about the presidential election. By Christmas he was reading presidential biographies and had exhausted the elementary school library. Through the schools recommendation we had him tested. The next year he skipped first grade and went right into second where he remained at the top of his class.

Should we have kept him in kindergarten to learn the fundamentals of coloring jelly beans? Or even held him back until he was able to prove to the teacher that he could do the math problem by coloring the Jelly Bean? Thank God for that gifted teacher who understood how these children learn and advocated for our son.

I have heard this argument many times before regarding gifted kids and the truth is studies about gifted show quite the opposite. Check out this study. It is a 50 year comprehensive study of gifted education and how these children learn.

http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/nation_deceived/
_________________________
Piano Teacher.
Church Music Director.
Kindermusik Instructor.
Mom to four boys.


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#1267291 - 09/12/09 09:55 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Mrs.A]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
I haven't read the report, but I read a long article about this in Time or some other magazine, not sure which. Basically in the U.S. we do an absolutely horrible job with many of our brightest students. There is actually a very high drop out rate for students with genius IQs.
_________________________
I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.


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#1267317 - 09/12/09 11:19 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Little_Blue_Engine]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
Ann - One more suggestion. If it were me, I would put her in something like a Dozen a Day, (the green one - level 1?) and just give her one exercise each week.

This would be a compromise - she gets to work on the fun, showy, hard stuff most of the lesson, but warms up first with something that allows you to work on basic issues a bite at a time.

It would probably be easy for her. Most of my older students find that they enjoy quickly "mastering" these. It gives them a sense of accomplishment - quick gratification while working on longer pieces elsewhere.
_________________________
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#1267370 - 09/13/09 03:08 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Lollipop]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
I contend that the 16 year old finds other emerging phenomena in her life far more interesting than piano. I would even argue that this hypothesis is far more likely than her being a genius in disguise. smile . I think that trying to make her lessons less boring (from her perspective) is a smart approach.

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#1267385 - 09/13/09 05:33 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Andromaque]
Chris H. Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2893
Loc: UK.
I agree with Andromaque. There is nothing in the OP to suggest that this girl is bright or gifted. Sounds to me like she just doesn't really want to play the piano and if that's the case I'm afraid there's nothing much you can do about it.

You need to talk to the girl about this rather than her mother. If she wants the lessons to continue then work with her to find music she is interested in learning to play. If not then she needs to sit down with mum and give her the bad news. Either way you should make it clear to her that she has your support.
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#1267420 - 09/13/09 09:36 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Chris H.]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thank you all for your posts. I'll try Dozen a Day. And working on individual measures provides plenty of boredom for this student! This coming week I'll have a discussion with her, letting her know she has my support whatever she decides. I had intended to talk with her last week, but she surprised me by taking an interest in Festival Collection and we mostly just worked on that. A discussion would still be helpful, encouraging her to tell me how she really feels about lessons and what she would like to accomplish.

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#1267428 - 09/13/09 10:07 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Mrs.A]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
"I am not so sure how you read all of that into my post. I never suggested that any gifted child be allowed to Fake their way. Like I said in my post, a good teacher will allow a student to move forward and continue to monitor and fill in the gaps."

If a student cannot do basic things accurately, how could they possibly do more advanced things without any faking?

"Nyro, I agree with your argument about playing pieces well. Consider if you had not attempted to learn those more complicated pieces and instead waited until you were stronger in the fundamentals. Do you think you would have continue learning the piano?"

Interesting point. However, I would have greatly benefitted from being forced to learn the basics, alongside all the awful scraping through of hard pieces. It doesn't have to be one or the other.

"When my son was in kindergarten he did simple math sheet. The problem was 2+3 =5 The instructions were to color 2 beans red and 3 beans blue and count the beans to get the answer. He already knew the answer. In kindergarten he started failing math. In fact, the teacher didn’t feel he was ready for kindergarten because he couldn’t understand how to do the math. In other words, how to color jelly beans. There was even talk of holding him back."

How does this relate to someone who cannot do highly basic things accurately? As I said, there's a difference between still getting it right and getting things completely wrong. In particular, a student who cannot count basic rhythms will have a seriously hard time if they skip ahead to more difficult things. I still couldn't count music when I was 18. Much as I would like to think that I'm intelligent, that's certainly not a sign of intelligence. That's a sign that I was not setting myself remotely adequate standards.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (09/13/09 10:23 AM)
_________________________
http://pianoscience.blogspot.com/

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#1267458 - 09/13/09 11:34 AM Re: Working above their level [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I think people are getting sidetracked on this 'gifted' thing. No one needs to try to score debaters points on each other over this.

No one suggested, based on the OP, that this kid is gifted. All I said (and I think Mrs. A as well) is that there is a pattern of behavior in accelerated learners that many teachers simply are not aware of. They tend to treat these accelerated learners in ways that are counterproductive both for them as teachers and for the children as learners.

In this case, the desire to skip ahead may (accent .... may) be a signal that this phenomenon is present and it may explain a little bit of this kid's behavior.

No one has suggested that this behavior, translated to the piano, does any good for the student's ability to master the instrument. If anything, we're suggesting why this behavior may help explain why some kids fail at the piano. Skipping ahead doesn't work well when basic techniques truly are not understood and mastered.

What I have said is that there may be ways to reach such a student, but that traditional appeals to authority aren't likely to succeed. That's all.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#1267655 - 09/13/09 05:53 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Piano*Dad]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Every one has their own set of challenges or problems whether gifted, average, remedial.

Everyone meets their "Waterloo" at some point in time at the piano. Whether they have fortitude to continue or now is really based on their character they've been building to date, and on how their brain functions to date.

Those who "rest on their laurels" might have trouble adapting to when the big challenges arrive; those who take every opportunity to learn new things or take risks are going to get the benefit of their mind set.

Some have trouble confronting obstacles, some eat obstacles up like they have 4-wheel drive, or they have the genes of the original "pak-man" game player. Maybe it can also be speculated some have "survival" in their veins and others concede to early defeat.

It's the day to day choices we make about how important piano is to us and what we are willing to do to become trained musiciansian.

Musicianship can not be faked.

Betty

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#1268063 - 09/14/09 12:55 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Betty Patnude]
CoffeeLover Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/17/08
Posts: 159
Loc: LA, CA
Ann,
I am not a teacher, but just wanted to give you a suggestion that may or may not help.

If you haven't tried, play some simple but beautiful piece (You might want to pick a piece from one of her books that she already thinks is too easy for her) in front of her to let her naturally realize that an easy piece is not necessarily boring, it can be actually, shockingly, beautiful.

Don't show her the sheet music first. If she likes it, maybe she will want to learn that music, and then you reveal the sheet music. She will see how EASY, under her standard, the piece is. And in the process of learning that music, she might realize that her playing doesn't sound as beautiful as yours. She will wonder why, and then you can tell her all about the magic of counting and all things that come into play their rolls in order for a piece of music to work.

I wish I had a teacher that tried this to me when I was bored and quit lessons as a teenager. It was a very long time later, that I realized the same truth about a simple piece of music when I got back to piano again as an adult and tried for a while to teach myself some above-my-level pieces like Beethoven Moonlight sonata 3rd movement.
After a couple of years, I heard a professional pianist playing Fur Elise, which I thought was too easy for me. It was like an electric shock. I came home and tried it. I couldn't believe that I hadn't seen the beauty of this piece of music until then, and not surprisingly, I couldn't play it through very well. Hence here I am trying to learn a lot I have been missing out.

I just hope this works for a teenager's mind. (You know it can be very different than us, grown-ups , if you ever try.)

Cheers-



_________________________
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/CoffeeLover130

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#1268152 - 09/14/09 03:35 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: CoffeeLover]
Sal_ Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/06/08
Posts: 355
Loc: Lacey, WA
If the student's motivated, go for it. If you think she's really going too far ahead, mandate that she come to class next time with certain pieces perfect before you'll work with her on the harder stuff, and follow through with your word. Explain that if she isn't going to put forth the effort for the easier stuff, then why should you believe that she'll put it forth for the harder stuff. This also put responsibility completely on her shoulders.

Depending on the harder piece(s) she chooses, I'd also assign/make-up mini exercises/songs to teach certain technical aspects of the harder piece I'd foresee trouble with. (You can also use them as an excuse to fill in the gaps.)

All the best.

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#1268737 - 09/15/09 01:56 PM Re: Working above their level [Re: Sal_]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thanks for these ideas!

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