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#1941669 - 08/12/12 10:04 PM What to do with this lovely student of mine!
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
I teach an adorable, but challenging, 10 year old. I've taught her for 3 years. She LOVES piano in an unwavering way and is very musical, but is very free spirited and works in a very unstructured and undisciplined manner.

If she is passionate about a piece she is learning she will throw herself into it 150% and nail it faster than i thought possible. I gave her Star Wars (AMEB piano for leisure grade 2) recently and she nailed it in 2 weeks. But if she doesn't like something she's learning it's an uphill battle and a lot of time is wasted with her procrastinating or complaining or at best, dragging herself through it whilst putting in the minimum of effort. Also her sight reading is atrocious and she has no desire whatsoever (apart from pleasing me) to improve it.

What would you do with a student like this? Am I doing the right thing in making her learn pieces she doesn't want to learn for the sake of technique and turning her into a well rounded musician, or should I feed her endless amounts of pieces she is enthusiastic about and see how far it takes her?

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#1941696 - 08/12/12 11:12 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
dmd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/09
Posts: 1775
Loc: Pennsylvania
She sounds like a young lady who is mature beyond her years.

I am retired and that is exactly MY attitude. LOL ...
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#1941700 - 08/12/12 11:22 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Peter K. Mose Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
You could discuss the issue with her. At ten your student would probably enjoy being brought into the decision-making process.

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#1941701 - 08/12/12 11:24 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
Hahaha smile

I should probably also add, I'm trying to decide whether to enroll her in "piano for leisure" (less serious syllabus, with lots of popular and jazz tunes), or the more serious "piano" syllabus.

She says she doesn't like classical music, but what she means is that she doesn't like slow, gentle, graceful music. She loved learning Kabelevskys "Clowns", "March" by Shostakovich, "Folk Dance" by Bartok, "Arabesque" by Burgmuller, and is very excited that we've just started "Sonatina Op.36 No.1" by Clementi.

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#1941702 - 08/12/12 11:25 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: dmd]
Piano*Dad Online   content
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Originally Posted By: dmd
She sounds like a young lady who is mature beyond her years.

I am retired and that is exactly MY attitude. LOL ...



grin


Have you spent some quality time talking to her and to her parents? At that age, and with those traits you describe, you might be well advised to run with her preferences and only gently work in the more serious stuff that is needed to improve her technique. To use authority to push her onto your straight and narrow track might be a recipe for destroying her. But this is why open lines of communication with the family, and building the trust of the student, seem so important.
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#1941705 - 08/12/12 11:32 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
She would probably enjoy it. I don't know if I would though wink

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#1941708 - 08/12/12 11:39 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
I haven't really talked to her and her parents (well, mum...dad lives on the other side of the world) about it. Her mum doesn't have much knowledge of music or what is required to become a musician. She is very supportive in an encouraging way - organising musical soiree's at her house so her daughter can perform and buying her a decent digital piano to practice on, but she doesn't take any part in the practice side of things. I think she is just happy that her daughter WANTS to jump on the piano every day without any reminding and doesn't want to squash that, which is fair enough. I think her mum would say to go the leisure path.

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#1941734 - 08/13/12 01:25 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5415
Loc: Orange County, CA
Just give her what she likes to play and keep her playing the piano for as long as possible.
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#1941751 - 08/13/12 02:40 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Theme&Variations Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/10
Posts: 135
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Focus less on exam syllabi and more on learning/playing a wide variety of music, agreed upon by both of you?
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Private piano teacher since 2003
Member:
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ANZCA (Australian and New Zealand Cultural Arts),
KMEIA (Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia).

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#1941756 - 08/13/12 02:58 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
She loves doing exams/performing, so she wouldn't want that. So far she's only done P Plate 1 and P Plate 3 (mini exams run by the examination board in australia), both times giving the examiners much more than they bargained for, showing them other pieces she's learning after doing the exam pieces and pretty much having to be kicked out the door! And she keeps begging me to let her start working towards her next exam, but I can't decide which syllabus to use, nor which level to go for. I think she's around grade 1 to 2 level. Any Australians who can give an opinion on that one by looking at the pieces I listed higher? They're all pieces she's learnt fairly recently.

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#1941859 - 08/13/12 09:49 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
as far as sight reading.. i have no problem writing key names (in pencil) in on the score.. especially in the outer reaches. It is difficult to play the high and very low E's and A's and F's.

sight reading makes it so much easier.
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#1941870 - 08/13/12 10:11 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: AZNpiano]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Just give her what she likes to play and keep her playing the piano for as long as possible.


In my experience, this is the only thing that will work.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1941874 - 08/13/12 10:24 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
Beth, you sound like a good one to win her over by discussing the purpose of the 'serious' pieces, while letting her maintain her momentum and enthusiasm with things she already knows she loves to play. After all, a foundation of technique is what sets us free for our whole life. And she may be surprised to find that she likes things which she does not know about at present; she is setting forth on such a wide sea, a ten-year-old would have no way of knowing.

As for the complaining. You might tell her that weightlifters say that it does them no good to make faces while they work out--- in fact, it only drains their energy.

It might work better with a boy student.

You might allow her to "surprise you" while you are playing a piece you know she would love, but which is j u s t out of her reach. You stop, mid-bar, when you "see" her arrive. Then forbid her from attempting it, saying you know she wouldn't care to work it up, even this easy section (which you briefly play over, and let fall away). Nothing fires a ten-year-old up with a burning desire, like being forbidden to do something.

It sounds like you're doing pretty well, to me.
_________________________
Clef


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#1941972 - 08/13/12 01:45 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: rocket88]
Para Otras Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/12
Posts: 309
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Just give her what she likes to play and keep her playing the piano for as long as possible.


In my experience, this is the only thing that will work.
This smile

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#1944948 - 08/18/12 09:17 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Georginamca Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/23/11
Posts: 4
I would say piano for leisure if she insists on exams. Although the pieces wont be a problem for straight,piano as the choices outside the books are vast i dont famcy your chances with more rigorous supporting tests. And get her some performing opportunities as she wont need exams if she has other goals and you can encourage a balanced program eg for old peoples home, school, festivals etc. How are scales, arps, sight reading, theory and aurals? Is she keen on any of that? Just keep her keen. Much more rewarding for both of you. Make sure she listens to a wide range of composers and she may develop an appreciation of other stuff eventually. Set her listening homework and ask her what she thought of various pieces and you may be pleasantly surprised what she likes.

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#1945174 - 08/18/12 07:25 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1239
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
I know more than one piano student (including myself and my sister) who were essentially forced by inflexible teachers to play music we did not want to play. In the 50s most teachers had a pretty rigid approach in my experience.

We all quit because of it. I took it up again a few years later without a teacher and have been playing ever since without the horror of mandatory recitals too. My sister has since taken piano back up now that she is an adult, without a teacher and is enjoying it. The lessons were not a waste of time because she did not have to start from scratch as an adult but it's too bad.

I would suggest using care to make sure she is enjoying making music - it's supposed to be fun. It would be somewhat different if her goal is to become a concert pianist but if she is doing it for enjoyment, give her lots of slack and maybe slip in a more serious piece now and then.

Sure, you're the expert, but the student is your customer and we need to keep our customers satisfied.
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#1945181 - 08/18/12 07:43 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 189
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

I took your advice and had a talk to the student and she surprised me with her maturity. We have decided that we are going to work towards grade 2 piano for leisure, but I explained the importance of classical pieces for developing her technique and she said "I don't want to stop doing classical pieces. Can't we do half and half?"

I'm really glad I had a talk with her and let her take responsibility for her own learning.

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#1945250 - 08/18/12 11:33 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Roger Ransom]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7301
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Roger Ransom
I took it up again a few years later without a teacher and have been playing ever since without the horror of mandatory recitals too.

The horror??? You mean playing in front of others is a horror? Do you do other activities in front of others, and find those a horror as well?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1945257 - 08/18/12 11:56 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Elene Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/07
Posts: 1408
Loc: under monsoon clouds
I don't understand the concept of a syllabus or of having to choose between "piano for leisure" or something more "serious." We don't have anything like that here. Not sure whether to feel sorry for your students or to be glad that there is an official structure because your country considers music education important.

I'm glad your student wants to do "half and half," which sounds very sensible, and I hope she'll continue enjoying her lessons. There is SO much piano repertoire of all kinds, surely she can find plenty to do that she likes and that still increases her ability. I hope, too, that since she learns very fast when she wants to, that she will eventually at least read through lots of standard repertoire and get familiar with it, since there is so much richness there. She'll mature and probably develop broader tastes anyway.

(At this point in my life, it's great being middle-aged and long, long past my music degree, and working on absolutely anything I feel like working on with my teacher!)

I don't see that anyone should be surprised that a given student finds mandatory recitals a "horror," and many people do find public speaking and other sorts of public appearances quite stressful as well. There is no reason to berate a person for feeling that way.

Elene
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#1945362 - 08/19/12 08:29 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1239
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Roger Ransom
I took it up again a few years later without a teacher and have been playing ever since without the horror of mandatory recitals too.

The horror??? You mean playing in front of others is a horror? Do you do other activities in front of others, and find those a horror as well?


Actually I don't do anything else in front of the public so I don't know how I would have felt about it.

My teacher made a huge deal out of her annual recitals. I found it incredibly stressful and scary to spend months building up to her very formal recital environment. Memorizing pieces that were at the limit of my ability at the time was extremely difficult (I still have difficulty memorizing and don't even try any more).

I used to spend weeks in near terror worrying about 'messing up' at the recital. For several months out of the year, piano playing was no fun because of the absolute requirement that I subject myself to these things. I didn't know why then and I still don't.

I now play occasionally in front of people but I play using music and I play what I want to and it has eventually become a pleasant experience.

Maybe it was her unrelenting emphasis but it sure freaked me (and others) out. It still makes me cringe when I think about them 50 years later.

A bad experience.
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#1945387 - 08/19/12 09:36 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Roger Ransom]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7301
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Roger Ransom
Actually I don't do anything else in front of the public so I don't know how I would have felt about it.

My teacher made a huge deal out of her annual recitals.

But of course you do, unless you're a recluse. In addition to your job, you do hundreds of activities daily in public. I think you nailed it in the next paragraph. It was the teacher's build up and your anticipation and perhaps fear of the unknown. Also, I have learned over the years that a number of parents unwittingly inject fear into the situation, especially the nit-pickers, but either constant criticism or berating of the student.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1945419 - 08/19/12 10:29 AM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
John v.d.Brook, I think there's a difference between the usual things we do in public, and a recital.

For our usual public activities, there may be a large number of people around, but most of them aren't paying very much attention to us. Also we're doing things that we have complete confidence we can do correctly, or if we make a mistake there isn't a great deal of importance attached to it and we can take our time to correct the mistake.

In a recital, we are on-stage alone in front of a large number of people who are paying close attention to what we do. We may not feel confident in our memorization of our piece, and if we make a mistake the expectation is that we will be able to recover from it quickly and seamlessly. Now, those latter things can be practiced, but I think it must take a much deeper and more thorough approach to memorization and mistake recovery than many people get in their lessons.
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#1945497 - 08/19/12 12:43 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: PianoStudent88]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7301
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Exactly. I was trying to use Roger's post as a springboard to explore this subject. Your perceptions are precisely what engenders stage fright. But are these activities so different? You call some activities routine, but if you play in front of others routinely, isn't that also routine? I personally attach no importance to a mistake in a performance. Why? Because while amateurs and non-musicians may consider missed notes as mistakes - earth shattering events, if you will, in truth, no one plays error free, and that includes dynamics, phrasing, touch, voicing, etc., etc., etc. If an airline pilot or an MD makes a mistake, it can be life threatening. If I make a mistake, life on earth won't cease.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1945543 - 08/19/12 01:34 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11556
Loc: Canada
I've paid attention to how performances by students have been described since coming to PW. For me a performance is a communication of music to an audience, and hopefully there is a response by the audience which is at least in part emotional. Recitals, meanwhile, are ways of practicing to play in front of people, in order to get used to it and get the experience. In the recitals that I experienced and observed, the audience was made up of friends and family, and as a group they were rooting for all of the players, making them feel safe.

Often this is not what I see in forums. The performances are in the context of recitals, exams, or competitions. Even in recitals, there is the atmosphere of being judged, or measured. Not only the student is being judged, but the teacher is also being judged, which puts pressure on the teacher, and that pressure can filter back to the student. When parents vie against each other, then there is pressure that way too. I don't know whether my experience here of the group gathering around the students as a whole protectively exists in that atmosphere. I read about parents comparing their children to other children; berating them (and the teacher?) if they are not "better" than the others, or cutting down the others of they are "not as good".

ANY experience that we have in childhood will carry a positive or negative association. So if recitals become a bad experience, then that experience can cause anxiety in adulthood for other public performances resembling them. Or the reverse, as John suggested.

I also don't think that emotion is logical. If a child bombs at a recital and the family and/or teacher treat it as earth shattering, then it will be earth shattering. I don't even think that this is limited to children. On the emotional plane things associate weirdly.

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#1945550 - 08/19/12 01:44 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11556
Loc: Canada
A thought and question in regards to "piano for leisure" exams in this context.

I understand that this student likes non-classical pieces (but per last post doesn't want to exclude the classical) and is also quite musical. Meanwhile there is this "piano for leisure" which has non-classical pieces, so the suggestion makes sense in that context.

I think that "piano for leisure" is also meant for the less serious musician, so expectations are not so high. It seems to be suggested for hobbyist-type adults from time to time. But IS non-classical music easier, less challenging, and needing less skills? Or is it a combination of the same skills, plus other skills that might not be needed as much in classical? Might it also be challenging, but along some different avenues? This is not a rhetorical question.

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#1945600 - 08/19/12 03:13 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7301
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
Often this is not what I see in forums. The performances are in the context of recitals, exams, or competitions. Even in recitals, there is the atmosphere of being judged, or measured. Not only the student is being judged, but the teacher is also being judged, which puts pressure on the teacher, and that pressure can filter back to the student.

To mitigate this (and I find that most of my associates here are not the pressuring kind) I always announce at the beginning of the program that we're here to have fun, to enjoy the music, and to appreciate the hours of hard work all the students have put in preparing their music.

Recitals, mandatory or not, do not have to be horror events.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1945686 - 08/19/12 06:15 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
And that is why I would study with John, if I could. It is also why I understand and hold sympathy with Roger and Elene.

"Greater than the fear of death," is how many people rate their fear of speaking or performing in public. Yet it's possible to get beyond that way of looking at it; maybe not with Roger's old piano teacher, though.
_________________________
Clef


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#1945728 - 08/19/12 07:19 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Theme&Variations Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/10
Posts: 135
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Actually, the Piano for Leisure music is often harder in terms of rhythm and stylistic variation compared with the equivalent (classical) Pianoforte levels. It's just that the exam itself requires less technical work/aural/sight-reading. (But the (classical) Pianoforte syllabus is notorious for requiring more technical work than pretty much any other exam syllabus.)
_________________________
Private piano teacher since 2003
Member:
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ANZCA (Australian and New Zealand Cultural Arts),
KMEIA (Kodály Music Education Institute of Australia).

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#1945839 - 08/19/12 10:40 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: Beth_Frances]
Clarden Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/07/12
Posts: 8
Loc: Edmonton, Canada
On reading your introduction regarding your challenging student a second time, what strikes me is that she is probably a very keen auditory learner. As a result, she will be thrilled to learn something she already "knows", but will resist anything that she actually has to work at. A new piece is very hard if sight-reading is "atrocious", and resistance to that request will be considerable. I can see why she might try every trick in the book to not have to challenge herself, because to do so will remind her of her deficiencies in reading, instead of the joy she finds in playing more familiar tunes. She is simply seeking pleasure - not pain!

One suggestion might be is to present her with some simpler and shorter tunes to sight read. If you can show her how to follow the patterns (up or down, next note or skip) something that basic will help her train her eyes. When she does try to read, she may be trying to think letter names, and that can create a huge struggle, and isn't sustainable when playing hands together. A trick I have suggested to my auditory learners is to pretend that they have "super eyes" and can see tiny objects very clearly. When they try it, they actually seem to send extra mental energy to their eyes, and suddenly they can read music better. I've had a bunch of auditory learners improve their visual acuity enough that they reported that they could see things in general much more clearly - not just little black dots on a bunch of lines!

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#1945841 - 08/19/12 10:45 PM Re: What to do with this lovely student of mine! [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1239
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Recitals, mandatory or not, do not have to be horror events.


Well, I certainly will agree with this statement and perhaps if you had been my teacher things would have been different, who knows.

Whether it was my fault, my parents fault, my teachers fault or some combination thereof, the fact remains that I was terrified of mandatory recitals at that time.

I have attended a couple of recitals put on by a cousin who teaches very young students. She had them do super cute little skits that the student's pieces were actually part of. They were very low key and fun for the kids so I know it can be done. I just think it's something teachers should be aware of and maybe these days they are. I hope so.
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New Topics - Multiple Forums
Yamaha P255
by pianist.ame
Today at 09:12 PM
Just Tried Brand New Mason and Hamlins....
by Paul678
Today at 09:10 PM
Broken Butt Plate - Replacement part?
by musicNow
Today at 08:24 PM
Liszt's letters to Jessie Laussot
by Michael Sayers
Today at 07:59 PM
Good popular and classical songs for a piano gig?
by Tony Romo
Today at 07:13 PM
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