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#1989268 - 11/21/12 08:33 AM Helping an adult student out of a slump
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
So I've been teaching this adult student for 6 or 7 years now. She retired a little over a year ago and has gotten into volunteering in the community, but she still has plenty of time to practice, and usually would practice every day for 45 minutes. She loves her lessons and is very dependable.

Her progress has been quite slow, however, and while I don't have a problem with that, I suspect that might be the issue here. She's not what one would consider talented. It has taken her probably 2 years to get through Book 2 of Hal Leonard's Adult method. We have worked on supplemental pieces of course, so that's not all she's been doing. She enjoys playing Hanon which has really helped her tremendously in being able to keep the beat going and not pause at bar lines. Recently, however, she's fallen into a slump of not practicing. She feels bad, and I don't make a big deal out of it, I just say, "It happens to us all sometimes" and we use the lesson as a practice session.

When this first happened I suggested that we move into the Celebration Series books. She is at the end of the HL, so I recommended going into Level 2 of CS, and so we started on a couple of pieces in there while she was finishing up Fur Elise in the HL (for those that don't know, this is exactly as the original, not a simplified adaptation, but it is only the A section). I have assigned her Dance of the Goblins (it was around Halloween when we started) and Little Song by Kabalevsky. She was very excited to get into new books and I thought this would spur things on without being a huge leap technically.

I still think that these pieces are on par with Fur Elise and the other pieces she was playing, even slightly easier. Giving this student challenges in the past have not turned out well, so I'm careful to not do that. However, she is still having trouble really getting into practicing. Her friends have told her to quit, and I asked her if she wanted to and she said no. I told her that she has invested so much time into this, and she loves to play piano, and it is a great thing to keep doing now that she is retired to keep her mind active.

I'm just at a loss on how to really inspire her. I thought it would be great if she went on the ABF forum, but she is not very computer literate. Perhaps when I see her over Christmas (she is a Skype student) I can teach her how to use the forum. But until then, does anyone have recommendations? I don't have any other adult students that she could meet with for piano get togethers or something, but I think adding that peer/social aspect would help her a lot. Any ideas?
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#1989273 - 11/21/12 08:43 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2674
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
The ABF is a good idea--either she'll love us or be horrified at what a ragtag bunch of misfits we are.

Can she find anyone to play duets with?
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A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#1989276 - 11/21/12 08:46 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: malkin]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: malkin
The ABF is a good idea--either she'll love us or be horrified at what a ragtag bunch of misfits we are.

Can she find anyone to play duets with?


I have a feeling that she would be overwhelmed at the idea of a forum. I have mentioned it to her in the past, but I'll bring it up again. Perhaps I can get in touch with some of my fellow teachers in the area and see if they have any adult students who would enjoy a monthly piano get together, perhaps something where they rotate hosting and everyone brings a treat or something.
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#1989286 - 11/21/12 09:00 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
Hi Morodiene,

I currently teach one adult student. He asked for hymns and I searched about and found "In Recital With Timeless Hymns" book 2. He enjoys this book and I like the series. Each book also comes with an accompaniment CD.

My guess is that your student needs more time at an easier level than CS 2. Or at least one repertoire book that is easier. I'd show her Book 2 of the Timeless Hymns and see if she has any interest.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (11/21/12 09:01 AM)

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#1989291 - 11/21/12 09:04 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
She has tons of hymn arrangements that she loves to play. Perhaps she's not playing those anymore? I will encourage her to do that or pick up a new hymn book. I forgot to mention I assigned a Christmas song arrangement that is quite easy (Carol of the Bells from PA Level 3).
_________________________
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#1989294 - 11/21/12 09:05 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
pianomouse Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/12
Posts: 93
Loc: Europe
Dear Morodiene
If your student has been practising steadily for years, it might be interesting to find out, if something in her life has suddenly changed. Also, it might be good to know, when her friends suggested she stops with the piano lessons. Did this occur after she stopped practising well, or maybe before, because of her slow progress?
I'm sometimes so surprised at all the things in the lives of my students which can influence their dedication to piano practising.
If this would be my student, I would talk to her, try to make her find out what's going on with her, why she changed her practising habits, etc.
Good luck! It's certainly worth to help her. I had an adult student with extremely slow progress for many years - I admired her deeply, because she just kept going.
_________________________
The piano keys are black and white,
But they sound like a million colours in your mind.
(Katie Melua)

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#1989317 - 11/21/12 10:05 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
ten left thumbs Offline
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Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
I can't help but feel she needs some people around her playing music. Duets were mentioned above, but maybe even someone who plays violin, or sings, so they can play together? It must be difficult keeping motivation up if her friends actually express discouragement to her.
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#1989361 - 11/21/12 11:41 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3238
Loc: Virginia, USA
When I had a church gig on piano I practiced my butt off out of sheer terror.

Now I play in a community band on brass and never skip my daily practice.

If I had no performing outlet I seriously doubt I'd play once a week.

If there's no point it has to be fun. Or conversely, if it's mostly hard work, there has to be a reason for it.
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gotta go practice

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#1989401 - 11/21/12 01:09 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
DeepElem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/06
Posts: 367
Loc: USA
I'm not a teacher, but I am an adult student is very familiar with going into a slump.

One thing that always helps me is playing a song I love. I hear lots of mention of method books and exercises and such, but no mention of what she loves to play. I suspect you've already been down this road but just thought it worth a mention.

Good luck, I really hope you bring her enthusiasm back. We can't afford to lose more from the ranks of adult learners smile
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#1989433 - 11/21/12 02:18 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
Candywoman Offline
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Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 855
You've given a lot of thought into what will help, but I think you might also need to ask yourself, "Do I want to teach students who need so much propping up?" In other words, consult your feelings.

I had an adult student of a similar age. After seven years of teaching him many enjoyable lessons, one day, I just couldn't continue with him. I ended lessons and we remained friends, visiting twice annually.

Realistically, I think you've paid your dues. If she's really keen, she can start with a new teacher.

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#1989578 - 11/21/12 09:16 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
SoundThumb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/28/10
Posts: 346
Loc: San Diego, CA
No one has mentioned the possibility that beginning retirement may be contributing to the problem. As someone who retired from an active career, I can say that there was a honeymoon period followed more than a year later by a new period of introspection. Perhaps your student has hit this second point?

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#1989626 - 11/22/12 12:32 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1374
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Morodiene, two different ideas comes to mind.

1. Have her make a weekly commitment to practice x hours between lessons, or x minutes a day. And have her keep a record of this, that she can show you or be prepared to discuss with you.

The goals should be easy ones, that you two set jointly, or else that she sets for herself. Maybe a minimum of 20 minutes a day at the piano, 5 days a week.

2. Is this a Skype teaching issue, now that you are in Florida and I'm guessing she is still in Wisconsin? If so, she may need a teacher who is physically present.
If I'm wrong, and she lives where you live, I'd say the two of you are in a teaching rut. Keep experimenting, and discussing with her.

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#1989700 - 11/22/12 08:10 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: DeepElem]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: DeepElem
I'm not a teacher, but I am an adult student is very familiar with going into a slump.

One thing that always helps me is playing a song I love. I hear lots of mention of method books and exercises and such, but no mention of what she loves to play. I suspect you've already been down this road but just thought it worth a mention.

Good luck, I really hope you bring her enthusiasm back. We can't afford to lose more from the ranks of adult learners smile


I appreciate your response. She Loves Fur Elise, and also The Entertainer which she learned just prior to that. So I am really baffled why she would stop practicing! I will ask her, though, if there's maybe a different direction she wants to take or perhaps a different style of music she'd like to learn.

I do understand, also, that not everyone will want to get better, or conversely she may be realizing how hard music is as she progressing and may not want to progress any further.
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MTNA member
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#1989701 - 11/22/12 08:13 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Candywoman]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Candywoman
You've given a lot of thought into what will help, but I think you might also need to ask yourself, "Do I want to teach students who need so much propping up?" In other words, consult your feelings.

I had an adult student of a similar age. After seven years of teaching him many enjoyable lessons, one day, I just couldn't continue with him. I ended lessons and we remained friends, visiting twice annually.

Realistically, I think you've paid your dues. If she's really keen, she can start with a new teacher.


I didn't think of this, and really there are times when I'm frustrated with her, but only when she doesn't practice. I think if she arrived at the conclusion to stop, however, I wouldn't prevent her. I do feel she may have reached the point at which there are diminishing returns for her, if that makes any sense (harder music/harder work = not all that rewarding for her).
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1989702 - 11/22/12 08:15 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: SoundThumb]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: SoundThumb
No one has mentioned the possibility that beginning retirement may be contributing to the problem. As someone who retired from an active career, I can say that there was a honeymoon period followed more than a year later by a new period of introspection. Perhaps your student has hit this second point?


This could very well be it. She is in a new chapter of her life, and there are times when I think she is depressed. Lately she's been volunteering though, and that has seemed to help. Perhaps a change is called for in lessons too.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1989703 - 11/22/12 08:18 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Morodiene, two different ideas comes to mind.

1. Have her make a weekly commitment to practice x hours between lessons, or x minutes a day. And have her keep a record of this, that she can show you or be prepared to discuss with you.

The goals should be easy ones, that you two set jointly, or else that she sets for herself. Maybe a minimum of 20 minutes a day at the piano, 5 days a week.
We have discussed this, and she does write down her practice times. I've talked to her about getting to the piano no matter what, even if it's only for a minute. I just don't think she's feeling a desire to do so.

Quote:
2. Is this a Skype teaching issue, now that you are in Florida and I'm guessing she is still in Wisconsin? If so, she may need a teacher who is physically present.
If I'm wrong, and she lives where you live, I'd say the two of you are in a teaching rut. Keep experimenting, and discussing with her.



This not practicing is a somewhat recent phenomenon, and I've been teaching her on Skype for over a year now (with seeing her in person during Christmas and the summer). It's possible, and I'll ask her.

Thanks everyone for the brainstorming...these are all very enlightening ideas and really made me think. I'd hate to let go of her as a student, and I'm sure she feels the same way about me as her teacher, but we shouldn't "stick it out" if it has run its course.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving for those who celebrate it (and for those who do not, don't :P )!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
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#1989935 - 11/22/12 11:49 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3238
Loc: Virginia, USA
If it were a couple of years I'd think it's run its course.

(note careful avoidance of apostrophe abuse)

But seven years?

Get her a gig. After seven years she should be capable of something - not a jazz cocktail bar obviously, but church, nursing home, etc.
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gotta go practice

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#1989965 - 11/23/12 03:08 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Does she sing? Have you thought about having her sing? After all, isn't that what she wants by taking up an instrument, to find her voice?

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#1990141 - 11/23/12 08:01 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: TimR]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: TimR
If it were a couple of years I'd think it's run its course.

(note careful avoidance of apostrophe abuse)

But seven years?

Get her a gig. After seven years she should be capable of something - not a jazz cocktail bar obviously, but church, nursing home, etc.


She has no interest in performing, and the only extent to which I think she could play is maybe for a few friends.

Update: I talked with her today and she said unequivocally she does not want to quit, nor does she want to try another teacher. I didn't even broach those subjects and she was very quick to tell me these two things. I suggested getting in touch with some other teachers who have students who are retied and who may like to get together once a month for a piano luncheon where they could play for one another, and/or do duets. She really liked that idea, so I will make some calls around.

She also said that she loved Fur Elise and would like to work on the rest of it. I have no problem with this, and she understands that she may do it for a little while and give up, and come back to it a couple of years later and be able to make more progress. I've done the same and told her it's perfectly OK, as long as she understands it is a challenge, and we'll only do it as long as she enjoys it.

Lastly, we picked some hymn arrangements for her to work on. For the time being we are setting aside the classical pieces, and if she wants to come back to them later, that is fine, but it's alright if she doesn't either.

She seemed much happier today (especially after we did some good work on Fur Elise A section), so we'll see next week how she's doing. Thanks!
_________________________
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#1990162 - 11/23/12 09:43 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2674
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Sometimes I think it would be great if my piano teacher's studio were right next to a psychotherapist's office.
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#1990193 - 11/24/12 01:00 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
MaryBee Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/09
Posts: 1228
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Even if she has no interest in performing in public, how about having her record some of her pieces? I find that recording pieces (in my case, for the ABF recitals) is a great motivator, both in preparing the pieces for performance, but also in marking milestones along my learning path. Going back to listen to them really helps in recognizing progress, and can inspire us to keep going.
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Current mantra: Play outside the box.
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#1990238 - 11/24/12 08:35 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: MaryBee]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: MaryBee
Even if she has no interest in performing in public, how about having her record some of her pieces? I find that recording pieces (in my case, for the ABF recitals) is a great motivator, both in preparing the pieces for performance, but also in marking milestones along my learning path. Going back to listen to them really helps in recognizing progress, and can inspire us to keep going.


This is something I'd have to do with her when I see her, and she is not good with technology. But thanks for the idea, we'll give it a shot!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1990296 - 11/24/12 12:00 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013


Registered: 09/14/10
Posts: 2020
Loc: Scottsdale, AZ
I may be too late to contribute here. I don't know why but I'm usually at the butt end of the thread. I should call myself as a thread killer.

Adding to everyone's suggestion the only new point I can make is that she may need an 'adult' piece that she can play. How about Chopin's famous a minor waltz. I think it will motivate her. After 7 years starter books, Christmas songs and halloween songs, she may need something like that. She may not be completely ready for it but the sheer joy of learning Chopin will overwhelm the negative. I would encourage her to practice more too while explaining that it has repeated themes and the only parts she needs to master is 15 bars or so (I forgot actual#). I was very taken back noticing so many adult beginners start piano wanting to play Chopin when I joined the ABF forum. It may motivate her to practice more to play other pieces
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#1990378 - 11/24/12 03:40 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
A Rebours Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/05/09
Posts: 222
Originally Posted By: Morodiene


I appreciate your response. She Loves Fur Elise, and also The Entertainer which she learned just prior to that.


Hi, Morodiene,

I'm an adult student with 6+ years under my belt.

Since she liked The Entertainer, she might like the Martha Meier (sp?) graded series of jazz, rags and blues. They are interesting, teach new styles, and can get more and more complex as the series goes on. They are also fun to play.

I saw in your latest post to the forum that your student wanted to learn more of Fur Elise. But you could ask her if she's like to learn some pieces in the rag, jazz, blues genre, too.

If you can get her hooked up with other adult students this could help. My teacher and I TRIED this in my locale but we only had 1 other adult student show up. But, it was nice having someone else to shoot the breeze with about piano. We never got to the point of getting a time set up to meet and play, but just being able to talk to another adult student helped.

I am self-motivated to begin with so practice for me is not an issue, but having another adult to compare notes with is a nice social point of contact.

A R
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Sauter 122 Masterclass (M-Line)

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#1990421 - 11/24/12 05:41 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: MaryBee]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: MaryBee
Even if she has no interest in performing in public, how about having her record some of her pieces? I find that recording pieces (in my case, for the ABF recitals) is a great motivator, both in preparing the pieces for performance, but also in marking milestones along my learning path. Going back to listen to them really helps in recognizing progress, and can inspire us to keep going.

I've tried this idea with several of my below-average students, and it really does not help. A camera is just as stressful as a live audience. Some people just don't want to be heard playing the piano because they are extremely self-conscious about their own playing.
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Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1990468 - 11/24/12 07:52 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2674
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
+1 for Martha Mier!!
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#1990470 - 11/24/12 07:53 PM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: AZNpiano]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12137
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: MaryBee
Even if she has no interest in performing in public, how about having her record some of her pieces? I find that recording pieces (in my case, for the ABF recitals) is a great motivator, both in preparing the pieces for performance, but also in marking milestones along my learning path. Going back to listen to them really helps in recognizing progress, and can inspire us to keep going.

I've tried this idea with several of my below-average students, and it really does not help. A camera is just as stressful as a live audience. Some people just don't want to be heard playing the piano because they are extremely self-conscious about their own playing.


Ya, I was thinking the same thing. This student does not enjoy performing, but will do it because I ask her to and it gives us a goal. But it is very stressful for her, but perhaps recording will be better. It's worth a try and if it doesn't work out then perhaps we can get enough good sections to "doctor something together". Hey, if the pros do it, why can't we? laugh
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#1990582 - 11/25/12 04:11 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
casinitaly Offline

Gold Supporter until March 1 2014


Registered: 03/01/10
Posts: 5248
Loc: Italy
+1 for Martha Meir ...and Dennis Alexander has some great books at different levels for Jazz too!

I think it is great that you're willing to work at helping her out of her slump.
_________________________
XVIII-XXXV
Everything's too hard until you make it easy. Follow your teacher's instructions and practice wisely/much, and you'll soon wonder how you ever found it hard ;)-BobPickle
Performance anxiety: make it part of your daily routine and deal with it...Cope! zrtf90

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#1990913 - 11/26/12 02:29 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
Bobpickle Offline

Gold Supporter until July 10  2014


Registered: 05/24/12
Posts: 1383
Loc: Cameron Park, California
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
She is in a new chapter of her life, and there are times when I think she is depressed. Lately she's been volunteering though, and that has seemed to help. Perhaps a change is called for in lessons too.


Often as an adult learner when I'm feeling down and quite uninspired, I have to step back from my various worries and concerns and do some re-evaluating:

What reasons were there for picking up this instrument when nobody obviously forced me to do so? I look inside my mind and I also go back and look through some of the recordings and videos I'd seen that originally got my butt off the couch - especially those with which I have a special connection in originally both confounding and overwhelming me with a sensation of unadulterated beauty and inspiration. I realize that those same reasons I originally had for embarking on my journey are still there inside of me, but that they've simply become buried under various concerns and distractions - not unlike my piano workspace - that are either currently or no longer of any particular use to me and need to either be put away until quite some time in the future or conversely put to rest entirely.

This process, as well as simply the process of objectively recognizing my growth and development certainly help to inspire this hyper conscientious adult beginner. If she is experiencing personal troubles in her life, make sure she knows that no matter what, music does and will always "represent an ideal world; a world where all dissonances resolve, where all modulations - that are journeys - return home, and where surprise and stability coexist."

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#1990996 - 11/26/12 09:50 AM Re: Helping an adult student out of a slump [Re: Morodiene]
ZoeCalgary Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/01/11
Posts: 748
Loc: Calgary Alberta
Some new music may help get her excited. I find being asked what I want to play or learn hard to answer. I love so much different types of music. But if I hear something I think ooh I'd love to play that someday. Play some music of yours that is at her level and see what sparks her interest. Hearing somebody play something at your level gives you context of how the piece should sound and how nice it does sound. For me this can be a real motivator. And she may find something she likes that she didn't even know she liked!!
_________________________
Preparing Grade 6 RCM.


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