very unusual problem

Posted by: pianolady14

very unusual problem - 01/04/12 05:55 PM

Three months ago, I started a new 7yo student. From Day 1 she showed signs of unusual ability. Example: at lesson 3, she told me "I know what the black notes are for -- they're for when you want to play your song starting on a different note." Then proceeded to play Mary Had A Little Lamb in D, E, and F with no errors. When I was introducing major/minor sounds (no theory, just ear training) I played Twinkle Twinkle in cm. She laughed and said, " You could do that for The Wheels on the Bus, too!" Then she played it in dm and fm while making up words about the bus breaking down. I asked her how she decided what notes to play, and she told me all you had to do was "change the third note to the next lower note".She picked that up from watching me play the one piece. One day she transposed the Bach Minuet in G to D on the spot and asked if she could change the title in the book. She is now at Faber's Level 3A as well as the Essential Keyboard Rep. books.She is generally the kind of student who restores your faith in teaching -- she is a great reader, obviously has a great ear, very detail-oriented, and very happy and polite. Mom says she practices/plays 2 hours a day with no prompting and in fact has to be dragged away to do anything else. So what's the problem? MOM WANTS HER TO QUIT PIANO!! She claims that piano is turning into an obsession and that she wants her daughter to have a "well-rounded education." This girl is a straight A student, and also does gymnastics. She never seems stressed out at her lessons; in fact, she is the one setting the pace and quite obviously does all these things as a little game. I asked Mom if they were considering another teacher, and she said no, they just don't want her focusing so much on one thing. I asked Mom what her daughter thought about the idea of quitting and she said the girl cried and begged to keep taking lessons. Mom interprets this as being "obsessed." How would you respond to this parent? I'm at a loss.
Posted by: BDB

Re: very unusual problem - 01/04/12 07:02 PM

All I can say is that it is very common for people to become obsessed with something for which they have no talent, and very rare for someone to be talented and love doing what they are talented at. Those in the former category often have a miserable and unsuccessful life no matter what they do, while those in the latter have a choice.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: very unusual problem - 01/04/12 08:07 PM

I would be quick to point out statistics about how piano studies will help her when it comes time for college. She is getting a well-rounded education at school. Piano is extra-curricular and therefore there is no need to be more well-rounded outside of school. The child is gifted, and you need to make that very clear to the parents. Perhaps if she played for someone else, a college professor or someone more esteemed to determine how the child is, this would help the parents realize what she is doing is good for her. You may also want to let the mom know about the other students that you've seen who are overworked, overbooked, have no time for rest and are generally stressed out and unhappy. That is what signing up in too many things can do to a child.

Why on earth would a parent take away something that the child loves and is a GOOD thing? She's not playing video games or taking drugs!!
Posted by: Minaku

Re: very unusual problem - 01/04/12 08:38 PM

Does her mother not realize what a gem this child is? I agree with Morodiene. Stress to the mother how rare her child is, how well she's doing, how naturally this all comes to her. Taking away her musical education would be a crime.
Posted by: childofparadise2002

Re: very unusual problem - 01/04/12 10:39 PM

Is the mom concerned about the possibility that her child will miss out on other opportunities by focusing on one activity at such an early age? As a parent, I can understand this anxiety. I think some parents can be obsessed (!) about letting the kid try ALL activities so that they won't prematurely declare their life's passion, especially parents of multi-talented kids. Maybe what the mom needs to know is that the kid can learn to pace herself so that musical activity doesn't exclude other activities, and that many people who love music and were awesome young musicians end up choosing other careers (being good at music doesn't limit one's career choices).
Posted by: Evalon

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 02:16 AM

Hi,

I'm sharing my personal opinion here - I'm not being a piano teacher but someone who has picked up playing piano at a "late" age (43).

I started playing piano about 4 months ago and really like it. It's a major inspiration not least because I've always had a profound musical interest (there's close to always a melody playing in my head & music has given me many of my most memorable moments) but also because it's challenging in ways that normal book studies are not - at least not to me (I have a background in engineering & medicine).

While playing I have to read and understand the notes, while following a rhythm, hitting the right keys, listening to whether or not I did it right and then also find a way to express my "inner me" in the way I play. Besides the wonder of playing in and by itself I also find it to be a multi-facetted training of my capacities. Right & left brain hemispheres involved, muscle-coordination, feeling & expression, etc.

To that end I remember some time months ago my then piano teacher said that piano playing was generally good for overall learning skills & I personally believe it to be so. Although I haven't looked into it I wouldn't be surprised to find that music supports high IQ, and that many "prominent" people also play an instrument or sing besides what is their main venue in life.

End of my personal opinion/experiences ;-)

Jesper

Posted by: Stanny

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 07:36 AM

Woah, the mom wants her to quit? Wow, I wonder what is going on at home? Perhaps the mom can set some guidelines to practicing. I know kids that get obsessed with video games, tv shows, computer sites, but usually the parent limits their activity to a certain amount of time per day. Maybe if the child didn't have to be "dragged" away from 2 hours of practice to do their chores, eat, etc it would be different. If the child wants to continue, they had better take care of all the other things in their life.

I agree, the student seems like a gem, so I would do everything in my power not to let them quit!
Posted by: Minaku

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 08:16 AM

As an aside, I'm amused at how awful video games seem to be for posters in this thread. At least she's playing video games.....OR taking drugs.

Video games have their own benefits and I use them accordingly. They teach problem-solving skills and the music is a motivator to practice piano.
Posted by: liszt85

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 08:18 AM

With such a child, I would do everything in my power too to stop them from quitting. If nothing else works, I might even offer to teach the child for free! (I'm not saying you should, nobody should have to.. its just the kind of thing I can imagine myself doing). I really hope you manage to convince the mom about how ridiculous her decision is.
Posted by: rocket88

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 08:49 AM

Sometimes the real reason for someone quitting is never shared with the teacher. Even on this forum advice is sometimes given to students to lie to the teacher about the real reason why one wants to quit/change teachers.

So it could be anything.

One possibility is that mom is competitive with the girl, and concerned that the child will overshadow her with her talent, and the "well-rounded" excuse is just that...an excuse.

So arguments about the benefits of piano lessons miss the mark.

Just a thought.

Posted by: TimR

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 09:00 AM

Video games are extremely motivating. Kids play them for hours on end and develop incredible skills.

Maybe we could learn something from that aspect.
Posted by: Overexposed

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 09:37 AM

pianolady14, you said that the mother "wants her to quit". Does that mean she has given you notice that she's stopping lessons?

If it were me, I'd be surprised at the parents choice to stop lessons. But I would accept it and would only give my opinion if the parent asks for it. If the parent told me she wants to stop lessons, I would ask for 2 weeks notice. And that's it.
Posted by: childofparadise2002

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 09:54 AM

Is it also possible that they are indeed going to a different teacher but don't want to hurt your feelings? Just by reading on this forum, lying about changing teachers seems to be something that many do, or at least consider doing. It's hard for you to figure out what you can do without knowing the true reason...
Posted by: Brad Hoehne

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 10:05 AM

Here's my script:

"I have taught many children your daughter's age, and it is rare that I find one that has such a gift for music and an interest in it. Age seven is a very sensitive time for musical learning. Lessons absorbed at this age will remain with someone for a lifetime. Many people work a lifetime to achieve what your daughter seems to have the potential for.

If you are concerned about this detracting from her other interest, I believe that a musical education, even an intense one, can be compatible with a well-rounded life. Studies have shown that it can even enhance a child's education.

Children have the capacity to soak up many lessons from what it is that interests them. Please don't throw this opportunity away."

I
Posted by: wouter79

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 10:55 AM

I think it's best to take her word at face value and find a way to solve it.

Eg, agree a workable amount of practice time eg 1 hour per day and tell the child not to break the agreement.

I would stay out of an argument about that, as it probably is going to upset the parents, especially if they have a double agenda.
Posted by: Jeff Clef

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 11:31 AM

I would immediately call the police and have Child Protective Services take that parent into custody; let her do her explaining to a Family Court judge.

However, I'm sure Morodene's suggestion is more realistic.

You could also have angry piano teachers picket her house, and call in the media. Let these parents explain to the microphones and cameras. I wouldn't mind seeing the video of this on YouTube. The teachers, with their picket signs and a real piano on a truck, which someone is playing while the cameras watch the poor child watching longingly through the front window, until the evil parent drags her off.

Ok then, back to Morodene. But after that has been given a try, just keep it in mind that you have a fallback... just a different octave of the Art of Persuasion.

Oscar Wilde said, "The first half of our life is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children." Come to think of it, his mother gave him some pretty bad advice when he asked her if he should go to prison or move to France for a while. "Oh, go to prison," she said. Well intentioned, I'm sure, but it didn't work out very well.

I wonder if this little girl's mother isn't giving her much the same advice.
Posted by: pianolady14

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 11:33 AM

As it happens, the mother called me last night. She repeated her concerns about "obsessing" but then asked me what I thought she should do. I told her that I thought she had a huge talent for music and that I could tell she loved it. On the other hand, I could (sort of) understand her issues. I suggested that we use a practice log and limit the amount of practice to 3 half-hour sessions per day. Apparently she had been neglecting her chores, etc. to play the piano. (I still suffer from that problem!) Mom seemed to like that idea. I have an idea that the little angel is playing the "little Mozart" card to get out of some work. It seems that Mom has trouble setting limits in general. Mom is also concerned that much of her practicing is just "fooling around." I asked her what she meant and she gave me the example that she plays the lesson book pieces then makes up introductions, different endings, changes time signatures, adds different bass lines, transposes, etc. Mom said "all her friends just play their songs." Talk about depressing. I went on at length about her giftedness and that her friends weren't able to do these things. I explained that i encourage her to do all those things and that "just playing the songs" is terribly inadequate for a child like her. So after a half hour on the phone Mom says, "so you think she has talent?" Um, yes. I also called her school music teacher (a friend) this morning and asked her to find a reason to hear her play and talk to Mom about her incredible talent since Mom seems to have doubts. So I guess we're OK for now. Most of my students are playing in a community recital next month and I think Mom will be surprised by how her daughter compares. Thanks for all the replies!
Posted by: piano joy

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 12:01 PM

Well, finally! A parent who called the teacher and asked for help and advice- gotta give some credit to that mom.

I think you found the angle to make this work- be a "team" with the mom- keep understanding her point of view (even if you really want to shake her and say, "what the heck's wrong with you,can't you see your kid is great at this?!" ) and if she feels you two are in agreement AND she has someone helping her , I'm betting it will all continue to work out fine.

I also recommend continuing to educate the mom about music and piano. It sounds like she has no background, thus, believing her child is "fooling around" when, in fact, she's improvising and (I guess) self-teaching valuable skills. But, please stop telling us about the kids' talent, I'm drooling with envy at her age + abilities. smile
Posted by: Brad Hoehne

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 01:50 PM

Originally Posted By: pianolady14
I suggested that we use a practice log and limit the amount of practice to 3 half-hour sessions per day.


Come to think of it, this might actually speed the child's musical development, as it will teach her to value her time and make the most of it. This a lesson I could learn...
Posted by: keystring

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 02:13 PM

If the girl is bright and self-directed, wouldn't it be good for the girl to know she has to make time for her other chores, and have her get a handle on her time? I mean in the sense of making sure her other things being done. A practice log would be deadening. If you are being inspired by what you are doing, getting insights, and you have to start reporting everything you do, then you can no longer concentrate on the music in the same way. Practice logs are good for people who don't want to do things.

I raised two self-motivated kids. Although it was in a homeschooling context some of what we did might still be useful. There were things they had to do, such as reading, spelling, math., and chores, and other things they were allowed to do which were the things they were interested in. They knew they could do the second once the first was done (which also had to be done correctly). So they found the most efficient way of doing what they had to do, and did it well. Then they had as much time as they wanted for the other things.
Posted by: childofparadise2002

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 02:46 PM

I’m glad you and the mom can work things out. It’s not surprising to me at all that the mom doesn’t realize that her daughter is very talented. Parents who don’t have a music background can be quite wrong in this regard, some think their “average” kids (if one dares use this word) are quite talented, some look at what their talented kids do and think that everyone can do just that. It takes a while, but observant and thoughtful parents eventually will figure out what is considered normal and what is considered very unusual at each stage…

Another way to discipline the kid is to use the “if you do a really good job at chores you will get x minutes of extra piano time” strategy. It might just work.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 03:40 PM

Your story is similar to the many battles I'd have to fight against parents, not students! Most students are fine. It's harder to convince/educate the parents in these isolated cases.

I hope it all works out for you!
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 05:15 PM

You can also ask her the girl what her chores are and teach her to do them faster.
Posted by: pianolady14

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 05:30 PM

Originally Posted By: keystring
If the girl is bright and self-directed, wouldn't it be good for the girl to know she has to make time for her other chores, and have her get a handle on her time? I mean in the sense of making sure her other things being done. A practice log would be deadening. If you are being inspired by what you are doing, getting insights, and you have to start reporting everything you do, then you can no longer concentrate on the music in the same way. Practice logs are good for people who don't want to do things.

I raised two self-motivated kids. Although it was in a homeschooling context some of what we did might still be useful. There were things they had to do, such as reading, spelling, math., and chores, and other things they were allowed to do which were the things they were interested in. They knew they could do the second once the first was done (which also had to be done correctly). So they found the most efficient way of doing what they had to do, and did it well. Then they had as much time as they wanted for the other things.


I actually agree, which is why I never use practice logs. However, sometimes we have to make compromises with parents. All I want her to write is start time/end time. I'm not interested in being her mother -- I just want Mom to let her keep taking lessons!
Posted by: pianolady14

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 05:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Candywoman
You can also ask her the girl what her chores are and teach her to do them faster.


grin I like this idea. She could practice doing them at my house. It might take her years to master them and then I would have more time to practice!
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: very unusual problem - 01/05/12 09:43 PM

She's only seven. I think you could expect her to make her bed, side on and off the table, and feed the cat. But she sounds like a terrific student!
Posted by: wouter79

Re: very unusual problem - 01/07/12 03:51 PM

Congrats on working out a deal! Let's hope that it works
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: very unusual problem - 01/08/12 04:57 AM

Make sure that mom gets regular positive feedback from you. She sounds clueless. Maybe invite her to sit in on an occasional lesson.

If she gets weird on you again, just ask that lessons at least continue through the academic year, instead of ending abruptly.

But congratulations for turning this around. And enjoy that student: she sounds wonderful to work with!

Peter
Posted by: Peter K. Mose

Re: very unusual problem - 01/08/12 11:04 AM

Newbie question: I just tried to edit my prior post. I clicked the "Edit" box, and drafted something. Then when I went to post it, the software said that too much time had elapsed to allow for editing.

How much time is allowed for editing? And why would an "Edit" box appear under my prior post if there is no longer time available for editing?

Thanks for the advice,
Peter
Posted by: wouter79

Re: very unusual problem - 01/08/12 02:06 PM

Peter,

I think your question is way off topic (which is the original question of the poster, also referred to as OP). It would be better if you find an appropriate thread matching your question or posting your question in a new thread.
Posted by: currawong

Re: very unusual problem - 01/08/12 05:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
How much time is allowed for editing?
I think the window of opportunity is only a few hours.
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
And why would an "Edit" box appear under my prior post if there is no longer time available for editing?
I have no idea on that one! But PW is full of little mysteries. smile
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: very unusual problem - 01/08/12 07:12 PM

If this site works like another site I frequent, the edit window can still be open when you click the edit button and start editing, but expire while you're composing your edit.
Posted by: btb

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 12:01 AM

Mum is obviously a "Muggle" (Potter lingo) ...
what I can't fathom is how such inartistic parents bear such remarkable offspring.

But then, as Piano Teacher, one is constantly
aware of the drag of a Muggle on any student's prospect of advancement. Without an encouraging voice on the home front, the path
becomes that much steeper.

Mum should be led away to the stocks should she dare to curb this child's piano lessons.
Posted by: neildradford

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 04:07 AM

btb, are you a parent yourself? I ask because, if you were, you would know that as a parent there are a million and one things a parent is responsible for toward that child's upbringing, not just to cater for the child's piano needs. If said child is neglecting other things in life such as chores (and times for being a kid?) then isn't it appropriate for the parent to take action? In my child years my parents would target things I enjoyed (going out to play with other kids mostly) normally through 'grounding' me for a day or two.

As for leading the "Muggle" (whatever that is) to the stocks, well......

Sometimes you have to look a little deeper than just through the eyes of a piano teacher. As shocking as it may be to some, there is, actually, more to life than piano.

Neil.
Posted by: Rotom

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 05:16 AM

I dont usually post here (I'm not a piano teacher)...

Not only can she play piano, but since she "fools around" (transposes, makes up different endings, introductions, etc), I suggest she try composing, as well as continuing playing piano.
Posted by: childofparadise2002

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 08:15 AM

There is actually another possibility why the mom doesn’t see that her daughter is gifted. Of course this is pure guessing, but it is possible that the mom herself is gifted musically but simply has not had the chance to develop the gift. This is a common pattern, mentioned by experts of gifted education in books on how to parent gifted children, in families where both parents and kids are gifted: whatever the kids can do just doesn’t seem so out of the ordinary in the parents’ eyes. So in some cases a gifted kid is actually appreciated less by her own parents than by “outsiders”.

Sometimes it can take quite a bit of time for a parent to believe that her kid is talented. Maybe after listening to a lot of youtube videos, maybe after going to enough recitals and realizing what “average” kids do… I’d give this mom the benefit of the doubt, especially because she is open-minded enough to discuss with the teacher and change her mind upon new information.
Posted by: piano joy

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 08:48 AM

Someone please define a "muggle"- I can't keep up with all the new words invented in movies today..
(sorry to sideline a bit)
Posted by: PianoStudent88

Re: very unusual problem - 01/11/12 08:50 AM

A muggle is an ordinary non-wizard person, as compared to the wizards. It's from the Harry Potter series.