I was about to lose patience with a student this past week who lost patience with himself in the early practicing phase of a Bach Prelude. It was a common circumstance. An expectation was built into the adult psyche over decades that an overnight conquest of a piece was the only desirable outcome, leaving virtually no room for a gradual, layered learning process. And while an assimilation of the new piece might span weeks, if not months, the quick fix model was in, and the challenging, intricate journey to musical satisfaction was out. (oops there goes the cell phone text message bling-bling, and an overlapping IM chime-in from Facebook–the most aggravating ingredients of our quicktime communications culture) It’s having a negative spill-over into the piano learning universe, so it’s a defining moment for a time-lapsed reality check!
And here’s where a “patience”- bearing teacher needs to sign out and re-connect with herself and her students.
According to the time-honored Gospel of prophets over the ages:
A brand new piece presents a tabula rasa. A pupil looks at a sea of notes that have not yet been “organized:” fingered, analyzed, measured in time, phrased, etc. and either contemplates an enriching journey of learning and growth with no time deadlines affixed, or he decides that to get from point A to point B must be a self-made contest, resembling a short distance sprint in the Olympiad. It must be over quickly, in anticipation of the next event.
To the contrary, the early phase of musical assimilation cannot have a turnover of pieces hovering over the student. The work has to be considered in the here and now, timeless, in a baby-step progression that bears riches in every phase.
And this is where my lecture rolls into the age old model of an infant learning to turn over in his crib: how he gradually pull himself up, eventually crawls, and finally walks. Are there ratings for each developmental phase, or a bigger value placed on one growth phase over another? Does the infant decide to skip an important part of his development to please himself or his parents?
If the answers to the above are obvious, these should frame the process of learning to play a new piece.
To validate: In my steady decades of teaching piano, I’ve discovered that students who are the most content with their musical progress, have accepted the step-wise journey as an incremental expansion of their consciousness. Amidst media-grinding social pressures they’ve managed to resist the cultural-fed brainwash of getting to a destination FAST, like a featured high-octane, super-charged car! They realize that it just doesn’t “GO” when applied to music learning.
So having imparted my patience-bearing framing of lessons, my brood of adults are now looking forward, with some trepidation, to our upcoming global sharing over SKYPE. With a compelling menu of compositions that will flood our intimate cyber space, we’ll produce our second Internet-driven music exchange that readily shrinks the world and brings us closer together.
In preparation for this event, students are fine-tuning their musical offerings: one will screen share hers, rather than play LIVE, while another, with a 19-hour time difference from CA (in Sydney, Australia) will conclude the hour with Beethoven’s Bagatelle in G minor.
In our glowing refinement stage, we’re revisiting various measures that are fleshed out below in a Beethoven-driven tutorial. Not surprisingly, it produced a few new awakenings that validate how learning never ends, does it?
And here’s a sneak preview of our upcoming Skype gathering–from Kentucky! (A pre-event rehearsal)
Patience, everybody! You’ll do it, and smile when it’s over!
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