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Emily Grossman

Slugs, Swallows, Spring Recitals

May 18, 2009 at 7:21 AM

I don't know what it is about May, but it seems like this is the time of year that I always come down with something nasty.  Usually, it also coincides with my end of the year recital.  Last night, as my temperature spiked to 102.4, I finally made arrangements for my good friend, Maria, to take over accompanying the Vivaldi A Minor that was my student Eli's piece for the recital today.  Orchestra reductions in general tend to demand a bit more practice time, but this arrangement in particular was not something I would even consider playing without having been able to practice the past several days, much less while delirious with the flu.  Eli seemed hesitant enough without my poor accompanying to trip her up, and Maria assured me she'd played it at least a dozen times, so it wouldn't be a problem.  I tried not to feel too guilty for pawning her off.  The rest of the recital I could handle just fine.

...That is, unless I was still insanely feverish come morning time.  ...And I still had the program to design.  The cookies to bake...  Good grief.  Without a doubt, some people must have been praying for me, because at 5:30 this morning, my fever began to break, and I was able to finally sit down at the computer and begin composing the program.  At 7:30, the program fell into place, so I lay down for a quick two-hour nap and woke up with a normal temperature. 

I couldn't help but notice as I folded and stacked, that most of the pieces on the program were close to beginner level in difficulty.  Granted, a large percentage of my students are new this year, but even a couple of students that I've had for a while are playing simple, short pieces.  It would be difficult to refrain from giving a speech before each piece, explaining the new challenges that each student had overcome to make it to where they were today, that this piece has tricky slurs, and this one is in a new key, with a completely different finger pattern.  And this one is using vibrato for the first time!  An untrained ear wouldn't know the difference.  And no one but two of us know the amount of work it took to iron out those rhythmic issues or that fourth finger conundrum.  We go slowly, but thoroughly, and not until it's right do we move forward.

And yet, I still had my own questions.  Were they really getting anywhere?  If we traveled like slugs, would we ever get there, or would we shrivel up, stranded in the middle of the sidewalk?  Is that what happened to all the ones who quit?  It's a sad thought, but this question had been assailing me for quite some time, unfortunately.

As the recital went underway, I soon forgot I was asking myself that.  Recitals are so entertaining--maybe more so for the teacher than anyone else!  The more years I've been doing this, the more I've learned to stop worrying and enjoy every minute of it.  I love seeing the individual personality that comes out on the stage.  Every person is so special to me for that single reason: no one else can be who they are.

Last but not least came Eli on the Vivaldi.  For the first time, I got to sit in the audience and watch her as she performed with Maria, and for the first time, I really listened to her perform.  She was solid!  And when did she stop being a little girl?  There she was, acting so mature and grown up; it was hard to believe she's only in seventh grade.  Look at her go--secure shifting, relaxed bow arm, solid intonation, and all in front of an audience, too!  She was in her zone from the start, and when the last note was played, she gasped and stepped back, almost as if being released from a spell.  The audience gasped a little, too, before bursting into applause.  She was looking at me now, smiling.

You know, I'm actually glad I caught the flu for the recital this year.  If I hadn't I might never have gotten to see that, despite my suspicions, not every student is destined to shrivel up on the sidewalk.  Some move surprisingly fast in a short amount of time, but only after a sound investment of time. 

Maybe it's more like growing feathers.

 


From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on May 18, 2009 at 10:42 AM

"If we traveled like slugs, would we ever get there, or would we shrivel up, stranded in the middle of the sidewalk"? 

Darn, you are so graphic!!! Actually, this really is the course of life. But, attempting to dance and skip a while before the ultimate shrivel is a worth a go.

What kind of cookies?


From Emily Grossman
Posted on May 18, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Swine flu cookies. 


From SAM MIHAILOFF
Posted on May 18, 2009 at 6:17 PM

YUK...

 

 

From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on May 18, 2009 at 7:20 PM

Don't you hate it how sickness strikes at the worst times? I was really sick during the last week of class, just in time for all those final projects and performances. 

I love when recital time rolls around. :) I've also wondered now and then if my students are progressing as fast as they "should" but then I see their steady steps and am happy that they have a solid foundation. Also, since progress is so gradual, I think it can be hard for us as teachers to measure it sometimes. We have to take a step back to see how far they've really come.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 19, 2009 at 4:07 AM

Emily, your philosophy of teaching is very much like mine.  "...no one but two of us know the amount of work it took to iron out those ...issues."  Only a violinist would understand and, hopefully, respect how much work it takes to get those deceptively simple things right.  "We go slowly, but thoroughly, and not until it's right do we move forward."  Yes, you're old fashioned that way, and so am I.  "Every person is so special to me for that single reason: no one else can be who they are."  As teachers, we are often privileged to learn so many things that are special about each individual.   "...when did she stop being a little girl?  There she was, acting so mature and grown up."  I've had the same experience.  I become so involved in my students' lives, week by week for several years, and I watch them grow up.  Sometimes I share my feelings with my students' parents, and we're on the same wavelength.  Teaching is a lot more than imparting knowledge.  It is an intensely personal and often rewarding experience.

I'm glad you're feeling better.


From Yixi Zhang
Posted on May 19, 2009 at 9:05 PM

I can only speak for my own progress as a student, it is like early spring seedlings that you don't see much growth on the top for weeks because they have to grow a lot of roots first. And then all of a sudden, more possibilities open to me and I'm a different player, but probably only me and my teacher would notice this.

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