November 11, 2011 at 8:51 AMStudent X (name withheld to protect the guilty) sat waiting in the living room as I ushered the previous student to the door. I didn't have to ask as he headed back to the studio; his countenance said it all.
"How'd your week of practice go?"
"Not good at all."
"I know. I could tell. Did you even practice a little?"
"Not even one time? " He shook his head.
He got out his violin as I grabbed his assignment book. Last week's entry read, "Same as last week." This made it two weeks in a row, and has tended to be the norm for this incredibly gifted, yet incredibly lazy high school student. (I paused before choosing that adjective because it sounds so harsh, but there's no other word that fits the bill.) He didn't even try to make an excuse this time. If it was some other kid whose relationship with the violin held contempt and disdain, I would have told him to drop it and called the next student on the waiting list. But here stood someone who wanted a path to gain him access to the musical expression that needed outlet.
I could see he was preparing for the speech. So, with a shrug, I began.
"I feel bad because your wasting your money when you do this. But you're wasting something else that makes me even sadder. What do you think that is?"
"...Um, my violin?"
"Your lesson slot?"
I felt the intensity of my frustration gain momentum. It balled into my fist, which held my bow. The bow became a finger, and as I swung my arm out, the finger pointed at him.
"YOU. You are wasting YOU."
His assignment appeared to him as a huge pile of laundry, so I spent the rest of the lesson helping his sort and fold it, and showed him how to tackle the next pile on his own. All he has to do is practice. It's a cool Bach ditty, so I'm hoping that'll be something to look forward to.
I'm stupid for keeping him. I'm stupid for helping him track down another violin after he broke the one I scored for him last year. Should have let him run away to Seattle and become a bum like he wanted to instead of talking him into graduating high school, saving some money, and getting his driver's license first.
I think it is hard in a world where everything is instantaneous and people don't want to put the work in.
I have three girls. They've all been given music opportunities. Only one has taken the passion on board and self motivates, as well as lessons, to play the piano and harp.
The other two are happy to text, facebook etc and moan when they are bored. They are not spoilt kids like some in this area, but obviously have more than I did as a child, hence no real hunger. Life is too easy. My mother used to encourage me to get an education because my father died and therefore, as she put it, couldn't give me handouts.
It's sad, but what can you do? The fire has to come from within and many go through life and never find their passion.
That's why I've come to the conclusion that whilst we are here for our kids/students, it is essential we, as adults fulfil, our dreams. That is one of the reasons why I have taken up several instruments in the last few years, with special emphasis on the violin.
So don't worry about your students. Just do your job with heaps of encouragement. I have a passion for languages as well, but try as I might I cannot instil this in my kids even though they do well at school. They're just going through the motions. Having said that my daughter who is keen on music started to teach herself Russian! Her character is different. She's quieter and calmer and doesn't need to constantly socialise. So guess it's down to character.
because of emily, this kid is getting some early, needed wake up calls.
Anyways, I have a similar situation on my hand at the moment. The student in question is a 7th grader that truly has unlimited potential. Whether she chooses to access is or not is the problem.
I began to notice this after her first few lesson. Her previous teacher had passed away and she was referred to me. In the first few lessons, I gathered that she had a great set up (minus a questionable bow hold), strong rhythmical sense and fantastic intonation.
However last week I was informed by another teacher that a student of hers informed her that my student flat out told her she does not practice. I began to put two and two together and finally figure out why she has been less and less prepared for her lesson.
I'm not completely sure what to do. I do not by any means want to see her waste her talent by not practicing. Nor do I want to waste my time and their money.
Well I just thought I would share my story with you so you know you're not alone.
Maybe he should get a dog.
Thanks everyone for the encouragement! Jerry, I loved playing under Fleischer! Hope you can work things out with your student, and thanks for letting me know I'm not alone.
I've been successful with this ploy a few times...and it might be worth it with this fun piece...I always used the Kreisler-International edition....good luck.
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