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Laurie Trlak

Words of Encouragement

January 10, 2010 at 1:15 AM

At my last lesson my violin teacher gave me a belated Christmas card. I felt bad, because I didn't give him a card at all. I didn't get cards out at all this year; I just couldn't get into the spirit of the season for some reason.

Anyway, his card held a pleasant surprise for me. In it, he wrote the following: "Keep up the good work. You're making the progress we've both wanted finally. There's a greater sense of detail and patience in the way you work, and I'm very happy for you. However, don't forget how you got there ... you can be your own worst enemy. :) Merry Christmas!"

The last year has been a very frustrating one for both of us. When I had been his student as an adult before going off to music school, we'd had a very good working relationship. I always came to lessons prepared, and he was very pleased with my progress. He was impressed with the way I solved problems and implemented his suggestions.

After I quit school, I didn't take lessons for a few years, and I didn't play much. I lost technique. When I returned to his studio after ten years away, not only had my playing deteriorated tremendously, but I just didn't make any progress. Where once I had been able to learn a piece within a few months it was taking me close to a year to learn one now. I was getting frustrated, he was getting frustrated, and at times I think we were both ready to call it quits. So when I got that card, it was so good to read affirmation of the progress I knew that I had been making. In the last couple of months I had done a lot of introspection, a lot of self-evaluation and just thinking about what I was doing while I was playing (no one tells you when you first start to play this thing that it's a very cerebral process, but they should) and it evidently has paid off. My playing has improved. My intonation on double stops is much better. On the Campagnoli Divertimento I, Siciliano, I'm finding it much easier to sound both strings at once consistently. I have nearly finished the Purcell G Minor Sonata after just two months of slow, patient work, and that's been the difference: it has been very slow, and very patient on my part, the way I used to be. I'm not quite sure when or why I stopped being patient, when I started trying to rush things, although I have my suspicions, but I am going to try to turn things back and regain some lost time, but slowly and patiently! If I've learned anything, it's that if I try to rush through it, I will only lose more time, and that's one thing I can't afford to do!

From Philanthi Koslowski
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 7:41 PM

Thanks for posting this. It helps to know that someone else is struggling with this. Any tips on how you plan to become more patient w/yourself and slow down your expectations would be much appreciated.



From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 10:06 PM

Keep trying!  Patience is something we all need more of.   Younger people are impatient for various reasons, and, older folks like me, are impatient because we hear the clock ticking.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 10, 2010 at 11:26 PM

'm so glad you got those words of encouragement, and I'm sure you deserved them.

How you should practice is harder to teach than what you should practice.  Figuring out how to practice is partly the student's responsibility because everyone is different.  People who have good self awareness and people who take notes in a practice log have a better chance of finding their own way.  I think that this is a subject for teacher and student to discuss from time to time.  I also find it helpful to look at the practice tips on this site.

Speaking as a violin teacher, it is hard to know how to give encouragement and praise except orally.  Sometimes I think it would be better to do it in writing, but I haven't done it yet.  Since Xmas comes but once a year, perhaps I should just use pretty note cards.  I want the parents of my students students to read them, too.  Thanks for helping me think of this.

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