Student, Have Patience With Yourself

October 12, 2015, 11:54 AM · "I'm being patient with you. I need you to be patient with you."

Sometimes, when I'm trying to phrase things in the most direct way possible for my youngest students, I stumble upon an idea that I didn't know I had. This comment was directed at a precocious seven-year-old, who was not understanding a concept right away and was sure that he simply wouldn't be able to. I had complete faith in his ability to understand it, and my ability to explain it, but he simply lost his own patience -- and rejected mine.

I can be patient with you, student. I need YOU to be patient with you!

metronomeI can remember being on the other side of this, being a self-conscious graduate student at Indiana University. Though I had an undergraduate degree in music, I was not studying music in graduate school. But I was taking violin lessons and while doing so, I was getting a complete overhaul of my bow arm. I knew I needed it. I was keyed up to do whatever my teacher said, and I thought I was being patient. But after about the fourth week of martelé strokes on open strings (no repertoire, no etudes) I was sure that my teacher, Henryk Kowalski, was rolling his eyes, ready to check out of having to listen to this student with her boring open A strings. After all, I was also a lowly non-major.

One lesson, after about a half-hour of deep concentration on open-string bow strokes, I couldn't help asking. "Are you tired of listening to my open 'A' strings?"

He looked at me like I'd hurled the biggest insult imaginable at him. "Absolutely NOT!" he boomed. "I am VERY INTERESTED in your open 'A' strings! CONTINUE!"

I was completely flabbergasted, and I wasn't even sure why. I did know one thing: I had a real teacher. He was ready to stay with me until I'd figured this thing out. It wasn't so simple, to completely change my right-hand technique and then produce an absolutely pristine sound with every stroke. But he was determined that I was going to get there, and we weren't about to stop short of the goal. Maybe I was beginning to think that there was a shortcut, but he knew there was not. He was going to show me the way, the long and necessary way.

He actually did lose patience with me, but it was only when I lost patience with myself. After that, we both stayed the course, and in a few months, my bow hand and arm was truly transformed, something I'd been seeking for years.

So be patient with yourself and trust a teacher who is patient with you. It may seem like your teacher wishes you'd move along faster, but oftentimes the only person trying to hurry the process is you!


October 12, 2015 at 08:12 PM · Hahaha Laurie, guilty as charged! I totally recognize this, thinking that my teacher must be sick and tired of listening to me week in, week out, but he is indeed the patient one and I the one who is learning to be patient. If I may quote him: "If it were perfect today, what would you be doing next year? ;-)"

October 12, 2015 at 08:36 PM · Thanks for sharing this. I really needed to hear it today. I've been so patient with my son's progress, and not at all with mine. We should all give ourselves the same amount of time and attention we give others. Yay, for patient teachers!

October 12, 2015 at 09:33 PM · I had a few lessons with Professor Kowalski while I was at IU, and I can just see him saying that! What a wonderful violin teacher!

I think this is definitely true. I have a few students who are much harder on themselves than I would ever be! I am constantly reminding them that they don't need to be upset over every mistake or misstep.

October 13, 2015 at 10:59 AM · thank you for your article, as a mature beginner I often get impatient with my perceived lack of progress at the speed I would like it to go, but am gratful for a patient tutor who keeps me on track with bowing, speed,pitch,rhythym. And also encourages me to be patient with myself.


October 13, 2015 at 12:21 PM · Good advice, I wanted to perfect everything right away after not playing for 15 years as an adult.Alot came back quickly but not all and I would get visably frustrated.Now myteacher writes on my assignment sheet.Be patient!

October 16, 2015 at 09:58 AM · Thank you for telling me what I know - but forget more often than I remember. As a re-beginner patience is often in short quantity. I keep reminding myself that patience and proper practice are the keys. Easy to forget. I'd like to add that a complication can be introduced if the student has little self confidence. Managing the mental aspect well reinforces patience - and here I thought retiring from the lists of academe to take up music again after a long hiatus would be relaxing!

Life's lessons continue.

With renewed thanks.

October 16, 2015 at 01:04 PM · Thank you, Laurie. I'm an adult student. Your advice in this post is extremely appropriate.

I find that my teacher has infinite patience. I asked her about being annoyed with my tone. Like you I think she appreciates hearing the tone of her student's playing mature. She told me that poor intonation wasn't the most annoying sound. It was students strumming their strings absent mindedly or nervously while she was trying to explain, especially in an orchestra class when there are twenty students doing it at once.

She shared a book with me called the Inner Game of Music. It has helped me be less acutely critical of my playing and mistakes. I want to thank you for being patient with your students. Thanks to the patience and excellent instruction of my teacher, my wife complimented me and told me that my playing has improved and is more fluid. Thanks to all you teachers out there encouraging us to reach our best potential.

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