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Mendy Smith

Clarke - A Continuation

April 24, 2008 at 4:46 AM

Lesson night started unusually again (or is this now becoming the "usual"?) - straight into some sight reading of another quartet piece. Then a question on what I wanted to try out next: "A warm-up!" I pleaded. Joel flips through my stack of music, pulls out my scale book that has some finger exercises at the end.

"Do you remember this?" he asks. I know I have a guilty look on my face since I haven't practiced those exercises in months. I answer "Yes, vaguely." "You should be much better at this now, let's see". I'm thinking, yeah - high hopes. My fourth finger seemed to had magically become longer, and my shifts much smoother and more confident. He increased the tempo bit by bit, until I was playing the entire measure in one bow at a fairly fast tempo. What do you know! I did get better! Then he flips back to the scale section and asks me what scaled I worked on over the week. Now, I'm looking VERY guilty. So, D minor it is. D Minor is inevitably my homework assignment for the next week.

Now that I was properly warmed up, we moved onto the Clarke Sonata (bucket list piece). I look at the page for a moment, recalling how to do the bowing in the beginning, then begin playing. The beginning of the first movement fits well with my state of mind. I get to the fermata around the middle of the first page. Stop. "OK, let's go over those rhythms". We play it through a few times together with the metronome, then by myself without it.

While I'm playing I hear him say "good.... GOOD!..." from time to time, even when I shifted up to 8th position! A big smile starts to form on my face. I make it through the fermata and onto the end of the first page. We work on a few sections on that first page and he points out the recurring theme of the rhythm in this movement.

Then, to my utter surprise, he turns the page over. "Do you want to start working on the second page?" YES! I'm a bit floored at this point. I have NEVER progressed to page two after just one week of starting to learn something new. Out comes the "magic pencil" to mark up fingerings. The beginning of page two is full of Sul X. "I think you can do the Sul G & D here now. Do you want to try it?" YES! I'm now so stunned, I don't know what to think. After a minute or two, the magic pencil is put back down and we play through page 2.

While I'm packing up, we talk schedules for a minute. He has a conflict one week. No, I don't have any trips to China planned for May.

As I drive home, I'm thinking to myself. I guess I'm not that bad afterall. I pull into my driveway with a smile still on my face.

From PM Rolf
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 6:38 AM
Isn't it wonderful when teacher gives us complements that we deserve! My teacher does not praise alot, but when I do get the praises, I know they are genuine! Congrat for moving onto 2nd page!
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 12:29 PM
Well done Mendy! I seem to remember you rhetorically asked in an earlier article "With all the other students being aspiring professionals, why does he put up with a student like myself?", I think you just got an answer to that because I believe it is as gratifying to your teacher to see that progress as it is to yourself ;-) it's all the more gratifying if the student is "only an amateur". Well, at least I'd like to believe so :-)
From Kim Vawter
Posted on April 24, 2008 at 7:08 PM
Any comment from the teacher is like a mini explosion for your confidence. Not that we work for the compliments--nooo we are not that shallow--
But when we get to the next page, next piece or even (for me) the next couple of measures, what a eureka moment. (No not the vacuum cleaner!)
Celebrate the steps forward.

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