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Pauline Lerner

A hard working Asian

October 12, 2005 at 8:12 AM

One of the things I like about teaching violin is that I get to know some interesting people. One of my adult beginning students, Mr. C, is a Korean immigrant who started violin lessons with me a few months ago. His spoken English is somewhat limited, but I have taught English as a second language so it’s not much of a problem. He reads English and Japanese. The latter is helpful because the Suzuki books have texts in several languages, including Japanese. Mr. C worked as an engineer for an automobile company in Korea, but a few years ago, his company was bought by General Motors and he retired and moved to the U.S. He is the very epitome of the hard working Asian. He and his wife own a small business here. He works there in the afternoon and evening and she works there in the morning and afternoon. Consequently he can only practice one hour a day on weekdays and two hours a day on weekends. He also plays trumpet and clarinet and sings very well. He plays a lot of music in the context of his church. When he told me that he wanted to learn to play some church songs, I thought of Amazing Grace, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, and others of that kind. He brings his hymnal to lessons, but I can’t make any sense of it. I can’t read the words, which are Korean, and I don’t recognize the melodies. He is very eager to play all the songs in his hymn book, but they are written in many different keys, so I had him get a scale book. He attempted to learn all the keys at once so that he could play all the hymns in his book, but I told him to start with G, D, and A major. Most of my students are not particularly interested in practicing scales, but Mr. C went at it in his meticulous, hard working way. He played all the rhythm and bowing variations and the broken chords for G, D, and A major. He brought me his notebook with a long, detailed list of questions on the scales and variations. He is so eager to play that he just can’t stop. When I see that his left arm is getting tired, I try to get him to stop playing and rest. He just tells me that he practices one to two hours a day at home and he does not need to rest. When he decides that his left arm is tired, he takes his violin down, but he does not stop playing. He just holds his violin under his arm and plucks the notes. He is very modest and self-effacing. When I tell him that he is playing well, he shakes his head and says that it is because I’m a good teacher. Sometimes he also cites his eight grade music teacher, who also taught him very well. He told me that he usually practices from 11 PM to midnight and hopes that his neighbors in his apartment building don’t mind. Today he told me that he had awakened at 5 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so he decided to practice his violin. He did not want to disturb anyone, so he went into a closet to practice. He is delightful and very easy to teach. I think any teacher would be happy to have someone like him as a student.
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