HELP Unteachable Pupil

March 17, 2008 at 06:05 PM · I have an adult pupil of about 64 yrs who has been playing for about 5 years I have been trying to teach him for just over 12 months He came to me because his previous teacher was constantly hurling abuse at him. I have tried every approach possible with this pupil but have made no progress whatsoever with him. He completely ignores finger sequences just putting them down anywhere. He has no co-ordination between the right and left arm. Simple requests such as putting one finger down on two strings at once totally confuse him. I have taken him back to basics on several occasions, I am now trying the Doflein method, book 1 with very little improvement. He constantly plays on the wrong string. I have tried finger charts, other methods etc. I constantly repeat the same instructions in as many different ways as possible with no results whatsoever for weeks on end. This pupil really wants to play the instrument and I am increasingly becoming more and more frustrated as my efforts go completely unrewarded. I have never had such a problem with any of my other pupils many of whom are adults too.

Replies (49)

March 17, 2008 at 06:44 PM · What a difficult situation. On the one hand you want to support your student, on the other you feel like nothing can be done. Have you tried having him teach you for a day? Set it up so that you're the student (mimicking his technique) and he is the teacher. Sometimes pupils need to see others doing it wrong before they truly understand how to correct it. It may be worth a shot.

March 17, 2008 at 07:36 PM · Perhaps he just cannot do as requested while under the pressure of the lesson. He may be the type who needs to go home and figure it out on his own, (after being instructed in the lesson, of course). This is a very typical learning style. Somehow, the teacher's presence interferes with their concentration. They may understand perfectly well what is being asked of them but need to work on their own to transfer it to the physical task. Often very creative, intelligent people are like this. It is sort of the "absent minded professor syndrome". Try not getting discouraged. If the student cannot perform the task in the lesson, carefully outline for him what you want him to work out on his own. You may be surprised at what he brings back.

March 17, 2008 at 10:57 PM · One thing that I would try before giving up is to develop a very finely incremented series of skills, at about twice to four times the increment resolution used with normal students, from the simplest fingering and bowing onward, and check him on all of them from the beginning in every lesson. When you get past square one, pick it up and take along it with you (stolen from the guy, I think). And hope you would either finally have something to praise him for, or that the light would go on and he would take up the harmonica. :-) You are focusing on habits, not anything else, given the circumstances. If you make the tasks simple enough, long-term monitored enough, and close enough to any habits he has already mastered, it will either go into muscle memory or establish that it just can't.

He might need lots of help in learning to practice. You might do a lesson where you run through what you expect him to repeat every day in practice, broken down into smaller time increments than you would use with any other student.

The skill increment level is right when you are saying Good! about twice as much as you are correcting him.

March 17, 2008 at 10:56 PM · Maybe you should hurl MORE abuse than the previous teacher......

Couldn't hurt, right?

March 17, 2008 at 10:58 PM · Have you tried the 3 X approach.

Give him instructions 3 times in slightly different ways. They say this can help and if you repeat things 3 times it can sink into the subconscience. I like the idea of letting him teach for a day. Another thing to try is to give him a list of requirements and ask him to check them off only after he can do them 5 times in a row without lapsing back to his old ways. Ask him to video tape his successes only. He can look at the instructions and critique himself.

Tell him to only show you the tapes of him doing what is on the sheet. Nothing else. That gives him the privacy to thrash privately if that is what he needs to do. It also makes any incorrect practice obvious to him because he can have the privacy to see himself in a more detached way. Good luck.

March 17, 2008 at 11:33 PM · "Putting one finger down on two strings" doesn't sound like anything I would ask a struggling beginner. So maybe you think you're going at this very slowly and starting at the beginning repeatedly, but I'm guessing possibly you really are not. I would encourage you to try some Suzuki-style things actually intended for the VERY young. Ex.Put thin, different-colored tapes on his fingerboard, and write down for him which finger goes with which color. Tell him that at home he can put tape around the proper finger or color it with washable marker. You don't have to tell him this is for pre-schoolers; tell him you think this systematic color-coding will speed things up. Don't forget to check if he is colorblind. Seriously. Likewise, give each finger a "home" on the bow with stickers & tapes, and write down what goes where and a sequence for organizing a bow hold. Teach a half-scale to be played on the A string (A-B-C#D). Put a round sticker on each fingertip if he has trouble with which part of the finger contacts the string. If you feel bold, have him play 4 of each pitch AND 2 of each. Then STOP for this week. Sue

March 18, 2008 at 02:25 AM · So what CAN he do? Can he match a pitch by singing, can he read music? Surely his left/right coord isnt totally absent - he'd never get his buttons done.

I love Sue's colour-coding - it maybe that this gentleman has such poor kinaesthetic awareness that he needs to see rather than feel to know.

Would it help to establish some string knowledge with the v held guitar style for a bit - he can see it better then.

Do you feel he is ignorant or disregarding your instruction, or is a memory or understanding problem? Your solutions have to come from the cause, not from the behaviorual act.

This doesn't sound like an enviable situation.

March 18, 2008 at 03:06 AM · I was thinking about it earlier again and I realized I forgot to suggest something I've been struggling to do with my students. Non verbal instruction. Sometimes when we try to explain things we get in the way of ourselves and try to over explain. Sit closely to your student in a position where they can see what you're doing and mimick what you do on your violin. Start off by doing exercises of putting fingers down. He may be a different kind of learner - Also I would suggest getting the book "Multiple Intelligences" by Howard Gardner... very insightful for becoming aware of the different learning styles.

March 19, 2008 at 09:17 AM · Hi,

looks like a tough nut to crack. I loved that 3 X approach - saying it differently instead of louder.

Please try to learn more about the person: What is his job? As a square dance caller, I experience a lot of people are having difficulties executing a simple (to one who has mastered the skill) move like walk forward in a circle and do that for 3/4 or 270 degrees (or three walls in a rectangular room). One student of caller I know couldn't do it. Then my friend asked him what was his job. "Accountant". My friend said 75 per cent - and bingo, the problem was no more.

Never underestimate how hard playing the violin is. Things that seem very easy to a player who has mastered them can be the very devil for someone who is still learning. I remember getting my pinkie on the bow hand to bend was a (hard!) work of several weeks for me.

I wanted it to happen, but my body simply refused the command of the brain.

How does he learn? Imitation, reading, watching?

The video approach sounds very good - why don't you tape each lesson so he has the possibility of unlimited repetition without grinding your patience down?

Do not give up and have the patience of a saint while you watch a slow learner learning slowly.

Bye, Jürgen

March 19, 2008 at 10:25 AM · Guns are illegal there so you're going to have to bludgeon him. Messy.

PS Seriously, Juergen nails it as usual.

March 19, 2008 at 12:45 PM · it is probably not advisable for a violin teacher to suggest a medical work-up, mental status examination and a brain MRI, so in this case the teacher may need to first and foremost accept the student at HIS level. most dogs can be taught to sit, most cats can't. frustration arises when mixing up the 2.

from the post, i take it he enjoys playing the violin, the way he does, but not necessarily frustrated at playing wrongly or poorly. his beef is that people do not hurl insults at him. so why not be patient and let him enjoy the process of playing and forget about outcome and quality of the process for the time being? how about treat him as an unique individual? his prior teacher must have been at first frustrated and then lost it, a road easy to travel on. HE WILL CHANGE IF YOU LOOK AT HIM DIFFERENTLY.

may be drastic situations call for drastic measures. for instance, if he has problem putting down 2 fingers at the same time, for the next MONTH, that is all we do. bombard his brain with hundreds of different versions of the exercises and hopefully one or two ways will sink in. explain to him we go step by step and some step takes longer to sink in.

same thing applies to playing on the wrong happens to all beginners and apparently he has problem with perception or processing of certain mental tasks. again, do it at his pace.

i am curious if he is on medications for things, such as blood pressure pills, any depression issues, any thyroid issues, etc, but then it is usually not PC to probe like that in that context. also, i am curious when you point out his mistakes for the 98th time, how does he respond? is he embarassed, frustrated that he forgets again, or acting like a wall, i mean being like a wall? i am not clear whether he forgets or is simply impulsive,,,just do it first and think later (my type of guy:)?

he does remember to pay for his lessons on time, right? :)

ps. i just thought of something that you can try to get some idea of his mental status. in the beginning of the lesson next time, ask him to take part in a simple game and ask him to remember 3 things: paganini, buick and apple. at the end of the lesson, ask him to recall all 3. also, substract 7 from 100 continuously. (93, 86,,,)

March 19, 2008 at 01:54 PM · Jeez, what a lousy situation. I'm an adult student and not a teacher, and I'm one of those annoying creative types who don't always play by the rules of life. So, keep that in mind as I reply. Because, I must say, all I can think here is "drop him." Is it worth the $$? I can only see what your description has set up in my mind (which probably is different from how it settled into the minds of the other, more sane/rational/normal members here). But what I'm seeing is this guy who's saying "I'm gonna do it my way and to hell with the rest because that's how I've gotten through the past 64 years and I'm not going to take this humbling stance with this fiddle now. I'm going to take the approach on this that made me a lot of money over the past decades and put kids through college and bought a house and no fiddle teacher has anything new to contribute to the equation, so I'll listen to her, I'll smile, because I really do want to play the violin, but in the end, I'm just going to go home and do it my way."

Okay. Here are the tomatoes. A bushel of them. Please line up in single file to throw them at me. Because I recognize there's every chance this is a different issue entirely and he's a nice guy, just having trouble with things.

(Took out a comment here - apologies if you read it before I edited and are now puzzled.)

Anyway. Just because someone wants to learn the violin doesn't make them an ideal student. I hope you're sticking with him because you're getting something (besides the $$ - or maybe that's enough) out of the exchange. I hope you're not feeling bullied or overlooked in any way. Because that would make me feel angry for your sake.

I'll get off my soap box now.

March 19, 2008 at 01:55 PM · >in the beginning of the lesson next time, ask him to take part in a simple game and ask him to remember 3 things: paganini, buick and apple. at the end of the lesson, ask him to recall all 3.

Oh dear, Al, now I really AM concerned about my mental state. Because the thought of trying to remember those three things would utterly distract me the entire lesson! I'm feeling some anxiety just thinking about it. And the numbers test - eeeeek! Even worse. I so don't do numbers.

March 19, 2008 at 02:45 PM · :).

i think with the 3 objects, you ask him to remember them, may be repeat in front of you so you can hear that he can say them. here is the catch, he does not know if and when you will ask him to recall it. so there should not be much of an anxiety brewing. then, suddenly, at the end of the lesson, you spot check him. this is one way to assess short term recall..can this guy remember some basic instructions at least in the short term?

with the numbers, i know, under the gun, it is not easy:):):) but a person with clear mentation should be able to do it (hey, not saying anything here, terez)

so happy i got you though, terez:)

March 19, 2008 at 02:57 PM · I'd agree with al, *why* is what you're doing not working-and what is going on in the students' mind? You see him for probably all of an hour a week-what does he do when he is NOT under your eyes? How and what and how much does he practice outside of your studio?

His issues could be memory related-or he does not (yet) have the dexterity-or the ear to hear he's could be any number of could also be that he's thinking about and micromanaging too hard--if you try to think about walking or breathing, it throws your brain for a loop....the same if you try to think about-left hand shape/right hand shape/contact point/first finger down/bow up/whoops relaxed fingers/etc before playing each note.

If you know the prior teacher, I'd ask them what they tried and what they saw and know of the student....I know few musicians who "hurl abuse" at students for no reason at all-some can be demanding and strict and make the student feel stupid-but there is a point to it.

Al what was that now? Honda, Hefeweiße, and cheeze?

March 19, 2008 at 03:41 PM · marc, sadly i can only recall 2 out of 3 since i have no idea what the middle one is:) please, no hurling insult now.

therefore, i am 2 out of 2! :)

March 19, 2008 at 03:51 PM · >marc, sadly i can only recall 2 out of 3

a sure sign that you've been drinking too much BEER (hint here, wink wink, nudge nudge, it's German, it's made with wheat and gives you a buzz, it's the mystery Number Two word).

March 19, 2008 at 03:54 PM · >If you know the prior teacher, I'd ask them what they tried and what they saw and know of the student.

And Marc's idea here is excellent. Find out what the "real" issue had been before and maybe it will help you strategize.

March 19, 2008 at 10:56 PM · Hmmm, Paganini, buick (what the heck is that?) and what's the other one? Thought I'd forget buick as it's so unusual and I don't know what it means, but it's stuck.

I have a good memory, but it's short - as one of my friends likes to say ha ha.

"so happy i got you though, terez:)"

Al - you have a rascally wicked sense of humour.

On another note (apologies for pun) - might he be so nervous of any teacher following previous abuse that he's 'all fingers and thumbs'? Just remembered - after 12 months with a new, patient teacher, perhaps he should have relaxed by now. Or maybe it may take longer.

Old habits die hard, and if he's not getting it right it could be stressing him out no end.

March 20, 2008 at 02:07 AM · You are doing your best to teach him and you are paid money to do so. If anything, assume he is doing his best. Do not test his memory. This is a chance for you to grow. It's not even about him. He is getting something out of this and it may be impossible for anyone to understand what that is. But he is clearly giving you a chance to deal with your internal stuff. Who the hell knows? Maybe he had a stroke. Maybe he feels this is his chance to somehow act on a childhood dream and he gets more out of the sessions with you than you can know or he can express. Do not listen to those who denigrate him or your internal voice that denigrates your efforts because you do not see the results you as a teacher want to. Let your patience and kindness be a gift to you both. You are looking for techniques to deal with his lack of technique. There's no trick to this, no strategy. Value him and value you and find a way to enjoy your sessions regardless of his progrss by teaching as best you can and focusing on your progress -- as a human being. Then, as Al suggested, watch things change.

March 20, 2008 at 02:08 AM · "And Marc's idea here is excellent. "


The real question being....

What does Terez mean by "idea" here?

A) The Hefeweiße

B) The Hefeweiße

C) The general idea of going into a violin lesson in a really great mood...although with it being Lent it should properly be a Paulaner Salvator NOT a Hefeweiß know eternal salvation and all that...

D) Choices A, B, and C


E) Delving into the students past

I'll wager A& B & C, and probably D for now.... (<;

March 20, 2008 at 02:58 AM · "Patience of a Saint" I like that!!!

I to have days (though not years) that end up quite embarassing. For instance, being instructed to go up the fingerboard, but go down instead, being instructed to do something with my right hand and try it with my "other right hand" instead.

We all learn at different paces. Your student obviously loves the violin otherwise he would not have stuck with this for 5 years. It can be a challenge to discover what makes things "click" for different people.

March 20, 2008 at 04:43 AM · I love Alan's comment! I have found that teaching is not about what I can give the student, but rather, what I receive in the process.

At the end of one of my youngest son's lessons (he was eight or nine at the time), the teacher said to me, "I don't think he even hears what I am saying! I just don't think I am the right teacher for him." My son turned his head to the side to hide the fact that he was blinking tears out of his eyes. I was really upset with the teacher and was silent almost all the way home. Finally, my son said, "I don't think he really meant to be mean. He is not a mean person." I am not sure how relevant this little story is to your situation, except that you should know that your pupil probably really adores you and will not hold it against you if you struggle a bit to meet his needs. Just act out of love and it will work out.

March 20, 2008 at 05:39 AM · Patience of a saint indeed. If I were a religious person (and I thank thank god I'm not!) I'd consider the possibility that he's been sent to bring you to sainthood.

It's hard to comprehend that he's been doing this for several years. Maybe he needs humiliation . . . no, he left the abuse.

How would he respond to playing simple duets with you? I mean REALLY simple, like having him play drones while you improvise over them, something like that. Watch his face and see what seems to make him happy, go from there. Every lesson might as well be dofferent until you strike some sparks. There must be a reason why he continues to seek instruction, and it's up to you to find it. But no fair asking outright; you have to tickle it out with your violin and your mind.

Must be late, this post sounds dumb even to me. But this is a really fascinating little problem just the same. Do keep us posted.

March 20, 2008 at 10:18 AM · Alan, thank you for your wise words.

Jennifer, this story so clearly illustrates that there can be talent in someone that certain teachers simply cannot bring out (this is in no way a comment on your teaching Debbie! Heaven forbid!) - here the 'teacher' was more of a guide - what your son needed to learn at that time, but the REAL teacher was his older brother, with whom he felt comfortable and whom he trusted implicitly. The love his older brother had was what enabled the teaching process to take place. You mentioned elsewhere that by the following week, the lesson was usually learnt and the adult 'teacher' could give further instruction.

We don't know what is really going on here with this gentleman. When a stroke has occured there are a couple of things you can recognise without asking the person to 'do' anything. Firstly, does he smile? Do both corners of the mouth go up?

Also when he talks, does he talk coherently?

If Yes, to both that is unlikely. You would at least know that was not the cause of his difficulties. However, it wouldn't be fair to try to 'diagnose' illnesses when he comes for a violin lesson.

You've clearly persisted for a long time. As Alan has suggested, could you perhaps redirect your focus to be less on teaching in order to get a certain measurable result, but rather use the time to give this gentleman some enjoyment out of the instrument by, for example, as Bob suggested even, playing simple duets.

I don't have opportunities to play with other musicians, so it is a very great pleasure for me when my teacher accompanies me on the piano to go over a piece I have learned. I get the biggest kick out of making music together. Even if he can play a drone to a tune that you play, you could be giving him a very great gift.

I think you deserve thanks and praise for persevering and putting in so much effort over the last twelve months. You've probably already given more than you can imagine!

March 20, 2008 at 01:00 PM · Alan, i appreciate your thoughtful post. it seems to me that your main focus is on the teacher learning to be more tolerant of and receptive to this challenging student. but i think the effort should go beyond that, into the student's capabilities.

i have made a point of testing his memory.

i believe this is a situation where the teacher should learn more about self as well as the student. it is the teacher's duty to assess the student's mental capacity in order to prescribe level appropriate exercises and adjust expectations accordingly. with a better understanding of what the student can or cannot do (at least right now) through some testing with a scientific basis, it helps establish a baseline for future comparison.

by the way, the 2 items i have suggested for testing is taken from the Mini Mental Status Examination for the assesment of mentation. clearly, at least to me, someone with some experiences in formal schools as well as schools of hard knocks, this student has exhibited behaviors that warrant such consideration. of course, i am not suggesting the teacher here trying to play doctor or something, but if the tools are available and the need to use such tools arises, your call.

March 20, 2008 at 01:14 PM · Okay, I should go back and erase my post, since I sense I misconstrued the source of his poor playing. Debbie, help us out here: is the guy happy to be there and earnest about wanting to learn? Don't know why I sensed it was about him being obstinate. Oops.

And Marc, aha, you have it! Ask the former teacher to tell Debbie about which Hefeweiße the former student has tried. The answer that reveals all!

March 20, 2008 at 03:37 PM · Debbie, you don't have to teach him if it's driving you crazy. Once a week, every week, for years, is a lot of your time.

March 20, 2008 at 10:02 PM · You mention that the student has trouble playing on the correct string. I know it may sound extreme or ridiculous, but have you tried removing one or more strings on the violin to see if that problem persists? I had a student once who had a similar problem and I kept just the A and D strings on to see if they could get used to telling one apart from the other and feeling the difference between touching one versus the other. Without the distraction of four strings, we were able to practice bow rocks from one string to the next and to introduce the use of just the first finger without using other fingers until moving with only one finger back and forth from one string to the other became easy. The second finger was then introduced and so on. Things were broken down one step at a time until we were finally using all fingers on all strings. If your student is willing to do this to help his focus on one finger/one string perhaps without the introduction of other strings and other fingers he will feel less confused. In his method books, Leopold Auer has duets that require the teacher to do all the fancy work while the student plays open strings and the duets are fun to listen to - it might be enjoyable for him to still be able to make music while you are paring down the use of the number of strings and fingers he gets to use.

March 20, 2008 at 10:49 PM · Debbie, Does he practice at home? It sounds almost as if he never touches the instrument except at the lesson and may by then have forgot or never learned the previous work. He may be enamoured of the idea of playing, of talking about playing, of coming to you and having fun for an hour every week, but not so eager to practise alone. Could you get him into a "peer" practise group/beginning orchestra of some kind, to stimulate his drive?

March 21, 2008 at 03:31 AM · that seems a bit bizarre to me. He's been playing for 5 years , but had no left and tight coordination at all? How is that possible? What can he play for you right now? Have you try making him play scales? That will kinda force hi

to use finger sequences... I hope !!

March 21, 2008 at 02:19 PM · One can speculate on what deficits are responsible, but having given this a bit of thought since yesterday, I would reommend you put this student to work on a mandolin. After some success on that instrument introduce violin and bow.

If there is no progress with the mandolin, it will be pointless to attempt violin.

March 21, 2008 at 02:46 PM · Andrew's post sounds reasonable, and something al said in an earlier post... Is there anyone that can be tactfully approached to see if this gentle man may have the 1st. stages of either Alzhiemers or Dementia? I'm serious, i'm not posting this as a joke, but I use to work with folks that had either or both at different stages. So far, from what I've read here it's very plausible that he could have any of the two.

I would get inb touch with a Social Worker and ask questions, "I have this student and... what do you think?"

Also he, unknown to you/us, he could have had a stroke sometime before or durring the time he began having lessons. T.I.A. (Trans Iscimia Attacks) called a mini-stroke can also cause a person to be the way this gentleman is. They are often overlooked! A former landlady of mine began to be some what like what's been decribed and three years latter she was diagnosed by her doctor of T.I.A.s.

March 21, 2008 at 02:54 PM · God Bless him... he's 64 years old... that's a huge road block in itself.... that's really old :0.. J/k

Maybe he really likes the violin but doesn't like to practice... but really likes going to the lessons to visit "with the pretty girl" and have some social outlet.

Have you discussed what his goals are. Maybe he doesn't have any or doesn't want fast progress.

I would agree with someone on this thread saying something about him having a stroke. I have seen a violinist come back from a stroke... it is really slow progress and never fast enough for them.

If you are doing all you can do... relax.. maybe he is picking up on your tention and things will get better.

Best of luck


March 21, 2008 at 04:13 PM · "God Bless him... he's 64 years old... that's a huge road block in itself.... that's really old"

LOL! My friend's grandmother says to tell you 64 is very young when you are 78. She plays the cello in a very nice community orchestra after beginning the cello at 57.

March 23, 2008 at 03:58 PM · The 64 is really old... was a joke. I knew I would get called on it. Every time I see this thread, its like ... he is 64... playing the violin is hard to do; it is one of the hardest instruments to play well when you are in your teens let alone much older.

One of the things I picked up is maybe he is having a hard time reading notes and that is the cause of wrong strings. My younger daughter had this problem, when she got glasses most of it went away. Try discussing it with him, and then mabye inlarge the music.

I would also discuss his goals; does he want to be able to play in a community orchestra, play at one of your recitals? play for fun?

March 23, 2008 at 09:54 PM · Will Debbie ever respond to this thread?

March 26, 2008 at 02:24 PM · Wow, can I ever relate to this thread! I've had a student about the same age for about a year and a half, and I sometimes felt like tearing my hair out! (I wrote a post on my blog about working with this student here:

He had already played for years before he came to me for lessons, but he was really dreadful. I knew that as an adult he would progress more slowly, but I thought that his mental faculties would be sharp - surprisingly, this wasn't the case at all. He had a really hard time understanding things I was saying, or watching and paying attention to a concept I was demonstrating. After I explained even a very simple concept, he would attempt to re-state it back to me, and 99% of the time he had completely misunderstood me! (I am not talking about difficult concepts; I'm talking about the difference between motion from the shoulder or motion from the elbow, for example.) He loved Scottish tunes and would try to play them for me, and I honestly couldn't tell which of the two or three tunes on a given page he was trying to play!! He was argumentative, difficult, and he made no progress - despite the fact that he claimed he practiced daily. He couldn't play in tune in any key, although he could at least come close in D or A. I could have been very patient if it were simply a case of very slow progress, but I eventually realized that he wasn't really interested in putting in the careful, slow practice required to improve. He just asked lots of questions week after week, and I think he was hoping I could give him a piece of information that would improve his playing overnight. Eventually he knew the things he needed to do to keep his bow over the f-holes, and he knew which fingers needed to be placed higher or lower - he just wouldn't practice slowly to implement those things into his playing.

A couple of weeks ago he told me he was going to 'take a break' and keep working on the things I've been having him do. I have a feeling I won't hear from him again, and I'm sort of relieved!

March 26, 2008 at 02:59 PM · I may not be the best person to give advice since I haven't personally taught someone like this, but I think you could be more agressive and interactive without necessarily being mean. It seems from your description like you give verbal instructions a lot. If he's not uncomfortable with touch, I suggest having him draw the bow while you put his fingers where they need to go and vice-versa. Then gradually see if he can do it on his own. If you sense he's drifting or just not paying attention, tell him 'look at me' or 'look at the fingerboard.'

March 26, 2008 at 03:23 PM · Nicole, I'm not sure if your comment was directed towards me or Debbie, but... I certainly would guide his hands and fingers, his bow, etc. physically during lessons. And I often re-directed his focus ("I'm demonstrating with my bow arm, so you should be watching my right arm, not my left hand right now") just as I would with a young child.

March 26, 2008 at 06:23 PM · here is a link that follows some 60 yo for 10 years...

i think in a post laurie suggested that if the teacher cannot handle the student, there is no problem in letting go, which i agree.

however, if the teacher decides to stick with the student, given the odds that a few may develop organic brain diseases, there is a need for more empathy and understanding. often, it is not that the students have a personality problem that acts out during class. they may not have the physical/mental capacity to do some things well any more. this can be particularly depressing/frustrating to them if they actually are aware of their deficiencies. i would think the last thing they want to see is that their teacher becomes depressed and frustrated.

everyone of us will eventually be in that golden hour. it will be nice if then we can progress at our own pace whatever that will be:)

March 26, 2008 at 05:57 PM ·

March 26, 2008 at 06:29 PM · Yes, my comment was directed toward Debbie. Kudos to you; I think sometimes people are a little afraid to do those things, or they forget that it's another option.

March 26, 2008 at 06:43 PM · You know in a situation like this you really have to re-assess why you're teaching this student and why he's taking lessons with you. My guess is that he doesn't have high hopes of performing with the NY Phil, and you shouldn't either. You might want to ask him why he is taking violin lessons and what he's hoping to gain from them. I would assume that he's doing it for the pleasure of making music. You may want to stop spending most of the lessons trying to fix him and spend more time making music with him by simple duets, or accompanying him in the things he plays. I'm only 31 myself but I'd like to think that by the time I'm in my 60s I wouldn't frustrate anyone to a point of quitting on me.

March 26, 2008 at 09:22 PM · Sarah Marie, you have a way with words. May I quote: "Before I can get the words out of my mouth, he is playing again, rushing, speeding through the piece and leaving out-of-tune notes scattered behind him like hit-and-run victims." Mate, that is one gorgeous analogy. My commiserations.

March 26, 2008 at 09:38 PM · I've found helpful information on both ask a nurse, and

March 27, 2008 at 06:37 AM · maybe he just has perpetual days like the one I just had

March 30, 2008 at 03:58 AM · >Will Debbie ever respond to this thread?

Ha ha, Sharelle, I was thinking/hoping the same thing! Kind of makes you feel like you're picking up the mic and speaking to an empty auditorium. No, wait. There are hecklers there, I can see them now, way in the back.

March 30, 2008 at 06:09 AM · Down in front and stop rolling jaffas down the aisle!

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