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Frequent indecision about teacher
#3036997 10/18/20 12:44 PM
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I’m intermediate and I’ve been working with my teacher for just over 2 years. There a lot of ‘pros’ to working with her, but enough ‘cons’ that I’ve been going back and forth about looking for someone else for over a year. I’m not satisfied with how my lessons go in general, but I’m still learning enough tidbits from her here and there that I can’t say I’m not getting my money’s worth (her rates are incredibly low). I also like her personally, and she regularly expresses how much she enjoys working with me (I’m the only non-beginner adult in her studio).

At a minimum, I feel like I could use a different perspective…and maybe a reality check I guess. I hate to complain about being praised too much, but it often does not feel deserved. I’m afraid she’s too focused on building my confidence and making my lessons a “feel-good” experience.

One reason I have not decided to move on yet is that I would likely have to accept online lessons, which I’m not really excited about. Maybe the experience with someone who does this regularly would be OK. I had a handful of online lessons with this teacher in the spring (out of necessity) and I really did not enjoy that at all. I’m also a little worried I might be required to do weekly lessons with a new teacher…I prefer every other week.

Are video exchanges vs. live online teaching becoming common at all? I think I might prefer that, although I’m curious about the fee structure for that kind of arrangement.

Is it terrible form to look into some new teachers and possibly take a few trial lessons prior to ending my current arrangement?

JB


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037007 10/18/20 01:16 PM
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So, first, to this:
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Is it terrible form to look into some new teachers and possibly take a few trial lessons prior to ending my current arrangement?

I don't think that's terrible... I think that's smart actually. You maybe just want to make sure you know how far in advance your current teacher would expect a notification that you're discontinuing lessons with her.

Re lessons in general:
I started as an adult beginner 21 years ago and have played consistently the entire time, and taken lessons more often than not (I took weekly lessons for the first 9 years, then for the last 11 years, it's been off and on depending on my work schedule, moving and that sort of thing).
Anyway, I have had 8 teachers in total, as well as the odd one-off with a master teacher here and there.

And one thing I have learned from all that variety is that a mediocre teacher is better than no teacher, but a great teacher is so much better than a mediocre teacher that it's just off the charts. -- And mediocre could just be "mediocre for you for where you are at a given point in time or "mediocre because the teacher-student combo isn't a great fit."

Of all the teachers I've had, 3-4 are what I would call great, in terms of great fit for me, great teaching approach etc. Fortunately, one of those great teachers is my current teacher. But the funny thing is that the teacher I had before my current teacher was so awful, and I was in denial about it (I really wanted a teacher, there aren't lots of options in my town, I was still learning from her etc.) But now that I have a new teacher and I think back to my lessons with her, well I just have to laugh. She was that horrible (and I was that desperate I guess! grin ) Anyway, I had lessons with her for a little over a year and then she retired, and I stopped lessons and was without lessons for maybe 1.5 years.

So, when the pandemic started and I was hearing about so many people doing virtual lessons, I thought, ok, I could try that. So I found someone who lives in a town about an hour away from me (so in the future I could conceivably drive to a lesson with him) and we have been doing a lesson every other week since July or so.

We do live-online, although I'm sure if I wanted to, he would be open to listening to a video that I sent him (say at the beginning of a lesson and then give me feedback etc.)

Twice a month works best for me and we do a 45-minute lesson. I would probably prefer an hour, but monetarily 45-minutes is more affordable and that was what he suggested initially.

I found him by googling "online piano lessons" and other similar search terms, and I actually considered teachers all over the US. He popped up and I could see how close to me he was, and one detail that caught my eye was that he had a PhD in piano pedagogy (the other great teachers I've had have all had either a masters or doctorate in piano pedagogy and I'm starting to think that makes a difference!) So we had a trial lessons and it was great, and now we're settled into a really good-for-me routine with our lessons.

Sorry this is getting long!

Anyway, I won't go into all the things I like about our lessons, but let me just say that since started lessons with him, I'm tackling pieces I would have otherwise thought were too hard, and I'm working on all kinds of music that I wouldn't be looking at on my own. I absolutely love it. And the difference between current-teacher and former-teacher is so stark, I don't even know how to describe it, but I wish I had stopped lessons with her much sooner!

So I'll stop there. I think you absolutely should try to find someone to teach you online, twice a month.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037023 10/18/20 02:01 PM
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Shiro, thank you for such a detailed reply!

I'm not going to say my teacher is horrible. I think she just has a different vision for lessons than I do. She's basically my coach/cheerleader. I want more.

I'm glad to hear you are so happy with your teacher. I think I will start shopping around. I'll have to decide if I want to try someone local so I have the option to meet in person at some point. If I don't go local I'm sure there will be a ton of options to sort through.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037027 10/18/20 02:13 PM
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Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037030 10/18/20 02:15 PM
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Good luck and keep us posted!

BTW, I notice your sig says you're a fan of "Mendelssohn, Yann Tiersen, Heller" -- that's not a combination one comes across a lot.

I am a huge fan of Einaudi and Tiersen and other pianists in that genre. My earlier teacher was very dismissive of those composers, even though we did work on their music together (I always picked my pieces). But she was always trying to get me to play pieces from the traditional classical repertoire, and I never liked the pieces she would suggest, so we often had these awkward back and forths where she would try to get me to play something and I would end up refusing and we'd go back to whatever it was I had brought in... (She also once said Einaudi should be played like you were a robot.... OMG)

My current teacher told me that he teaches Einaudi a lot and he's very open to a wide variety of styles and composers. And wouldn't you know it, he pays attention to the kinds of pieces I like, and has suggested pieces (that were knew to me) by traditional composers (Scarlatti, Liszt) that I ended up loving and now we're working on those (or they're in the queue). It's refreshing to have someone who pays attention to who I am as a pianist rather than who they think any generic pianist should be.

So anyway, I didn't mean to ramble, but just to say, definitely find someone who will be able (and willing) to address all your musical interests!
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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037035 10/18/20 02:21 PM
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JB
I would recommend you talk to your teacher: tell her you really enjoy the lessons and appreciate the confidence building but that you to hear details about how you can improve. How can you know if there is a mismatch in vision unless you discuss it? She may be doing what she thinks you want rather than what she prefers


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
Lakeviewsteve #3037039 10/18/20 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

I don't think you're alone. When I was first shopping in my area a few years back, just about every teacher stated on their website (or in response to emails) that they only did weekly lessons. Can you explain why it's a red flag for you?

I prefer bi-weekly because of my work schedule. I work 12 hour shifts half the week. There's no time to practice on work days, so I get 3 or 4 days of practicing in per week...in a 2 week period that's a full week of practice. If my lessons were more structured and there were things to work on other than reviewing what I've practiced, I might consider weekly lessons...but that's not my current reality.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
ShiroKuro #3037041 10/18/20 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
BTW, I notice your sig says you're a fan of "Mendelssohn, Yann Tiersen, Heller" -- that's not a combination one comes across a lot.

So anyway, I didn't mean to ramble, but just to say, definitely find someone who will be able (and willing) to address all your musical interests!
smile

I'm open to playing just about anything. I don't typically try to work on "modern" stuff in lessons, unless I'm having trouble with a particular passage. My tastes have evolved since I started taking lessons. I really didn't enjoy Bach Inventions at first, but I kept at it because they seemed to really be helping my finger/hand independence...and about a year in I realized I was enjoying them! Now I'm taking a break and doing some Scarlatti, and it almost feels wrong to not be working on a Bach piece. smile

But yes, that is an important point. I'll try anything once...but if I then ask to go another direction, I would hope that a teacher would respect that.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
Lakeviewsteve #3037045 10/18/20 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Lakeviewsteve
Bi-weekly lessons are really a turn off and warning sign to me. If I was still teaching I wouldn’t allow it unless the student were quite advanced and I felt a real connection with them in terms of their technical ability, their motivation level, and are we both getting out of it what we want.

Wow, I'm surprised to hear this. Not surprised that a teacher would prefer weekly lessons, but rather that you actually see a preference for biweekly as a warning sign. Obviously any teacher should put in place whatever policies they feel work best for them, so please don't take my comments the wrong way.

And I agree that weekly lessons are preferable, esp. for beginning students. But for adults, sometimes there's just not enough time to make much progress in a week, and a twice-monthly schedule can be more manageable. Especially when work duties, parenting duties are added in.

In my case, I've now been playing for just over 20 years, so obviously (or, hopefully you'll agree) my lesson-needs are quite different from a beginner etc. I did have weekly lessons for the first nine years of taking lessons, and would recommend weekly lessons as the better option for beginners and early intermediate students.

But for where I am in my playing, and also how my work demands are, twice-monthly works much better for me, even though I practice every day (with very rare exceptions).

For my teacher's part, he was open to twice-monthly from the beginning, and now I've learned that he scheduled another twice-monthly person at the same time as my lesson, so his slot for that day/time is full every week, it just alternates between me and another student. (though I do wonder if this was easier to arrange now that it's online)


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037047 10/18/20 02:43 PM
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BTW I love playing Bach! It's been awhile since I worked on an Invention, but I always love them when I play them. And now as part of my sightreading work, I'm playing through Music for Millions and there's a lot of music by Bach, and I always enjoy it. smile


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
dogperson #3037051 10/18/20 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
JB
I would recommend you talk to your teacher: tell her you really enjoy the lessons and appreciate the confidence building but that you to hear details about how you can improve. How can you know if there is a mismatch in vision unless you discuss it? She may be doing what she thinks you want rather than what she prefers

Well...she has actually said that she's my cheerleader, and it's her job to make me feel good about my playing.

I'm sure I could have been more blunt with her...it's not really my style. I have made it clear on several occasions what I would like to focus on more, but nothing ever seems to stick. There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next. I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037056 10/18/20 03:04 PM
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There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next.

Yeah, no structure is definitely a problem in my opinion.... I do tend to choose the main pieces I work on as repertoire, but my teacher provides structure in what I do for technique and pedagogical goals (i.e, things like scales, arps, sightreading practice, as opposed to pieces I want to learn how to play because I love the music)

Also, not knowing what you're working on from one lesson to the next to me says she's not really invested in you as a student. Again, I would find that problematic.

Quote
I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?

I think you should start shopping around. If you've already tried to talk her but nothing has changed, I don't think you're likely to get any benefit from additional efforts like that.

I'm sorry you're having this struggle. frown


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037058 10/18/20 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
she has actually said that she's my cheerleader, and it's her job to make me feel good about my playing.

I'm sure I could have been more blunt with her...it's not really my style. I have made it clear on several occasions what I would like to focus on more, but nothing ever seems to stick. There's no structure. We work on whatever I decide to pull out of my bag. She doesn't recall what I'm doing from one lesson to the next. I decided to work on scales & arpeggios on my own, and to learn more music theory. I wonder what I might be missing out on that I just don't know to ask about?
If you're really keen on structure in your lessons, there's nothing better than to follow a recognized piano exam syllabus like RCM, even if you decide not to do the exams. Print out the syllabus and show it to her, and ask her to help you fill in the missing gaps for your current level.

Teachers who specialize in adult students often just teach them what they want, no more (and perhaps no less, but that's not guaranteed), because adult students are paying for their lessons directly, and teachers are therefore keen not to discourage them. So......they perceive themselves as cheerleaders.

My adult beginner friend got round that problem by telling his teacher early on that he wanted to do ABRSM exams, and wanted to be taught the same way as he would teach his child students (all of whom did exams), without skipping or giving short shrift to any of the basic stuff. He only told his teacher that he'd changed his mind about doing exams when he was sure that his teacher was strict with him about mastering all the basics before moving on, by which time they were securely on the same wavelength thumb.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037067 10/18/20 03:38 PM
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I'm actually following the ABSRM syllabus for scales and arpeggios, because I wanted some clear goals and my teacher was a bit wishy-washy on that.

To be totally honest, I guess I'm not sure exactly how I want my lessons to go. I just know that I'm not satisfied at present. I certainly don't want a drill sergeant. But it would be nice to work with someone who was organized and/or cared enough to remember what I'm working on, and maybe ask once every couple of months "how are you doing on scales?"

This is only my 2nd teacher as an adult; I don't know what's normal/expected. Teacher #1 was obviously a mismatch. She had only previously taught kids and adult beginners. As I was neither, she just didn't know what to do with me. She was clearly uncomfortable/awkward in our lessons and I could only endure that 3 times. It was a few months later that my current teacher was recommended by an acquaintance, whose daughter had taken lessons for several years and apparently done well.

I can acknowledge that it's possible I need to be more clear/persistent about what I want. I'll give that some more thought before I throw in the towel.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037073 10/18/20 03:49 PM
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bennevis, on the one hand, I think you make some good suggestions, but on the other hand... isn't it the teacher's job to provide that structure? Esp. for OP, who's not a beginner, but hasn't been playing that long...

I personally would want the teacher to take a greater role in deciding on lesson content.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037074 10/18/20 03:50 PM
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I think many teachers in uk can only teach kids on a graded syllabus. As most kids reach only the first few grades and quit, I'm sure a lot of teachers are not experienced with intermediate to higher level. This is especially true with adults where many teachers have less experience.

I think for a beginner or intermediate level there are downsides of online learning so it may not be a good move. I have been playing for a long time so I can manage well online. I spent my lessons on 2 pieces and it's a lot of painstaking details I'm afraid. After learning all the basics - fingerings, tempos, errors. Most of the rest is details of the music. Online is not great at demonstrating techniques so if you are not at a level where you are comfortable with techniques then I would perhaps stick with an in person teacher.

You can discuss your views with your teacher and change the lesson plan. A teacher who is good however may be correct and it may be you that need to adjust. I personally have had to learn to spend long time on pieces and be more patient. I tend to enjoy the process now.

Good luck.

Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
Moo :) #3037088 10/18/20 04:15 PM
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Several good points Moo, thank you.

Originally Posted by Moo :)
As most kids reach only the first few grades and quit, I'm sure a lot of teachers are not experienced with intermediate to higher level. This is especially true with adults where many teachers have less experience.

After reading the forum for awhile here, I can see that teaching adults may not be easy. There are a lot of different goals, attitudes, expectations. Maybe as dogperson said, my teacher settled into this current style with me because she thought I was happy.

Originally Posted by Moo :)
Online is not great at demonstrating techniques so if you are not at a level where you are comfortable with techniques then I would perhaps stick with an in person teacher.

I am still learning technique, and it's one of the reasons I'm a little unsure about online lessons.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037093 10/18/20 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by JB_PW
To be totally honest, I guess I'm not sure exactly how I want my lessons to go. I just know that I'm not satisfied at present. I certainly don't want a drill sergeant. But it would be nice to work with someone who was organized and/or cared enough to remember what I'm working on, and maybe ask once every couple of months "how are you doing on scales?"

This is only my 2nd teacher as an adult; I don't know what's normal/expected. Teacher #1 was obviously a mismatch. She had only previously taught kids and adult beginners. As I was neither, she just didn't know what to do with me. She was clearly uncomfortable/awkward in our lessons and I could only endure that 3 times.
It sounds like you've been self-taught before you decided to get a teacher.

That often brings its own problems: you may have big gaps in your skills set and/or knowledge which you're unaware of, but you also have some set ideas of your own about what you want, which your teacher is unable to reconcile. For instance, does she tell you up front what your technical & musical gaps are - including ingrained bad habits - and try to correct them (which may mean taking several steps back), or does she go along with you and just teach you what you want, and 'go easy' with you?

I don't teach adults, but I know a teacher who does, and she tells me that about half of her adult students were self-learners before they decided they needed a teacher. And that almost all of them have some ingrained problems - usually with technique and rhythm (she tells me she was sometimes surprised at how many of them couldn't play in time) - which would involve taking several steps back to correct. Unless they were aware of their problems and were willing to make the effort and spend time to correct them (as opposed to continue learning the stuff they want to learn), she doesn't bring up the subject.

I suggest that you clarify in your mind what you want from your teacher by writing everything down in the form of a list (things always get clearer when written down), with the most important things first. Then find a way of communicating them to your teacher that would be clear but not 'pushy', and see how she responds.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037097 10/18/20 04:58 PM
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I had lessons for maybe 3 years as a kid, then just played for fun in high school. After that, I rarely touched my piano for over 20 years. When I decided to resume playing, I only waited a month or two to get a teacher. So I don't really consider myself to be self-taught, but I'm certain I carried some habits with me.

My teacher has corrected some technique issues...mainly physical stuff, like arm/wrist/finger position, posture, etc. But overall I'd say she 'goes easy.' She knows I'm a very dedicated student, so she should understand I take this seriously and I really want to improve. But even when I say I want to spend more time on a piece to improve XYZ, she usually suggests I move on. I'm referring to pieces that I've often only spent 2 weeks on (i.e. 7 days of practice time)...it's not like I'm hammering away for months refusing to let them go.

I think the list idea is good, thanks for your comments bennevis.


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Re: Frequent indecision about teacher
JB_PW #3037100 10/18/20 05:01 PM
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You have said you are not sure how lessons are to go so it's not clear what you are looking for. Another move may not work. I have spoken to several pianists who go though many teachers. I think often it is them and not the teachers than need to adapt. I for example have always been inpatient with wanting to play lots of pieces so it took a long time to see the benefits of playing fewer pieces and working on small details. Many details are not written so you gain understanding from a teacher and often these skills are found in many pieces so spending time in detail in one is good progress. However if you measure progress online how long a piece takes or difficulty then this development is missed.

You had mentioned on an etude worrying about speed I remembered. I similarly had to relearn fingerings with a fugue in 2 hours of lessons. It set me back but my teacher said the changes will work. now I'm able to play through it even though it took a long time to pick up. I am sure other fugues would be easier as learning the first one was very hard but it is common style so another fugue should not be so difficult now I persosted.

As a intermediate level often you have to get a lot of tips on technique to get certain sounds and this is difficult online. How to pedal, to hold the hand, to staccato chords, how to accent etc. it makes it hard online if you are less experienced. I still get told by my teacher try this to get this change in sound but often I have done it in person before so it is easier.

I do agree that you often have to work at a lower level and slower progress than you wish but once you have some level you can push and take risks more successfully. I tend to find some people who want new teachers and keep changing it's because they are frustrated with slow progress and want to play complex pieces and feel that it's the teachers fault for not reaching properly. However I think a good teacher keeps you on slow progress. It's is clear a pianist with years experience in lessons and someone who rushes through. I would suggest you be content with slow progress it's normal. I think the online world gives a false sense of progress and you get a better sense in piano meetup group of real life progress, or lack of progress and slow progress.

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Sections of advanced pieces make good execises?
by Keybender - 01/24/21 06:59 AM
P515 played by advanced classical pianist
by Ido - 01/24/21 05:43 AM
The quality of Yamaha pianos made in 1970 ~ 1980
by tony3304 - 01/24/21 05:34 AM
Any ideas on what to play?
by Mema - 01/24/21 04:51 AM
small unobtrusive good DAC for headphones?
by pianogabe - 01/24/21 03:58 AM
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