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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927665 12/03/08 12:01 AM
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Originally posted by Larisa:
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
[b] I think that there are lots of kids who take piano lessons who are not remotely interested.
I think that's it, and I really don't think that there's any fixing that (other than begging the parents to stop torturing their kid). [/b]
You have hit the nail on the head. Kids who do not want to take lessons, but are forced to, are the primary offenders of "students who do not practice".

I try to keep all my students interested by playing for a few moments some classical, or some blues, or some boogie-woogie, or some country, or some (gasp) contemporary music such as Hannah Montana.

If they express any interest or joy at hearing any of those (usually its either classical or blues/boogie-woogie), I try to get them to realize that once I could not play like that, but, with practice, I can now, and so can they....watch....here's a simplified version!

Sometimes it works, and sometimes (more often) it does not.

When it does work, I can work further with the student, and sometimes get them to the point where he or she is playing well enough to enjoy it, and then, perhaps, they will continue.

Bottom line... Human nature says that a person will pursue what he or she is interested in, and will not pursue what he or she is not interested in.


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927666 12/03/08 04:04 AM
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Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
Boredom is not something which exists per se, it is the symptom of something else. Nothing procues boredome more than motivation. If any of us were asked to do something for the sake of it, day by day, ignoring what contribute we're really providing, ignoring what's the purpose of our actions and the motivation behind them, we would develop boredom in a moment.
I agree that it is difficult to motivate someone to do something if they can't see the purpose. So what is the purpose of learning to play the piano? Seriously, for a young child, where is the motivation? Adults (parents) understand the benefits and possible outcomes for their child. They know that it will help with cognitive development, coordination and discipline and that it will provide them with an enjoyable skill/hobby in later life. Children can't appreciate this. All they can see is that they have to work hard for an hour or so every day when there are other things they would rather do. What's the purpose in their eyes?


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927667 12/03/08 05:24 AM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
Quote
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
[b]Boredom is not something which exists per se, it is the symptom of something else. Nothing procues boredome more than motivation. If any of us were asked to do something for the sake of it, day by day, ignoring what contribute we're really providing, ignoring what's the purpose of our actions and the motivation behind them, we would develop boredom in a moment.
I agree that it is difficult to motivate someone to do something if they can't see the purpose. So what is the purpose of learning to play the piano? Seriously, for a young child, where is the motivation? Adults (parents) understand the benefits and possible outcomes for their child. They know that it will help with cognitive development, coordination and discipline and that it will provide them with an enjoyable skill/hobby in later life. Children can't appreciate this. All they can see is that they have to work hard for an hour or so every day when there are other things they would rather do. What's the purpose in their eyes? [/b]
Where I live parents who force their children to take lessons are not common, taking piano lessons for doubious scientific reasons except personal enjoyment is not a common practice, piano as a middle-class status quo is really old fashioned as well. The result is that virtually everyone at whatever age who plays the piano, does so because of either the concrete joy of producing music at the piano or the abstract joy of creating music per se.

Piano is not special. The so called benefits of piano playing can be obtained from whatever other human activity be it gardening, guitar playing, baseball, yoga, modellism and even videogame playing. The benefit of piano playing come exclusively (as studies have shown) from the willingless and personal pleasure. Studies are not showing that if you want to live and grow better you must take piano lessons, they're showing that if you want to live and grow better you better find something that rock your world and motivates yourself. I'm sure that piano playing without motivation and willingness is actually harmful from whatever point of view be it creativity, discipline or cognitive development. So I would fist of all try to convince parents to leave pop-psychology away from what should be a familiar decision not their decision children must accept passively.

If there are other things they would do there's no other solution that letting them do what they would rather do, because there's no objective reason to choose piano over whatever other interest.

Actually, talking about benefits, except musical pleasure, when discussing piano playing is a double edge swords.

Children don't need any sort of musical playing in order to develop cognitively, whatever they need to develop cognitively is provided by their natural environment by what are known as experience-expectant cognitive changes. Even in the most poor circumstances children have always grown without problems and showed maturity from a very young age.

On the other hand cognitive changes depending on certain external factors, are not peculiar or more important to children. They're known as experience-dependant cognitive changes and can be triggered as easily at 9 or at 50 year old.

In other words, the last thing children need nowadays is further gimmicks for cognitive and emotive development, which has never been an issue. But children actually need nowadays is physical activity, because obesity, overweight, lack of flexibility, syndrome X are actually real issue.

Piano playing actually promotes sedentarity, and physically active or fit pianists have always been a rarity. There are fat better activities that would provide coordination, organization, impulses control but also physical activity and cardiovascular training.

That's why I would rather avoid the whole ambiguous concept that piano playing is the most useful activity one could do and has very good benefits. Related to what is actually needed in the modern times, piano playing (if not supported by a personal love for the instrument and music making) is actually a worse choice.

The motivation for a young child is music passion and love for music, exactly as it is for whatevr person of whatever age. The motivation for someone who is being compelled piano for poor reasons doesn't exist, and rightly so.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927668 12/03/08 06:30 AM
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So what do you do with a child who does not have music passion and love for music?


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927669 12/03/08 06:35 AM
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Looking back at my own experience I had no burning desire to create music or any particular passion for piano music when I started learning at the age of 7. I remember that my cousin could play and it looked like fun. My parents had a piano and took me for lessons. My love for it developed over the years as I improved. There were plenty of times I would have happily quit because playing the piano can be as difficult as it is rewarding. According to what you say I should not be a pianist at all.


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927670 12/03/08 07:49 AM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
Looking back at my own experience I had no burning desire to create music or any particular passion for piano music when I started learning at the age of 7. I remember that my cousin could play and it looked like fun. My parents had a piano and took me for lessons. My love for it developed over the years as I improved. There were plenty of times I would have happily quit because playing the piano can be as difficult as it is rewarding. According to what you say I should not be a pianist at all.
It's just a coincidence. You happened to actually appreciate after all something which didn't mean much to you. But this doesn't always happen. For example, every time a person is "compelled to taste something before judging it" the outcome could be that he indeed liked a food that he thought he would hate OR that he indeed was right in assuming he'd hate it.

A good compromise might be allow the students a couple of months to really judge his lesson and his desire to play properly. At the end of such trial period he should be prompted to make a serious choice, without soft-pedaling what piano is about and what kind of sacrifices and hard work is entails.

It reminds me of the topic we had about discouragement. It seems that nowadays whenver something is hard it is discouraged. Professional find right to discourage young people who are interested in the same path they followed, suggesting them instead easier ways out. I don't agree with such approach at all. But the opposite: hyper incouraging by overestimating the benefits of something, underestimating the cons, the hard work and the time which needs to be devoted and promoting a stigma against changing one's mind, quitting and finding a better path, would be equally bad.

There's no enough time for everything and a person's time to devote to a certain important interest might be wasted by another compulsive not so important activity. I think for example every professional guitarist would shiver at the thought of what might have happened if he had no time to play and study guitars because his parents chose piano was a better choice.

After some time with the piano, and noticing the attitude of the students, we should prompt them to make a choice, without the discouraugement or the incouragement. A simple "do you really want this, or is there something more important to you in your life?" or even "is that what you expected from your lesson, do you still want to be able to play this instrument?"

That being said, there's a plethora of kids age 7 who have a passion for piano and would never trade their piano lessons for anything else.
I discovered my love when I was three. I was always asking my mother to put "the music without words" on the stereo and I pretended to be able to play the piano and the drum set. I didn't know how you learned music, I just said my parents I wanted to learn music.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927671 12/03/08 08:18 AM
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Quote
Originally posted by rocket88:
Quote
Originally posted by Larisa:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by Chris H.:
[b] I think that there are lots of kids who take piano lessons who are not remotely interested.
I think that's it, and I really don't think that there's any fixing that (other than begging the parents to stop torturing their kid). [/b]
You have hit the nail on the head. Kids who do not want to take lessons, but are forced to, are the primary offenders of "students who do not practice".

[/b]
Yes and no.

Yes that's how the problem starts, but like any reaction there are sub reactions beneath the surface.

Kids being forced to take lessons is a fact of life. Middle class parents believe music education is valuable in the long run and their kids should be required to take some, just like they have to pass math, science, and English (in the US) in high school even though they won't make a career out of it and certainly won't enjoy it.

But the same kids who DON'T practice DO do their other homework. So it cannot be as simple as not wanting to but being forced.

I'm sure every math teacher runs into that occasional talented kid who truly enjoys it, develops a talent and real skill, and goes on. But I'll bet his teaching philosophy is oriented towards the majority who hate it and him. Hee, hee. The piano teacher who has the opposite theory, orient teaching towards that really inspired student, may not have a realistic grasp of the percentages.


gotta go practice
Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927672 12/03/08 08:23 AM
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I have one student who's admitted to not wanting to be there. She's one of my best. My other students, who supposedly do want to be there, tend not to practice so much.

I think the family situation has a lot to do with it--the girl who practices comes from a family where it's expected; and the others simply don't care as much. Why they send their kids to me, I don't know.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927673 12/03/08 08:53 AM
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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927674 12/03/08 10:29 AM
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Rocket, trust me, you can include grading and testing in piano and it can make no difference at all. Where I live this is exactly how most people treat learning an instrument and yet there are plenty of kids who don't practice enough.

So why do the same kids do their math homework? Because there is a consequence if they don't. They will get detention and privileges removed. They will no doubt get lectured by their parents on how important that math grade is when they are looking for work etc. With piano practice there is rarely any consequence for neglecting it. Okay, so you might have to put up with your teacher complaining again. So what? If you are lucky you might have a nice teacher like Danny who will bull you up with praise for the 5 minutes you spent before the lesson!

I don't think it is any coincidence that I learned to play well. At the time when I would have quit I was not mature enough to decide if lessons were for me or not. My parents and teacher made the decision for me and I am glad they did, they told me I would be. It might be nice to think that you could have a sensible conversation with a child about whether or not to continue with piano but it rarely seems to happen. If you ask most of them why they are learning piano they will say, "don't know". If you ask them if they enjoy it they say, "it's okay". Ask them if they want to quit and they say, "don't mind". When pushed they will admit that they enjoy it when they can play something. When you point out that they can do this if they practice they, "don't have time".

I know it might seem like this bothers me. It doesn't really. I don't hate or blame these kids or their parents. If they won't practice but still want to come then so be it. As long as they understand that they will never really be any good it's fine by me. I do my best to make sure the lessons are interesting and stimulating. I make sure they understand what they should be doing. I give praise and encouragement for good work. The rest is up to them.


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927675 12/03/08 10:53 AM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
So what do you do with a child who does not have music passion and love for music?
Release them from their bondage, and let them do something that they have the passion to do.

I mentioned earlier in this group that my mother really, really wanted me to take gymnastics when I was a child. I hated it. There was nothing about gymnastics that interested me. Should I have been forced into gymnastics anyway, even though what I wanted to do - what I felt, with every fiber of my being, that I was born to do - was to play music?

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927676 12/03/08 10:58 AM
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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927677 12/03/08 11:46 AM
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The analogies you offer are a bit of stretch for me Larisa, but you do make an important point. However consider this. I think that music should be taught as a regular subject matter in schools like any other subject. It is a science and an art and it has the potential to widen a child / young person's horizons on so many levels: intellectual, cultural and emotional. In addition, classical music is an important and unique part of our western heritage and has been for a very long time a key component of our civilization. It is obvious to me, that children must learn about it and not in an elective manner. Learning how to play an instrument complements theoretical knowledge. Now since that is not the case in any mainstream schools that I know of, I think parents should actively promote music and instrument learning as a key component of a good education and not as a middle or upper class show-off milestone. On the other hand, teachers and parents should temper their enthusiasm and expectations, based on the child's stated interest. Absence of passion for the subject will result in a mediocre piano student, but that is fine. If the child/ teen learns enough to be able to read music, appreciate a concert, read a sophisticated book about music, and perhaps pick up the instrument in his/her middle or old age, I would think that is a good enough contribution to their education. The analogy with oil painting and basketwaving does not carry the same weight, because of the educational value of music as stated above and because, frankly, kids still get plenty of exposure to color and paint at school and some art history.. enough to allow them to aexpress an interest should they have it..
I also agree that kids at a young age do not yet have enough self-knowledge or exposure to be able to make decisions about which subjects they wish to learn. SATs are important but a good well-rounded education is even more so.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927678 12/03/08 11:48 AM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
Rocket, trust me, you can include grading and testing in piano and it can make no difference at all. Where I live this is exactly how most people treat learning an instrument and yet there are plenty of kids who don't practice enough.
I agree. My point was that the Korean system as it was explained to me was that the students had to practice, at least at the school, and thus got somewhat better despite their feelings about music.


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927679 12/03/08 12:28 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Larisa:
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
[b] So what do you do with a child who does not have music passion and love for music?
Release them from their bondage, and let them do something that they have the passion to do.
[/b]
Like watch TV and play video games!
laugh


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Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927680 12/03/08 05:08 PM
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
Quote
Originally posted by Larisa:
[b]
Quote
Originally posted by Chris H.:
[b] So what do you do with a child who does not have music passion and love for music?
Release them from their bondage, and let them do something that they have the passion to do.
[/b]
Like watch TV and play video games!
laugh [/b]
No - like paint pictures, play basketball, do gymnastics, sculpt sculptures, play the tuba (who says that piano is the only instrument?), dance (ballet, especially, is very demanding), play chess (also very demanding if you're serious), study aquatic life under a microscope, program computers, do all sorts of things that demand a substantial time investment.

Read the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. His father really really wanted him to be a musician. Young Benvenuto had other ideas - he wanted to be a jeweler. He had to run away from home, if I recall correctly, to escape the oppression of the music lessons he hated, and to apprentice himself to a jeweler to study what he loved to do. His sculptures and jewelry are still admired to this day. His music? Well, he wasn't any good at it, to say the least, and he quit at the earliest possible opportunity.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927681 12/03/08 05:10 PM
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I can't help but be interested in a piano student who is not getting it, doesn't make an effort, and just sit's there - as everyone complains about.

Students unfortunately come like that sometimes.

It's our job to make a difference and do something that works - since music is an art, and to me, a spiritual path to higher powers within thinking and feeling selves, it is a perfect activity to create brightness in spirit where darkness and passivity might have been.

Music is a therapy as well as a potention performance and learning direction.

Surely, when a student sits on the bench and does little or nothing, that's NOT the time to also sit and do nothing.

If the Pied Piper and Mary Poppins could get through musically, I'm willing to behave enthusiastically where there is no enthusiasm. I am willing to lead them without the promise that they will follow me. I am willing to recusitate them when it looks like they can't breathe on their own. Wasn't "Simon Says" one of those leaders, too?

Communication demands all the effort we can give as music teachers, otherwise we are guilty of not taking others needs of music making very seriously, we are taking our needs of not wanting to be bothered with a slower student, or one that would represent us well in those adjudications.

Everyone deserves an opportunity to make music. We need to understand that if we are going to teach for the highest good of all. I value the person who sits on the bench, and I'm just as engaged with the talented ones as I am with those who haven't found their joy yet.

If we can't offer courage, motivation and encouragement to someone not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we must not have it to offer our students afterall.

Taking the easier road and dismissing the student is saying more about us as teachers then it is saying about the students having an empty start.

Fill them up!

Their brains and spirits need a little sparking!

Do you believe in your ability to make a difference in people's musical lives?

Betty

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927682 12/03/08 05:18 PM
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Originally posted by Andromaque:
The analogies you offer are a bit of stretch for me Larisa, but you do make an important point. However consider this. I think that music should be taught as a regular subject matter in schools like any other subject. It is a science and an art and it has the potential to widen a child / young person's horizons on so many levels: intellectual, cultural and emotional. In addition, classical music is an important and unique part of our western heritage and has been for a very long time a key component of our civilization. It is obvious to me, that children must learn about it and not in an elective manner. Learning how to play an instrument complements theoretical knowledge. Now since that is not the case in any mainstream schools that I know of, I think parents should actively promote music and instrument learning as a key component of a good education and not as a middle or upper class show-off milestone. On the other hand, teachers and parents should temper their enthusiasm and expectations, based on the child's stated interest. Absence of passion for the subject will result in a mediocre piano student, but that is fine. If the child/ teen learns enough to be able to read music, appreciate a concert, read a sophisticated book about music, and perhaps pick up the instrument in his/her middle or old age, I would think that is a good enough contribution to their education. The analogy with oil painting and basketwaving does not carry the same weight, because of the educational value of music as stated above and because, frankly, kids still get plenty of exposure to color and paint at school and some art history.. enough to allow them to aexpress an interest should they have it..
I also agree that kids at a young age do not yet have enough self-knowledge or exposure to be able to make decisions about which subjects they wish to learn. SATs are important but a good well-rounded education is even more so.
Umm, I don't know. First of all, based on personal experience, I think kids do have enough self-knowledge to know what they wish to learn. I certainly did - I wanted to learn music.

Secondly, we're talking about "students who won't practice" - in order to get good at the piano, a very substantial time investment is required. We're talking about an hour to an hour and a half every day. This is in addition to school subjects and homework, and in addition to any other extracurriculars the kid might prefer to do. If you devote less time to learning piano, you may as well not do it at all, because you won't get anywhere. But at this level of a time investment, is it really worth it for a child who is not interested? I'm entirely in favor of a general school music class - have the kids sing, bang some drums, maybe teach them the rudiments of reading music - but an hour of practice every day when they're not interested?

I will ask the following question: how many of you exercise for at least an hour a day every day? Let's have a show of hands - how many of you are devoting one hour of your time every day to an activity that you might not have very much interest in, but that you know is good for you? And mind you, exercise is far better for you than piano, by any objective measure.

As for exposure to color and paint - I have never painted in oils. I never got that in school or anywhere else. I'm not stating any kind of regret - just stating a fact. Should I have been forced to cover canvases with paint just to cover canvases with paint?

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927683 12/03/08 05:19 PM
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Originally posted by rocket88:
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Originally posted by Chris H.:
[b] Rocket, trust me, you can include grading and testing in piano and it can make no difference at all. Where I live this is exactly how most people treat learning an instrument and yet there are plenty of kids who don't practice enough.
I agree. My point was that the Korean system as it was explained to me was that the students had to practice, at least at the school, and thus got somewhat better despite their feelings about music. [/b]
I know many Asians who know how to play the piano, but absolutely refuse to do so, due to traumatic memories of being forced to play as children.

Re: How can I help my students when they don't practice???
#927684 12/03/08 05:33 PM
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What's the purpose in their eyes?
The true one! The simple one. To explore what this instrument does. To have no prior expectations, to allow the sounds to come out and astonish and perplex. To feel what there is to feel. To find a voice to one's own pictures. To want to play for the sake of wanting to play. To be immersed in the textures and sounds and shapes. To be a child doing what a child does. Do we work a piano or play a piano? Why such a strange verb?

If an adult can be as a child, then learning to play will be so much easier. As long as we don't try to make a child be as an adult.

Cognitive development? Benefits? Bigger brains with more rapidly firing neurons? Come on, that's not what it's about. It is about MAKING MUSIC. It is about playing.

Can a child decide that. Yes!!!

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