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Originally Posted by mtb
I see other teachers also give this piece to “late beginners” to introduce foundations of musical concepts:
E.g. Josh Wright: “ If a student loves Chopin but is still in the stages of late beginner/early intermediate repertoire, I will generally start them with this piece, as most of the pieces Chopin wrote were of a much more advanced nature. However, this little gem is a perfect starting point for students to not only learn about the style of a waltz, but also be introduced to voicing, nuance, and rubato”

Perhaps he is trying to open a conversation about those concepts, rather then expecting perfect execution?

Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.

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Originally Posted by coffeestained
We then discussed what kind of pieces I wanted to play next, and when I answered some that I thought were easy like Chopin’s Prelude 4 (back then I didn’t know yet that there was a lot more than just playing the right scores and keys), and he strongly disagreed, explaining that we should do easier things first and why. Which I completely agreed to, and I was very enthusiastic about what he gave me too.
My thoughts are: if you hadn't told him that you wanted to learn that Chopin piece 'next', he'd never have given you any Chopin to learn now.

With adult students learning music, teachers tend to be very sensitive about not boring them by insisting on mastering fundamentals or underestimating their capacity for tackling difficult stuff, and most of all, giving them what they (believe they) want was opposed to what they say they are happy to play while still grappling with the basics. (After all, if you start learning piano because you really want to play Chopin, would you be happy to wait two years or so before playing your first Chopin piece?)

Though I don't teach adults, I know a teacher who does, and that is what she tells me about how she teaches adult beginners, and keeping them on for the long haul (which is every good piano teacher's aim). My (ex-)beginner friend experienced the same from his teacher several years ago, and it was only his insistence that he really wanted to be taught all the basics properly like his teacher's child students were expected to learn, that gave his teacher confidence that really was what he truly wanted.

My advice now to you is: if you have confidence in your teacher and like his teaching, go with the flow and see what happens. If you really come unstuck (as opposed to thinking you're 'not getting anywhere'), tell him. Just remember: don't compare yourself to anyone on YT videos........


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.

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Originally Posted by coffeestained
But does not following such a strict syllabus makes you a bad pianist ?

That would depend on what you were doing instead of following a syllabus. It's perfectly possible that your teacher has in his mind exactly what he plans for you to do over the next year, say, and it is a brilliant and proven teaching system. Or he might be completely winging it and just making it up on the day. Either way, you seemed from your post to want some yardstick to compare what he is doing with others. Looking at the content of other syllabi (not necessarily following them) would be one way of getting that yardstick.

Originally Posted by coffeestained
no more scales (he suggested that I should learn them at home along the different pieces that I play)
That's odd. Beginners usually need supervision and review and feedback of their scale playing (to ensure your physical technique is okay and that your musical technique is smooth and even.)

Originally Posted by coffeestained
he insisted that I should go pieces that a beginner definitely can’t play, like Chopin’s Waltz in A minor. (my sight-reading is really terrible)

I wouldn't worry too much about sight reading at first year beginner level. How is your regular reading? Can you play the piece (even badly) while reading every note, or is it that which you struggle with?

Because if you have difficulty with that, the absolute worst thing you can do is to be playing difficult pieces. You need the exact opposite, the simpler the better, simple enough that you can read and play every note at full tempo.

Because if you don't, you will quickly get into the habit of using your big powerful adult pattern recognition brain to skip over the fact that you can't read fast enough to play. And then that will become a habit and you won't improve at reading.


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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
I think you have to be careful about what people say on YT videos - especially if they're making money from them (and therefore want to keep their viewers and attract new ones). Personally, I take all anecdotes and claims in them with a barrelful of salt.

For instance, what does he mean by "advanced rep"? Chopin's Op.28/4? - attainable by lots of people. I'm pretty sure he isn't talking Op.28/3, which is hardly even 'difficult Chopin'. How well are they playing them?


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
Why not? Did he even say that the student was playing the scales perfectly evenly and was technically impeccable, despite probably practicing nothing but scales for 2 years?

Sorry to be so cynical, but on YT and social media, anything is possible.....


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
I think you have to be careful about what people say on YT videos - especially if they're making money from them (and therefore want to keep their viewers and attract new ones). Personally, I take all anecdotes and claims in them with a barrelful of salt.

For instance, what does he mean by "advanced rep"? Chopin's Op.28/4? - attainable by lots of people. I'm pretty sure he isn't talking Op.28/3, which is hardly even 'difficult Chopin'. How well are they playing them?
First of all, I'm a subscriber already and it was in a private video not one available publically on YT and he was mentioning it in passing in the middle of the video, so it wasn't some kind of shabby advertising statement "Look what you can achieve with my instruction!". The statement was actually an anecdote in the context of warning students against biting off more than they can chew.

Here's a description from the advanced section on his web site:
Quote
(Disclaimer: since the Advanced section of this course currently contains concert etudes and other technically challenging pieces for the "Technique" section (all of which are repertoire pieces anyway), I have combined my suggestions below to include pieces from both the Technique and Repertoire sections, and given 5 recommendations for "easier" pieces, and 5 recommendations for "tougher" pieces from this section of the course).

5 of the easier pieces in this section:

Chopin Etudes (technical)- my favorite virtuosic Chopin Etudes to start students with are Op.10 No.12 (targets left-hand development), Op.25 No.12 (targets flexibility and arpeggios), and Op.25 No.2 (targets right-hand development)
Chopin Etudes (lyrical) - Op.10 No.6, and Op.25 No.7. These are wonderful pieces for developing a good sense of rubato, voicing, and dynamics
Debussy - "Clair de lune" from Suite bergamasque
Mozart - Sonata No.11 in A major, K331, 3rd movement "Alla turca"
Brahms - Intermezzo in A major, Op.118


5 of the tougher pieces in this section:

Beethoven - Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op.27 No.2 "Moonlight", 3rd movement
Any of the concerti listed (one of my favorite romantic concerti to start a student with is the Saint-Saens Concerto No.2)
Chopin Etudes: perhaps the 3 toughest Chopin Etudes are Op.10 No.2, Op.25 No.6, and Op.25 No.11
Liszt Paganini Etudes
Chopin Ballades - in my opinion, these are the pinnacle of Chopin's writing, and should not be taken lightly. Make sure you have played something from several of his other genres (etudes, nocturnes, waltzes, polonaises, mazurkas, etc) before tackling a Ballade so you have a keen understanding of his music. Nothing is worse than an ugly Chopin Ballade (haha)

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Originally Posted by ranjit
Still, it wouldn't hurt to directly ask, would it?
Of course not. And it would be nice if you stopped insulting people on these forums. 🙂👍


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Yes, being thrown into the deep end, so to speak, can be a reasonable thing to do once you have some experience under your belt. Lots of people play stretch pieces, there’s a lot of benefit to that. But only a certain amount of stretch is reasonable before the wheels fall off. Stretch pieces after a year or two of playing piano is perfectly fine. In my opinion, there is no such thing as stretch pieces after 2 to 3 months of learning. After 2 to 3 months of learning, a student is only just beginning to learn their first few pieces. There is no ability to stretch when you have almost no experience yet.

I read through a lot of posts here, and someone mentioned that “eventually you’ll get the idea” regarding technique. Eventually getting the idea is totally different than actually learning the techniques that you need in order to play different pieces. I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?

My first teacher did this as well. We didn’t follow any particular book, she just gave me pieces to learn. The last piece she threw at me was CPE Bach Solfeggietto, and I quit. I barely learned any theory and had been playing for a little over two years. There was absolutely no way that I should’ve been playing that piece. I really shouldn’t have been playing the Chopin she was giving me, because I didn’t even understand the music, could not sight read it at all, and was just learning blindly at that point. The wheels fell completely off when she gave me this last piece. I knew then that I had no real foundation to stand on. I had just gotten a job working shiftwork, and she wasn’t able to accommodate my schedule anymore anyway, so I quit. The 2 1/2 years that I spent with this teacher wasn’t a waste, but she didn’t teach me what I needed in order to move forward in a way that was sustainable. Instead, what happened was the wheels totally fell off and I was at a standstill.

There are definitely shortcuts to learning piano pieces. 4 year olds can play by rote. Fake books abound. After my learning experiences, though, I really believe that there are no shortcuts to being a pianist. Learning piano pieces, as opposed to learning to actually PLAY, to understand the theory behind the pieces, sight read without having to write note names all over the score, comprehend the whys of technique, and all the other myriad things that encompass actually being a well rounded musician, are totally two different things. If I knew then what I know now, I’d be playing Beethoven sonatas at this point.


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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Very few people would call someone with 2-4 months experience a "late beginner". I think that would normally apply to someone with 2-3 years experience. I can't imagine Josh Wright was referring to someone with 2-4 months experience in the part you quoted.
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
I'm not dismissing what Josh Wright says but I would have to see the video to know exactly what he is discussing. Otherwise, it's just your understanding of the video.

Playing intermediate rep after 2 months is just as much an outlier situation as playing advanced rep after 2 years. I think talking about extreme outlier cases is, by definition, not meaningful for at least 99%(probably more like 99.9%) of pianists.

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
There is only one thing wrong with this approach: you don't get to play Chopin, or La Campanella, or whatever your poison happens to be, until you actually have the technical and musical means to play them....... grin

With children, there's no problem. After all, they think Chopin is a chopping board, and still remember the falls and scrapes they had trying to ride a bicycle with only two wheels, and the amount of H2O they swallowed while trying to swim. Not to mention how many years it took them to learn to read and write English (and add & subtract), despite having grown up speaking the language since they were in diapers.

With adults, you have 'expectations'. Especially those promoted by various YT videos and websites (and some 'teachers' in them)......


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I’d say one of the main things is to be comfortable asking the teacher ANYTHING. Any burning questions or concerns then they also should be comfortable answering too

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
Nothing wrong with that and you can follow that approach if it suits you. I am just pointing out that there are also other paths and people have followed them and been successful. I'm not even saying these are "shortcuts" because they aren't. They are just different approaches.

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OP - talk to your teacher. It sounds like at the beginning, the lessons were meeting your expectations. Let your teacher know this, and that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by the material/feeling like you may be missing foundational material. Listen to your teacher’s response. If appropriate, acknowledge the teacher’s recent promotion, that you’ve heard he/she is no longer taking beginner students, and if they think it would be better for you to transition to a different teacher, would they have any recommendations for a good teacher. Good luck! Whatever happens, I think it’s really important to have great communication with your teacher — I think this goes a HUGE way to ensuring that you are on the same page and getting what you want from your lessons.

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Originally Posted by Sgisela
OP - talk to your teacher. It sounds like at the beginning, the lessons were meeting your expectations. Let your teacher know this, and that you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by the material/feeling like you may be missing foundational material. Listen to your teacher’s response. If appropriate, acknowledge the teacher’s recent promotion, that you’ve heard he/she is no longer taking beginner students, and if they think it would be better for you to transition to a different teacher, would they have any recommendations for a good teacher. Good luck! Whatever happens, I think it’s really important to have great communication with your teacher — I think this goes a HUGE way to ensuring that you are on the same page and getting what you want from your lessons.
Good advice.

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by ebonyk
I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with following a particular syllabus, such as RCM or a ABRSM, which gives you everything in the proper order. Why eventually learn something in a roundabout way, when you can learn it at the proper time with the proper pieces and etudes?
Nothing wrong with that and you can follow that approach if it suits you. I am just pointing out that there are also other paths and people have followed them and been successful. I'm not even saying these are "shortcuts" because they aren't. They are just different approaches.
But a syllabus is really just a progressive way of learning. It’s the same with method books. You work on pieces, études, theory, sight reading, etc. that are all at one level, and when you’re ready you go on to the next level. This is the basic way that anything is learned. No one learns math starting out with calculus. What other approaches are there to learning that don’t follow this approach? I’m genuinely curious.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
It's funny you mention that because Josh Wright himself mentionned in one of his videos that some of his students could play advanced rep after 2 years. The variation in people's progress seems to be much wider than what is commonly accepted on this forum.
Almost anything is conceivably possible by some extreme outlier case, but that statement also depends on what Wright meant by advanced rep. Thinking about what's normally considered advanced rep(Beethoven Sonatas, Bach WTC, major Chopin works) I think that far less than 1% can play advanced rep after 2 years. Maybe 1 in a 1000. Videos of Evgeny Kissin playing at a very young age(don't know how many years of study) show him playing music not nearly approaching advanced rep. I think most students after two years are playing what's normally considered beginner pieces.
Yes, agreed, but statements like that show what is possible. Maybe 1 in 1000 can play advanced rep after 2 years, but maybe many more people can play intermediate rep after a few months. I don't know, I'm not a teacher. But I would not dismiss the experience of teachers of advanced students like Josh Wright.

And for the record, when he says advanced he really means advanced, like the pieces you mention. In another video he mentions someone who was so obsessed with scales he could play them in 16th notes at 160 BPM after 2 years of playing piano. I thought "How is that even possible?", but apparently it is possible. I don't think he is being deceptive or is exaggerating.
I'm not dismissing what Josh Wright says but I would have to see the video to know exactly what he is discussing. Otherwise, it's just your understanding of the video.

Playing intermediate rep after 2 months is just as much an outlier situation as playing advanced rep after 2 years. I think talking about extreme outlier cases is, by definition, not meaningful for at least 99%(probably more like 99.9%) of pianists.
I know exactly what video he's talking about and I remember the quote "... And some people are playing Chopin etudes after two years. Now, that is very rare, but I have had one or two students who have progressed at that rate, so it's possible." He replied with something similar when I emailed him.

It is quite wrong that students are always late beginner after 2-3 years. I had taught myself a Chopin nocturne and Schubert Impromptu (technically grade 7-8 pieces) in my first two years. I think that with good instruction, a student can possibly progress much faster. This idea that a lot of people have in the forum that you will be at point X after Y years resulted in people not believing me and dismissing my opinions over here (which I'm still rather bummed about). And despite having seen counterexamples on this very forum, some posters are stuck in some kind of wishful thinking that everyone progresses at a neat linear pace of about a grade a year. I cannot change how they think, but I don't want new piano students to get the wrong idea.

It is indeed possible and a lot of people progress at the rate of 2 or more grades a year, let's say. I would say maybe 1 in 20 students could be at an intermediate level (say grade 5-6) after two years, if they just tried. If it took me five years to attempt Fur Elise, I would have quit long ago! I think a lot of people would be able to play it decently after 2 years, if they learned properly. In fact, I would be surprised if someone learning optimally and putting in a lot of effort did not reach a similar point after 2 years. People generally underestimate how far solid unflinching effort can take you.

I have read anecdotes from people who have studied with top teachers, who had a number of students play Fantaisie Impromptu and the like at age 8-9 (this does require some talent though). The top teachers simply don't teach according to the ABRSM formula. It looks like a frog-in-the-well syndrome here, where many people cannot see past their own limited experience and biases.

Most normal teachers just assign pieces in an attempt to get students experience in a graded fashion. Technique and all that jazz will come "with time". In order to learn a technical skill, they will assign etudes to students and ask them to perform it for them after a week or two. This is not how the top teachers teach. They teach their students the core movements according to a piano school and their personal experience. (Look at Graham Fitch or Denis Zhdanov for example.) They are always observing, troubleshooting, analyzing. Figuring out what precise set of coordinations the student is missing or needs to improve upon in order to get there. Because if you learn the correct movements, you will basically be able to play it at tempo perfectly. They try to figure out where the student's inefficiencies in their practice method lie. This can result in exponential improvement as the student learns to learn, rather than gradual improvement over a period of years.

Whenever someone says it takes years to do something ostensibly easy, my inner skeptic always turns on. The OP seems to be very articulate and have a fast learning curve. I know a number of people who were similar. And the common theme is that teachers usually say it will take a long time to get that far, at the start. One student I know was told in the first lesson that to play a certain Bach piece in a year on the violin, he would have to be a "prodigy". Sure enough, after a year, he was quietly assigned that piece, and played it well. Similar things have happened to me as well. The OP's teacher is clearly happy with their progress and has kept them in as a student at the original rate. From what I know about top teachers, that is an indirect sign that they enjoy teaching the student and that they have potential.

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Joined: Jan 2017
Posts: 825
Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by ranjit
Still, it wouldn't hurt to directly ask, would it?
And it would be nice if you stopped insulting people on these forums. 🙂👍
I only said that a large number are conservative and narrow minded, which they are wink

I dislike the fact that they are saying this teacher is crap without reading the situation completely. And if the OP takes the advice and leaves the teacher, they may have lost an incredible opportunity. It is no mean feat to be accepted as a professor at a top conservatory. The fact that they were surprised by what the OP was able to achieve in their first week also points at having a good amount of talent.

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