If you have ever taken music lessons in your life you may relate to this blog post. But this one should be of particular interest for my applied lesson students: past, present, or future.
Most of the classes I teach are one-on-one applied lessons. This gives me a chance to address individual issues they may have in their playing. Also, I have the opportunity to get to know my students more and build strong, healthy relationships with them. Sometimes, however, my students try to take advantage of the latter and try to talk their way out of playing anything before the lesson time expires. My message to my students is: IT 👏🏽WON’T 👏🏽 WORK 👏🏽
The reason it won’t work is because I tried the same things when I was in school and I can recognize pretty early on what is about to happen. Students come in talking about how rough their week was and I sympathize with them…for about a minute and I give some encouraging words. Or sometimes come in asking deep, thought-provoking questions about life, pedagogy, repertoire, etc. But after that extremely short period of time, we get to playing their lesson material no matter how unprepared it is and I remind them what is expected for each lesson. On the other hand, I’ve never had the heart or courage end a lesson early and say to a student, “Well, see you next week.” I will always work with them and have them play before going onto analogy upon analogy of how to come better prepared.
To combat their unpreparedness, I use the idea of a “coffee lesson” I got from Dr. John Parks from FSU. I don’t drink coffee but this type of lesson gives the student a free pass on that week’s material and they can meet to chat about anything. This also gives me a chance to check-in with them and check their mental health in the middle of the semester. I think these coffee lessons have helped alleviate the need come unprepared since they know they can use this mulligan once a semester.
Another idea I have implemented is to already do some other activities at the end of each lesson. These include sight-reading, aural skills, and improvisation on a rotating weekly basis. This helps prevent the student from coming in and saying “Can we work on my sight-reading today?”
I try to be tough on my students so they know my expectations and try to hold them accountable. They have a set amount of time with me each week and over the course of their collegiate career those hours spent in lessons dwindle away fast.