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Practice 101: Consistency & Responsibility

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I pillow my head at night with visions of students willingly practicing for hours at a time, each and every night. That's right.  I'm dreaming.

You may have heard it said,

"Practice is a lonely task."

"A little encouragement goes a long way."

"Parents:  your role is to be present physically, mentally, emotionally as beginners practice."

All of these statements are true, but in reality, practice will mean different things to different students. A student’s maturity, music proficiency, not to mention his/her time constraints, all play into this notion of 'practicing'. While it would be my dream to have each student practice diligently for at least 30-60 minutes a day, I’m a realist. I know that this is a dream, and it is rare for the majority of students.

During the first week of piano lessons, I took the time to discuss 'practice' with each student.  My first question was, "When do you think you can consistently practice every school day?"  For the younger students, I took the time to explain what consistency meant; and for all ages, we discussed the necessity of consistency. 

I've had dedicated students in my studio.  Some, for years at a time.  Your child(ren) are probably among them.   At a young age, they become busy with a myriad of activities they want to try.  And, wanting to give them every opportunity to succeed, we say 'yes', and in turn, run ourselves ragged taxi-ing them to various and sundry activities.  Note the "we" in the previous statement-- I've been there, done that, so to speak.  

Unfortunately, after all of these activities, many of my students are left with only 10, 15, 20 minutes for piano practice, each day.  While one could never aspire to be a concert pianist with that little practice, consistent daily practice, even in small doses, is better than none at all.  Think of swimming, gymnastics, dance, for example.  With each sport, your child is required to spend hours each week, in the water, on the mat, or in the studio in order to be successful.  

But piano is different.  Like reading, one must take the responsibility to practice, on their own, at home.  I promise, if you can enforce 'focused consistency' (and, what I mean by that, is mentally engaged practice) day after day, week after week, year after year, your child will find success.  Consistency.

My second question was, "How much time do you think you can commit to practicing each and every school day?   First agreement, then commitment.  Next, I wrote that number on those pesky yellow, half-page practice sheets.  For most, I allowed 'baby-steps' in their time commitment.  I want them to feel success this first week, regardless of mastery.  Eventually, we will get to that 'magic number' that will allow your child to master a specific lessons' technique and/or concept.

At each lesson, I like to check in on his practice.  Was his weekly practice successful?  Did he understand the assignment? Or, did he hardly practice? I try to teach each student as he is in the moment, meaning I’m flexible.  Yet, I am steering this ship, and am responsible for keeping your child moving in the right course.  

These little yellow assignment sheets are my roadmap for the next lesson.  Please make sure they are returned, even if they haven’t practiced.  (I will be clipping them to lesson books next week.) These sheets help me to assess your child’s learning each week; I will check in on spots he had trouble with last week.  This also shows him that I really mean what I say, and that he will be held accountable for what I ask him to practice.  (Did you hear RESPONSIBILITY in that last statement?)  

Until Next Week,

Marilyn

 

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