Music, Tenacity and Life

James was having difficulty with a piece of music and told me that it was his least favorite and that he didn’t like it at all. To his chagrin, I assigned it for a third straight week. I told him that he need only work on the 4 measures where the problem seemed to lie. He was struggling with some transitions between hand positions, so we isolated the notes in the transition and I suggested he repeat those several times to get the movement programmed into his fingers, ears and brain. Good son and student that he is, he followed my advice. By the third day, the 4 measures were sounding much, much better. (I think I mentioned in another post that Mom is no longer hovering daily over his piano practicing, so I was hearing from a distance.) James asked me if he could go ahead and play the entire piece — you know — the one that he hadn’t liked at all. And then later in the day he asked if he could go play it again!

This episode got me thinking about similar experiences in my own life. I recall job assignments that were at first awkward and difficult and I really hated doing them. But then I would focus on the difficulty and eventually the task became a part of me and often I would end up enjoying the activity—or at least find myself being able to do it without hardly having to think about it. I have also experienced this with vocal and instrumental music. And now, watching James have this experience this week, prods me toward a few other activities (crafts and cooking, for instance) to which I should be applying this principle. The teacher is always learning.

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3 Responses to Music, Tenacity and Life

  1. So true. Persistence pays off – and I think you’re idea about practicing until the movements are ingrained is key. It’s sort of a version of CM habit training – your body knows that movements to make so you get past having to think about them. Pats on the back to you, teacher. And to the piano player, too, of course. 🙂

  2. Kay Pelham says:

    It’s a challenge for James to slow down and work something out. Wait — did I say “for James?” Ha! It’s a challenge for me too. I hated trying to put zippers in when trying to learn to sew many, many years ago. My mother, a true seamtress, told me she never got the zipper in the first time. It takes time and patience. I could NOT stand that. No more zippers for me.

    When I got James to slow down and just work on those 4 measures, I was trying to teach him how you do work on music. It wasn’t in the plan to make him actually like this particular song. It caught me by surprise to see his feelings change about it. And then I thought, ah-ha! in how many things do I need to follow this example. Drawing, for one thing. Your nature sketches at your blog inspire me. I’m working on growing up to be like you 🙂 I’m sure there’s some similarity between taking apart a piece of music to concentrate on working out some phrases and focusing on drawing a leaf or eye or beak instead of being overwhelmed by the whole plant or bird. Would you agree?

  3. Persistance is a lesson many of us could focus in on.

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