I noticed something unusual a couple of weeks ago during a piano lesson with one of my younger students. We were learning a new piece which basically means he was sight-reading his way through it. Depending on a student’s sight-reading skills this can be quite a halting process as they stop to work out what comes next. As he did this in the gaps between playing the melody he was prompting himself along with the phrase “and then”, encouraging himself to move forward through the piece and all its newness.
Note, next note…wait “and then”…note, next note etc.
I didn’t comment on this but I did wonder where he’d picked this little phrase up. During the following student’s lesson we were doing the same thing – trying out new pieces. And I suddenly I heard myself filling in the gaps between the notes with the same phrase… “and then”. It’s clearly a shorthand way for me to encourage my students to work out what comes next for themselves (rather than having me tell them the names of the notes or other details). I want them to take responsibility for their own learning and I will jump in if they get really stuck or need correcting. “And then” is clearly something I have done for quite a while during this learning phase for my student to have picked it up and repeated it.
It’s been playing on my mind for a few weeks now. Are other music teachers similarly encouraging as students step their way through new works? Do they attempt to lead them through, hinting at where the music is about to take them without actually giving it away? Is this a good technique or should I shush up and quit it with my other encouraging “goods” “yes, that’s right”, “well done”, good job” and “excellent” that I scatter throughout my piano lessons? If something isn’t so great I’ll say something like “Now I think we can do better than that, let’s try once more”. So the use of pronouns is interesting as well. I have always used inclusive personal pronouns. I don’t want a piano student to feel like it’s me against them. We are in the lesson together and I am working with them as their guide. So “we” are going to try it again. “We” are going to play “our” scales. I feel this encouragement and sense of a shared educational experience is really important to fostering an enjoyment of music. The student shouldn’t feel like they are being judged, or on show in their lessons. Instead, they are playing and being supported and guided by me. When, a student takes on the responsibility of their own support and guidance (with their own “and then”) then perhaps I have succeeded in engaging them fully with the musical experience? Or perhaps they are just mimicking me unknowingly?
Either way, “and then” seemed to resonate with where I am in my own life at the moment. Not in structured employment, I have taken responsibility for my own “and then”. I have to encourage myself to try new things, to haltingly move through this transition phase of my life. I have chosen to do this so it is my job to be encouraging and supportive of myself. I may not know exactly what is coming next but with a few “and thens” I can take some steps into the future and carve a path for myself. Let’s do it shall we?1 Comment »