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Author Topic: My student cried in her lesson yesterday  (Read 5494 times)
lallasvensson
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« on: January 12, 2004, 12:32:13 PM »

Hello.
i am a bit confused today. I have an 11 year old chinese student, very serious about practising but totally unmusical. I actually almost never dealt with so unmusical student. She plays extremely hard, doesnt pay attention to any dynamics, legato etc. But she can play scales and czerny studies very fast...
Yesterday she played first a little Schumann piece and as usual i asked her: where is the melody ? and she could not answer to that question (although i had already explained her last time) and played like a typewriter.
Then she played a Beethoven sonata 1st movement by heart, all notes were correct, it was clean and steady but AWFUL.
I feel sorry for her because i can see she does spend a lot of time practising but for what result ??
I never yell but in front of her sister and her mother i lectured her and said she is just playing the notes etc...
and then she cried heavily...
do you think i went too far ??
what do you do in such situations ??

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jeff
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2004, 01:04:59 PM »

have you tried investigating and working on how she hears music? also, do you demonstrate how you want her to play?
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bernhard
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2004, 01:13:23 PM »

I have a number of Chinese students, and they do practise hard! So here are some issues you may want to explore:

1.      Is she actually Chinese, that is, born in China and only recently moved to your country? If so, does she understand English? All my Chinese students appear to understand and speak English, but they don’t.

2.      If she is Chinese (in a cultural sense) she may have a completely different musical pattern in her unconscious. Traditional Chinese music is very different from Western music. Just to give you an example, my Chinese students without exception have problems with the major scale. They start it, but do not know where to end. The tonality principle (always end on the tonic) is unfamiliar to them. I found that I had to spend considerable time in the beginning getting them used to the “sound” of a major scale. Now expand that to Western harmony, and you may understand that for her it is all like atonal music! The Chinese never joined the equal temperament system, so their melodies are incredibly rich and subtle making use of all the range of fractions of tones, while our melodies are quite rough and primitive (by their standards) jumping as they do in semitones. So she may be very musical, but to her, what we think as nice music may sound atrocious! On the other hand, she may be unmusical. In either case here are a few suggestions:

a)      make her play the melody in isolation – she may not have an ear for it! (is the Schumann piece Strange lands and people? If so, isolate the melodic line and make her play it, until she memorises it and can sing /whistle/hum it. Once she has the melody firmly on her mind, put it back in the music and tell her that her challenge is to bring it up. Then show her how to do it, by subduing the other voices). This will show her that practice is more than just finger dexterity.

b)      Get her to listen to recordings of her pieces, if possible by different pianists. Ask her if she hears any difference. Most beginners do not. Have her hear the piece sequenced by a computer, and compare with it played by a great pianist.

c)      Play the piece for her, first mimicking the way she plays it, then the way you would like her to play it. Check if she can hear the difference. Maybe she can’t (yet!).

d)      In short, she may need at this stage more aural practice and not so much finger practice.

3.      She may be under a lot of pressure from her family to do well. Criticism form the teacher means that she failed and shamed her family. Traditional Chinese families are not as laid back and liberal as Western families. The family will expect the girl works hard and they will make sure she does. So should you not criticise her ever? Not at all. Explain this to her (make sure the mother hears it too): “I only criticise the students that show promise. If I am picking on you it is because I think you are worth it. If I keep saying that everything is all right and that your playing is wonderful, then you should start to worry, because it means that I do not think I should bother with it.” Then I tell them about my kungfu master (I don’t have one, but it strikes a chord!), who would completely ignore the beginners and pick mercilessly on the advanced students, because he did not know if the beginners would stick to it, so it would be a waste of his energy to concentrate on them. And how proud I was if I got criticised, because this meant that I was now an advanced student! The mother will understand this very well, because this is actually the way they teach over there. Then she will not misconstrue your criticism as dissatisfaction with the student (which it may well be), but rather as an effort to improve her playing, and will therefore not give the girl a hard time once they get back at home.

Do not get too worried about her crying. It happens all the time. If I started worrying about people crying, I would be severely limited in what I can do for a student. If a student cries when I criticise, I immediately say: “What is the matter? It is all right to make mistakes, it is not brain surgery where someone dies if you make a mistake. It is only piano playing, if you make a mistake, try again. But if I do not tell you that you made a mistake, how would you know?”

I hope this helps,
Bernhard.
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lallasvensson
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2004, 01:34:56 PM »

She is actually from Taiwan and start playing there. Then they lived in San Francisco, CA, where they had a Chinese teacher and now they live in Stockholm and I am French (and teach like French not like Swedes...).

She understands english perfectly, going to the International School in Sthlm.
The point is that her little sister is the exact opposite: she is extremely lazy and refuses to practise but she has very good ears and musical understanding and it is very easy for her to play.
I think their mother has a perfect attitude about their practising and playing the piano. She puts some pressure about their practising but then she is very laid back about the result... Actually when her daughter started crying yesterday the mother suggested that the lesson would end and that we would take it up next week. She was really consolating her and i explained that sometimes it is like that with piano lessons, as were mine too.
So i played the piece instead to the girl but i am not really sure she can hear the difference between a hard and a beautiful sound. We did many kinds of exercises already and i feel quite discouraged about her now, she doesnt try to train her ears at all...
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jo.clarinet
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2004, 02:07:07 PM »

I have had several pupils who tended to play rather mechanically, and have found that the best 'cure' is actually TIME - once they get to be teenagers, with all the emotional turmoil associated with being that age, they often mature in their playing extremely quickly!
Of course we must guide them into listening carefully and playing sensitively right from the start, but I don't think you should worry too much.
Perhaps as well as the more technical stuff that she seems to enjoy, you should set her some work that requires more inner thought - eg set an easy, lyrical piece that she could learn in a week, and ask her to prepare it in several different 'styles' (such as gently, sadly, angrily, boringly). Then she can play it for you and you must guess which way she is trying to play it! That will with luck make her think more about the way she plays.
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Joanna Brown
bernhard
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2004, 11:47:48 PM »

Jo's advice is very good.

You could also try the opposite: give her pieces that require a mechanical interpretation (at least while you await for her to catch up) like Jacques Ibert "The sewing Machine".

Try not to get depressed. I had my fair share of impossible students, and my approach was to use them to experiment and try new things. I regard them as a challenge. Rather than try to teach them the piano accordin gto my own views and expectations, I try to figure out ways that I can reach them. I experiment wildly and sometimes I come up with some extraordinary solutions that can then be used on similar cases. This keeps me interested and away from depression.  

This is what I would do: I would try to "be" the student. I try to imagine what it would be like to have no musicality, to not be able to distinguish between different interpretations. If I succeed in creating this alternative mind, then I can compare with my own mind and see what is the difference and what needs to be changed. Unfortunately I cannot be much more specific than this, since each case is a different case.

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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surendipity
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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2004, 07:03:16 AM »

Crying, it happens.  usually if it's not coming from your direct critisisms with the student, it's coming from the family.  Firstly, don't involve the family members when things go wrong, they are not the ones learning and will only end up pointing the finger at the child.

What you have is a robot pianist.  A good start.
Why, because it takes alot of pressure off the teacher if the notes are well learned as well as the timing.
Now you only have to teach emotion.  What a great opportunity for an artistic spirit.  What fun....
woo hoo..........

Firstly  you need her trust and she needs a great piece to start that trust.

I like Bernards idea with the "Sewing Machine"
Also "Robots"  that'll make her shine.
something with little dynamics and alot of staccato and speedy notes.

Than introduce melody and dynamics with something that has alot of Pentatonic scales in it.

"Kites"  Grade 1 Rep.  RCM  is best

The Pentatonic scales will leave her family breathless and you can teach her how to feel like a kite and sing the notes soft to loud, loud to soft.  Ask her to sing with it also.  If she is not getting loud enough, stop her and say now "pump up the volume"

I get my students to find me a radio.  Then I get them to find a static station (none station)  then I gradually ask them to turn the volume up and down till they can make the sound of waves on a beach.  They get the idea really fast and then we try to reproduce it on the piano.

Take the student into the piece, create a story, ask them if they can write there own story.

There is this song in the piano adventures book 1a
called the Grumpy Old Troll.  All my students have to write in their own lyrics.  Boy the lyrics I have heard.
So funny......

So, if all else fails when she cries again, say that's it that's it I tell you.  That crying is huge Fortissimo.
Now if you can just whimper a bit that would be Piano.

You never now, may be an ice breaking moment.

good luck

Surendipity
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Rob47
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« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2004, 04:08:07 PM »

Hi

Not that I am in anyway an adavanced piano teacher I'll give you two words...Suzuki Method.  

Never has a method worked so well for students I've taught. They were beginners so maybe eleven years old is too late.  Definetly look into suzuki method technique, and instead of lecturing her in front of her mother, LECTURE HER MOTHER.  Unless this girl is really mature about wanting to learn more than just the notes.  You say its obvious she practices but clearly she practices the wrong way.  

You think because she's chinese she is missing something you are trying to tell her? Then show her over and over again grab(gently) her hand and show her ideas of how to get tone and not sound mechanical.

Again I haven't taught all that long, so I'm just thinking back to methods taught to me for developing tone and rich sound.

But definitely lecture the mother. Grin  (in a polite way)

Rob
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lallasvensson
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« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2004, 07:02:16 PM »

no. The mother is a great and gentle sweet woman. She doesnt put any pressure on her kids.
All my pupils play correct notes, why should i be happy about that ??
I want much more than just hearing notes. It also makes me upset and sad that she cannot make a crescendo (she obviously doesnt hear it). It is normal i am upset. I spend time and energy teaching music and just hear typewriting back.
By the way, the week after she came all smiling and played the same piece much much more beautiful. Not beautiful of course but not awful anymore, she had really polished the sound. Still no emotion but I dont ask for that before they are teenagers. I just ask them to listen to the sound they are producing and to tune it with the right technique until it gets proper.
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ted
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« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2004, 01:50:47 AM »

Would she respond to rhythm ? Try her with a Joplin rag or some boogie, a bit of jazz ? If she's a hard worker with no emotion perhaps she might like to learn hundreds of chord types in all the keys - play them on demand etc. ? It'd be a real advantage for her later on doing that now. If she's cold and intellectual maybe she would respond to keyboard patterns and transposition ? Lack of emotional involvement doesn't imply there is no intellectual creativity there. If she's intellectual then draw her into music that way. "Music has nothing to do with emotion" - Stravinsky in later life.
Many important musicians of recent times have not cared for emotion - it isn't compulsory.

At her age perhaps it's more a matter of finding something that music has to offer her - what it is may not matter that much.

I'm not a teacher. I was just browsing. I was a different child too. Had it not been for the unconventionality of my childhood piano teacher and the composer I later studied with I might have missed out on my music altogether.

Just the idle thoughts of an idle fellow.

I agree with Minsmusic. Love of music, emotional, intellectual, any way... surely that's the important thing for a child - to establish a place for music in their lives. All the discipline can come later on. I don't like the thought of the poor kid crying either. Give her some praise for what she can do.

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« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2004, 02:57:47 AM »

show her the videos of Yundi li, observe her reaction. He is really an cool man and attractive Chinese young pianist in the professional field now and he is also a very musical pianist guy?
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reinvent
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2004, 10:39:53 AM »

I have never had anyone cry and hope it never happens.  But the fact that she cried does certainly show that she has emotions even if she is not reflecting them in her music.
  What I would do, is lend her a few different CDs, with  pieces that vary greatly from each other.  Ask her to write down her favorites.  Maybe even write up a questionnaire for her to use when listening to them.
Someone with such sensitivity is bound to have musical sensitivity.  Have her narrow it down to her favorite and buy the music for that piece.  See how and if that changes her style.
 I hope it does - we have such an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these little ones.  Good luck!
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BajoranD
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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2004, 09:20:10 PM »

Three possibly strange sounding ideas:

1. Have the student highlight the different expression markings with colored pencils. For instance, all dynamic markings get a red pencil (including cresc./deccresc. marks), all tempo markings get a green pencil, all articulation markings get a blue pencil, etc. The act of doing this may help the girl approach these rather abstract ideas in a concrete fashion, and then when she's playing through the piece, the colors may be an additional clue to her brain that something besides notes needs to be going on at the moment.

2. Have the student draw some visual representations of dynamics. There's no wrong answer (as long as the general idea is that p is softer than mp is softer than mf, and so on). Then, when she's drawn something, have her "play" the drawings. It's all about making those neuron pathways in the brain connect in any way we can!

3. And this may be the strangest: get a kazoo. Have her play the melody on the kazoo. Sounds weird, I know. But there's something about a kazoo that seems to work really well. It maybe doesn't seem as scary as just singing in front of someone else (after all, something with a name as funny as "kazoo" can't be scary!), but it's all voice. And it seems to help open up the ears, somehow. I can't explain it, but back when I was teaching choir, I would have my kids sing a passage normally, then sing it through kazoos, then sing it again, and the quality of pitch, and the smoothness, and even the dynamics would 99% of the time be very much improved. So maybe it would help your student get her ears "open"? Maybe help her get the melody in her head, as well as the various expressions that need to go with it? You can do dynamics, articulations, all of that (well, most of it) on a kazoo. Plus, kazoos are kind of fun.  Smiley

4. Okay, one more strange idea: Get a drum (some cheapo thing that you find in a toy store would be okay), and have her bang dynamic changes on the drum. In my experience, kids love to bang on things, especially when it's sanctioned banging. You could even make up dynamic flashcards (here I go again, with my flashcards), and have her bang whatever dynamic you're showing on the drum, including cresc/decresc. Maybe she needs to approach these things when she's not trying to think about notes, and form, and proper technique, and all of that, and after she's comfortable with them, THEN she can try putting them all together.

Just some thoughts. And what is it they say? Free advice is worth what you pay for it. Or something like that. Wink
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bernhard
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2004, 02:16:03 AM »

Quote
3. And this may be the strangest: get a kazoo.



A kazoo! What a brilliant idea! It is really difficult to get some children to sing (it is part of the aural exam, so they have to do it – like it or not). This may be just the perfect solution. (I wonder if they will be allowed to do the exam with a kazoo, he he)

Thank you very much!

Best wishes,
Bernhard.
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« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2004, 07:25:59 AM »

Quote

Just some thoughts.. Wink


Hey great ideas BajoranD!  I'll use these myself.  Cheesy
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DarkWind
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« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2004, 09:32:50 PM »

I do not have much to say, except that do not, under any circumstances, actually call her Chinese if she is Taiwan. I am in this Japanese/Chinese summer program. We had Taiwanese people come to speak. They do not consider themselves Chinese. At all. Some dislike China very heavily.
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BajoranD
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« Reply #16 on: July 20, 2004, 08:50:36 AM »

First of all, thanks for not yelling at me because I was too blind (or was it too tired?) to notice that this thread had been started back in January by someone who is (possibly) not even a member anymore, or if they are, then it's highly likely they're not even reading this, so I sort of came late to the party.   Embarrassed

** makes note to self: pay attention to when the question has been asked, and see if the thread-starter is still a member**

That said, I will now engage in a happy little dance, because Bernhard and Swan liked my ideas. It's ALWAYS encouraging to find out I'm not off my rocker with some of the things I try (well, not completely off it, not yet, anyway). Thanks.

** dances happy little dance around room **
Smiley
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Swan
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« Reply #17 on: July 20, 2004, 03:12:19 PM »

That's why forums can be good - someone asks a question, others answer and even OTHERS learn from it.  And there's probably even MORE people who read the forums and NEVER post, but still enjoy what others have to say.   Just look at the size of this forums membership!! It's huge, yet  when you look through the members, a WHOLE HEAP have never posted.

So WHOLE HEAP, how 'bout you join the party? Cheesy Cool Wink Smiley :-/
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Amorollo
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« Reply #18 on: July 21, 2004, 12:25:04 AM »

Hello, I am 15 years old and going to take music on as a profession. What i would reccomend is to let her choose her own piece. Tell her to make a choice that would let her explain her life out in music. Also when you demonstrate your own examples overexagerate your point. Have her sing her music, Also have her sight sing music paying attention to dynamics (for slow pieces, ex. dont have her sing sonata appassionata. Wink) Last but not least. I think this would be the best thing to try, Have her compose music. Tell her to fill it with emotion.


You dont have to do this but i was wondering if i could get in touch with this student. I have some interesting pieces to give her.
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bizgirl
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« Reply #19 on: July 23, 2004, 04:14:01 PM »

Maybe it has nothing to do with her ability, but rather her personality.  I know people who were really self-conscious and they thought playing with a lot of expression would draw too much attention.  Could this be the case with your student?
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Nana_Ama
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« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2004, 03:13:13 AM »

Quote
Maybe it has nothing to do with her ability, but rather her personality.  I know people who were really self-conscience and they thought playing with a lot of expression would draw too much attention.  Could this be the case with your student?



I agree sometimes I am like that.
Maybe she's just too shy =/
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Shagdac
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« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2004, 04:44:33 AM »

Just a thought...but sometimes students play differently in front of their teacher as opposed to their practing along. I would ask if she felt entirely comfortablw with the piece. If not, it's possible that she is concentrating on the technical/mechanic of it, rather than musicality at this point.

S Smiley
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Swan
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« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2004, 04:49:11 AM »

...and it's hard to be expressive if you're scared of the teacher....
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reinvent
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« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2004, 10:37:46 PM »

I think being friendly and warm to the student counts a lot more than any other idea when the child is playing mechanical.
If a feeling of great acceptance is not there for her - she will not blossom.
Most mechanical people have a lot of passion - but they are holding it back for fear of rejection.
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durgaprasadzone
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« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2017, 04:28:36 PM »

thanks for info..
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nastassja
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« Reply #25 on: October 15, 2017, 02:18:56 AM »

Hi!
Maybe you could record your student's performance and have her compare it to a more "passionate" recording. Then highlight or write down the dynamics on the score. I have a similar problem, my playing is sometimes "flat", so I like to hear and see my teacher play some sections, it helps me memorize the dynamics and the notice the differences in hand position, to get a better sound. If your student has a good memory, it should help.

Also... I realized that the sound of some pianos is just too loud for some kids. Students with hyperacousia might play better with musician "earplugs". I personally think it helps, otherwise i mostly play mf, p or pp, the rest is too loud for me to play properly.

Some students just cry because it is their personality. However, if she cries at every lesson, something must be done. If this is the first harsh feedback she got and she is a hardworking girl, it is understandable.
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huaidongxi
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« Reply #26 on: October 16, 2017, 09:15:25 PM »

lallasvensson, you might consider having your student watch and listen to a few piano performances or excerpts of a couple of passages from performances, either with you or a parent.  maybe different interpretations from several pianists of the same piece.  see if she can articulate what she heard, what she enjoyed or didn't enjoy in the performances.  it sounds like your student's musical sensibilities need to be nurtured a bit before more will come forth from the piano.
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mjames
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« Reply #27 on: October 16, 2017, 09:33:28 PM »

*** IT'S BEEN 13 YEAAAAAARSSSSSSSSSSSS SINCE SHE POSTED THIS THREAD

SO CALLED STUDENT IS OLDER THAN ME AND I'M A COLLEGE STUDENT

damn talk about a necro.
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #28 on: October 16, 2017, 09:59:15 PM »

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*** IT'S BEEN 13 YEAAAAAARSSSSSSSSSSSS SINCE SHE POSTED THIS THREAD

LOL my thought as well!!!
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Auditioning to U of O school of music:
Bach WTC Bk 1 No. 10
Beethoven Op. 81a (I.)
Rachmaninoff Op. 32 No. 10
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Liszt Wilde Jagd, Dante, HR 6
Chopin Ballade 3
Beethoven Op. 57
Prokofiev
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