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"I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse? (Read 13299 times)

Offline nanabush

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"I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
« on: May 23, 2010, 12:05:13 AM »
Hi all!

I WAS preparing a kid for his Grade 8 RCM; we started in January after he finished his Grade 7, and have been working at two pieces.  Based on his progress, we were aiming for him to take the Grade 8 next spring.

Suddenly, he comes in to the lesson saying "I'm stopping piano next year".  I ask "why", and he simply says "I'm not committed anymore.  I'd rather have free time than practice piano"

I'll put this a little more in context.  He's just started high school (finishing 9th grade in June), plays hockey during the winter, but other than that isn't overloaded with stuff.  He has an excellent work ethic (gets really good grades in school, high 90's on theory exams, and 70's - 80's on practical tests, which seems good based on the attitude of some of the cruel markers for these exams!)

I tried to explain to him that I'm not rushing him through the grade, that he can go at his own pace.  He's also been playing some 'fun' stuff, just for a bit of relief after his grade 7 (so he's doing a few pirates of the caribbean, linus and lucy, pink panther).  These are all around the Grade 8-9 level, so are fun and challenging.

I told him that I think his drastic "I want to quit piano" was because of school exams coming up, and wanting more 'free time' to go outside with friends and stuff.  He keeps saying he'll be too stressed if he continues with piano, and even ONLY doing 'for fun' stuff would be too heavy with his school next year.

Do you guys think he should actually just stop piano altogether?  He's been with me for 4 years, and had another teacher for 2 years before; doing really well on Grade 7 RCM exams after 6 years of lessons is excellent, and I was actually awestruck when he told me he's quitting.

I'm thinking it's that 'summer laziness' that sets in - but I just don't understand how he can honestly think he can't find ANY time to practice, when I remember there were tons of people in my school when I was at high school with jobs, extra curricular activities, AND piano, who still had time for everything.

I don't want to be too blunt with him, but he's 15 years old and his sudden attitude change is reminding me of the a-holes who I went to school with who stopped caring, got lazy, and started generally sucking at school, skipping classes, and not having any goals.   I told him "we can take a break from Grade 8 for a bit if you want to go easy, and do more fun stuff, or just go at a slower pace" and then his answer is "the thing is, I'm not doing the grade 8 ever".  

Also, his dad really wants him to finish the grade 8 (and may be a bit pushy).  So I'm thinking there are a few possible reasons:

-the kid is just becoming lazy after an 'intense' year of grade 9
-rebelling against his dad being pushy
-legitimately losing interest in piano

I want to talk to his dad about it (over the phone, not when the kid is standing right there), but want some ideas from people who have run into this before.  How should I approach this without just making the dad hang up and go and yell at the kid for 'not practicing' and 'being a quitter'?
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline quantum

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #1 on: May 23, 2010, 01:16:53 AM »
I can reminisce to earlier days.  There was many a time when I wanted to quit, one of them sounding very similar to your student scenario.  I was preparing to do Grade 8 RCM.  The truth was I wasn't really interested in the material contained in the RCM repertoire books, but my teacher kept pushing it down my throat.  I wanted more challenging material, to be able to play chopets instead of a bunch of mundane exercises.  Thus I announced I wished to quit after finishing the Grade 8 exam. 

Saying I wanted to quit was the most tangible explanation I could give at the time.  It was in part a gut reaction, and may not have been totally my wish.  However, I looking back I think it had more attention getting punch.  It was a way of getting people to be attentive to my concerns, as more subtle methods had failed.  I did quit, for a short while - but this hiatus from piano didn't last very long, as two weeks later I was studying with renewed enthusiasm under another teacher.  It all happened so fast I didn't have time to comprehend that I just quit before I was studying again.

You sound like a much more accommodating teacher that I had at the time, and your student is very fortunate for that.  There probably is some underlying situation that he has not communicated yet, and is probably shy or shameful of mentioning it.  Pushy parents could be a factor.  Does he talk about his environment at home?  About encouragement or discouragement form his parents?  What about his friends?  Are they into music, or more into other activities and are pushing him in such direction? 

Is he the kind of student who genuinely enjoys music?  One who plays out of love for the art and instrument?  He may just need a change of scenery or a short vacation.  Different repertoire, maybe study composing or improvisation.  An alternate music related activity to give him variety in study, so that the brain doesn't get so bombarded with studying RCM exam material. 


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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #2 on: May 23, 2010, 01:30:22 AM »
There is no stopping him, it is his own decision. He even does not want to continue piano "for fun" and without the stress of examinations which is quite a statement and usually spells the end of the piano journey for now. You want him to continue piano on his own free will otherwise his progress will be severely restricted, there is no point teaching a student who is forced into the lesson no matter how advanced their level.

Sometimes music serves its purpose for the student just as a curiosity, an exercise of the mind and body, the student never really connects with the music it is just a task which they know the process of. Some people don't find that piano is a part of their life, it is something that fits into their schedule. If they never play piano to relax themselves or for personal enjoyment then they will never play piano for long. Ultimately that is what learning music is about, your own enjoyment, not exams, competition, a % etc.

I would highlight to the student how they are taking their talent for granted and should not give up because they play much better than most piano students. Ask them doesn't piano give enjoyment when they are alone just playing some music for themselves, something that they can do alone without the world around them? You have to revitalize his interest in piano, buy him a ticket to a piano concert or give him some videos/recordings of piano which inspire. If all of his friends also played piano he would probably want to continue, but usually piano students have no peers and this contributes to a lack of motivation to learn the art.
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Offline pianisten1989

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #3 on: May 23, 2010, 07:42:21 AM »
Is there a girl involved? Sounds silly, but we can do many stupid things when there's a girl involved. And anyhow, I don't think it's your decision. Maybe he doesn't like playing that much, or really doesn't have the time.
Some ppl, like myself, really don't like doing things half-way. Either you do it, and really go for it, or you don't do it at all. Maybe he's like that?

Though, I don't think you should be one of those bitter teachers who's like "Ok, quit playing then! But don't you dare come back when you've changed your mind!" Just keep the door open, and let him take his time.

Offline gene2701

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #4 on: June 12, 2010, 03:49:10 PM »
y r u as a teacher judging ur student.... (lame excuse)?...y would such a concept enter ur mind?
(in case u wish to say U DO NOT JUDGE ur students)

:)

my humble opinion...its really not up to u to decide. in this day n age, its no longer 'the teacher is the boss'.

the students hv to learn from every decision they make.

so honestly, its really up to affinity as to whether he will continue lessons with u...my advice is, dont talk abt it. no amount of u advicing/talking to the parent..etc etc would help much.

for all u know the family is supportive of his ideas... :)

besides, not everybody is devoted to music. some wish to do other stuff...
(which i believe ur student has spoken to u abt)



Offline honeywill

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #5 on: June 12, 2010, 04:10:30 PM »
I think you are right to talk to the Dad quietly at another time. All you can do is be honest about the situation and repeat what you have said to the student about trying other material, waiting a bit before doing the exam etc. Ultimately you are unlikely to be able to affect the outcome here - pushy Dad and the non-commital kid will have to work it out between them. Motivating teens is an act of psychological alchemy that can defeat the most inspirational teachers at times...

Offline nanabush

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #6 on: June 12, 2010, 06:43:45 PM »
I've spoken to the dad, and after the kid's lesson last week, when he got picked up by his dad, I told the dad (while the kid was standing there) that his son has changed his mind about piano, and that they should discuss it together.

That lesson, though, I spoke to the kid about it, and we decided to just do 30 minute lessons next year (he's doing hour long right now), and that he will set a LONG term goal of finishing grade 8 piano in 2 years rather than next spring (partly the reason he was getting fed up).

He's telling me that he is in the phase where "it's not cool" to play classical music.  His friends play 'cool songs' on the piano and don't have to do exams.  He's also taking a guitar class at school where they are learning riffs to random songs.  I can't understand how that's a high school class, but that's beyond the point.  Peer pressure probably has to do with the half of the issue (his dad stressing over nit picky things, and forcing him to overwork is the other half).  I just made it clear that he's taking piano as a hobby, and regardless of how committed he'll be in the end, that quiting over something some idiot at school said in passing is not the way to solve it.

So in the end, he's going to keep learning his grade 8, but spread it out over more time; this will let him keep playing more 'cool' stuff (even though I tell him a million times he can find pretty much anything he ever wants to learn online in 30 seconds).  I'm encouraging him to find new stuff, and do some work on random pieces on his own time in the summer.  This could be queen music, movie themes, additional grade 8 stuff, whatever.  I just want him to keep enjoying it at the moment rather than get scared away from it  ;)

Thanks for the comments guys!
Interested in discussing:

-Prokofiev Toccata
-Scriabin Sonata 2

Offline honeywill

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #7 on: June 12, 2010, 08:08:04 PM »
That's great. The peer pressure thing is really tough on kids, but you seem to have found a solution that keeps him on board, and hopefully he will keep going now...

Offline gene2701

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #8 on: June 13, 2010, 03:40:13 PM »
yes. peer pressure. i took up jazz because of this too a yr ago. lol

but well, improvisation is real fun once u get the hang of it.

of course...ultimately, u can learn improvisation regardless of what u play...IF U KNOW the key that is..

:)

Offline mcdiddy1

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #9 on: June 18, 2010, 12:55:35 PM »
What is most important is the kid is still motivated to play music. Whether the kid reaches level 8 in a certain amount of time sounds like an agenda for the teacher than the students. The student deserves praise for not only wanting to continue piano but for choosing to play guitar and exploring music that interest him.He may become a great jazz guitarist, advocate for music , music teacher, performer and the motivation is coming from him. You should allow your student to become what he wants to be and encourage his interest in other music. There is more to music beyond just Classical music and its important to accept that. Music should be used as food for the soul rather than to achieve pointless rankings.

Offline gene2701

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #10 on: June 18, 2010, 01:20:16 PM »
to mcididdy - i love and respect ur comments!

:)

Offline meve_d

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Re: "I'm not committed anymore" - lame excuse?
«Reply #11 on: August 28, 2013, 01:27:29 AM »
I am a (former) grade 9 RCM piano student. Your student sounds just like me. Don't get me wrong - i LOVE playing the piano, always will. But please, don't ever push your student to keep taking lessons. While you're trying to make them realise they might regret it, what you're really doing is pushing them over the edge. My biggest regret is letting my teacher "push" me , encourage me, and keep telling me that I could do it, that we would work it out together.. All that did was remind me that I wasnt making any progress - and she could see it. I will never admit this to her, but she ( unintentionnaly ) pushed me to the point where I didn't enjoy playing anymore. All that "convincing" has made me loose my passion. I quit my lessons - but i'm still trying to reconnect with my piano. I've subconsciously erased all my repertoire from my memory. Please, dont ever push it to that point - you might burn out the one little spark of passion left in him.