The last 2 weeks have continued to help mold me into a better musician and teacher. During the week of the 11th, I was prvileged to be on faculty at SMU’s National Piano Institute for Young Artists in the mornings and to continue my internship at West Dallas Community School in the afternoons.
I spent my entire day teaching and got very little practicing of my own in that week (I had also come off the long Independence Day holiday weekend with less practice than normal, so I was a little nervous about how my own piano skills were holding up!). I was surprised to get back to the practice room the following week and find myself more alert and in tune to what my hands and fingers were doing. I found myself watching and analyzing my own technique and listening more closely to the music I was making.
As I was talking myself through the various things that I needed to fix, I realized that the amount of time I had spent teaching over the past week was helping me to identify practice problems and solutions more quickly. Seeing the progress in my students also reaffirmed in my mind that practicing correctly actually works!
I’ve also seen improvement in a good number of my students’ practice habits. We are approaching our final week of lessons and the final recital on Friday evening. We spent this week’s group class solely in preparation for the recital, and I was pleased with most of my students’ preparation skills. A few of them have yet to fully memorize their songs, which is making them (and me!) a little nervous.
As I started a mental checklist of things that I need to prepare for this next week, I realized that this will be a completely new experience for me. I have held and attended student recitals for years and always get a little nervous for beginner students at their first recital. But my mind is always put to ease when the more experienced students are able to set the stage and show them how it’s done. Not only that, but if any of the first-timers end up having a breakdown, I know the show can still go on after they’re done.
But as I went through my mental checklist, it hit me that not one of these students has been in a recital before. Some of them have sung in choir on stage, and some of them have even given reports in class, but performing memorized solo music in front of an audience of peers, parents, siblings, friends and teachers is an entirely different challenge.
Two moments this week touched me and helped me regain perspective into my mission at WDCS. The first moment occured when a student came into his lesson. He quickly got out his books and came over to me with a big smile on his face and pulled a chocolate Hershey’s kiss out of his pocket. It must have been at least 90 degrees out so the chocolate was completely melted, but I was taken aback by this boy’s thoughtfulness and eagerness to share.
The next moment occured at the end of another student’s lesson. He had just finished repeating to me the practice steps that he needed to follow (a little more closely!) the following week and was on his way out the door. I was getting ready to head out myself when he turned around and gave me a big hug. I almost melted and was a little surprised because I was not always sure how much he enjoyed his lessons.
Both of these boys’ instances of thoughtfulness encouraged me that regardless of how smoothly the recital goes on Friday, I have been able to develop a relationship with my students and to provide for them an opportunity to showcase the self-discipline, perserverance, and creativity they have worked very hard at this summer.