Kelly, West Dallas

Kelly is majoring in piano performance and pedagogy at Meadows School of the Arts. For summer 2011, she was named a Maguire & Irby Family Foundation Public Service Summer Intern by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at SMU. Kelly is interning at West Dallas Community School, where she is teaching piano to students in first through fourth grades.

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Practice, practice – and some fun

The last two weeks at West Dallas have been another two weeks of both trials and successes. It is becoming more and more clear how much students benefit from precision and consistency.

Most all of my students are getting their practice time in every week, but these past two weeks they have started to learn the difference between just playing through their pieces and following consistenly the practice steps that I assign to them.

It’s easy for me to get a little bit frustrated, but then I realize how long it has taken me and how many times I’ve had to be reminded to actually follow directions completely and consistently. That is helping me to be patient and is challenging me to make sure that I check their practice steps at every lesson and give them clear and consistent practice instructions.

My youngest student keeps me smiling. She was taking quite a while to play through a new piece I was assigning her, but every few minutes she would stop, sit back on the bench, close her eyes, tilt her head back, and take a deep breath. This is actually something that I encourage students to do (although surprisingly, she picked this up on her own), but in her case it was getting a little excessive. After about the fourth time this happened, I must have appeared a little frustrated because she looked up at me and said very sincerely, “You need to do it, too. You keep talking.”

I told her that I thought this was a great idea, and so we both closed our eyes and took a deep breath. Afterward she looked up at me and said ever so sweetly, “There, do you feel calm now?” I had to laugh and admit that I did feel better. It also jogged my memory that I’m not running a conservatory (even though I want and expect these students to be the best that they can be!) and that music is meant to bring joy and, in some cases, relaxation.

These students are all rising to their Friday performances, and I am especially impressed with their level of enthusiasm and their improved listening skills. We are all excited for the recital on August 5!

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