In my decades of teaching the violin and viola, I many times have been a part of a familiar scene.
The student is around 10-13 years of age and visibly frustrated. After multiple attempts at a passage, wookee noises are emitted with a sigh “Aaaargh!”...
Me: “Jees guy. You seem kind of flustered.”
Student: “Yeah, I had this yesterday.”
Me: “Yeah I know, sometimes it goes like that. Hey let’s try it again.”
(An Attempt, unsuccessful)
Student: “Aaargh! I just can’t get it!”
Me: “ Yeah , mmm... I see you trying . How did you work on it at home?”
Student: “ Well, I did it over and over..”
Me: “Did you take the practice boxes apart and practice them slowly?”
Student: “ Well kinda.”
Me: “Kinda huh, yeh that would have been a good idea ... and by the way, how much do practice ....everyday?”
Student: “(too little)”.
Me: “Wow .... now I know what’s up. You’re doing it the hard way. You’re trying to remember something you don’t know.”
...It’s a simple concept but we all suffer from the frustration of trying to do something that we have yet to solidify in our memory. We all know that time is the only answer, but in a world of so many stimuli, how does one continue to find the will to supply the time for true learning? Maybe the answer could be found in the lessons of my small ones.
Imagine other variations of the scene depicted above and (for time sake) these scenarios have roughly the same dialogue but in the words appropriate for a 4 to 6 year old. Let’s skip to the chase ...
Me: “...it seems to me that you haven’t found the treasure yet.”
Student: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Fun. The fun of knowing what you are doing.That’s the treasure.”
Me: “Really, we just felt it. We just worked through some stuff for about 10 minutes and got it. How did it feel?”
Me: “That’s the treasure. You could multiply it by three. The more you search the more you find. How would it feel if you could feel that every day. Everyday you should ask your parents to help you search for treasure on the violin. They know the steps I take to find it. You could find it everyday! It has to feel better than not finding it. Right?”
Me: “Hey, how are you doing? Ready to slay some dragons?”
Me: “ Well, not every dragon. Some make you feel good about yourself and make you feel brave. I’m talking about the ones that make you feel bad and like you can’t do stuff. Let’s slay all of those.”
Et cetera, etc...
What if our practice was all about finding treasure and slayin’ bad dragons? How much time could you afford for that journey?