Posted by: Marie | May 22, 2014

(926) The power of relationship

Post #926
[Private journal entry written on Tuesday, August 21, 2012]

I had lessons scheduled with Kris and Bella on Friday afternoon . . . the plan was they were going to have back-to-back lessons starting at 1:30pm . . .

Kris walked in at 1:30 by herself . . .

We greeted each other . . . then, she said, laughing, “At least we’ll have peace and quiet today for my lesson because Bryan (her husband) has the kids today!”

I responded (almost rhetorically), “Oh, will he be bringing Bella at 2:30, then?”

“Why? Does he need to bring her?”

It took me a moment to figure out how to answer . . . I thought maybe she was joking . . . could she really have forgotten that we were doing their lessons back-to-back? I finally stammered, “Well, um . . . that’s when she is scheduled for her lesson . . . so she kind of needs to be here if I’m going to have a lesson with her . . . ”

“Oh, I’m sorry! I forgot!”

“So, um . . . on what day were you planning to bring her for a lesson this week?”

“I don’t know . . . I guess I didn’t think about it.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I could call Bryan and see if he could drop Bella off here at the studio at 2:30 . . . ”

“Yes, that would be good.”


She called . . . but Bryan couldn’t drop Bella off at the studio at 2:30 . . . could he bring her later . . . maybe 5:30??

I agreed . . .

And, after that rough start, Kris’ lesson went well . . . we did have peace and quiet.


Photo by Martin Chen

Then, at 5:30, Bryan showed up with Bella. He said Kris was staying home with the other kids.

After the lesson, Bryan and I visited for a few minutes. It was the first time I had met him, so it was good to have some time with him.

I expressed to him my concern about the continuous schedule mix-ups . . . I wondered out loud if there was something I was doing that was causing the confusion . . .

He assured me that it had nothing to do with me . . . this is just how Kris is . . . this type of confusion is extremely typical for her, and as a result, for her whole family.

After talking to him, I’m thinking that this might be a source of much conflict in their marriage . . . he didn’t seem to appreciate her disorganization . . . he seemed pretty outright fed up with it.

Anyway, I printed out and gave to him the email I had sent to Kris a couple of weeks go in which I had listed all the dates and times for the next several months. He thanked me for the print-out and said he would post it on the refrigerator.

I hope it helps.


On Sunday, I received an email from Edward in response to the lengthy emails I sent to him about Renee:

Dear Marie,

Congratulations on your remarkable progress with your students.

These stories are such touching examples of the power of relationship, and an incredible testament to the human spirit (yours and your students).




I had a lesson with Renee this afternoon. It was the first time she had walked directly from school, and it was the first time she had not had parental supervision for at least some of the lesson. She came bursting through the door and up the stairs into my studio totally out of breath . . .

She is scheduled to start her lesson around 3:25 or 3:30; she arrived at 3:15 . . . she said she had hurried as quickly as she could because she wasn’t sure how long it would take her to walk the several blocks from school to the studio and she didn’t want to be late. So, at least we now know that she can easily make it in time for her lesson.

During the entire lesson, she was incredibly playful, light-hearted and high-energy. She gave me lots of direct eye contact. She showed me a whole different side of herself and it was delightful to see!

Once we sat down at the piano, I asked her if she had a preference on what we worked on today. She did not. So, I suggested that we look at the piece in the lesson book she had been assigned the week before. She agreed.

Then, before we actually turned to that piece in the book, I said, “Oh, by the way . . . there’s something I want to mention to you . . . ”

I brought up the fact that she has hugged me a few times over the course of the past few lessons, and I stated that I was aware she is a “huggy” person (she has told me that several times). I said to her that I wanted her to know that I am fine with sharing hugs with her, and yet, I’ve found myself unsure of how to handle the whole hugging situation with her.

I told her that I didn’t want to ever hug her at a time she might not want to be hugged . . . that I am concerned she might feel pressured to hug me even if she didn’t want to do so. So, I asked her if it would be okay if she was the one to initiate hugs, if and when she wanted one. I assured her I would always be open to a hug. That way, she would know that she always has the option of hugging me and that I would welcome a hug anytime, but she would never be put in a position of feeling she had to comply with my request for a hug.

She agreed with that and said she thought it was a good solution.

In the back of my mind, I was also thinking that, if I ever sensed that she might want a hug but was hesitant to ask for one, I could ask if she wanted one while making it clear she would be welcome to decline. I’m aware that there is a fine line there . . . even if I assured her she could decline, she may not have the self-esteem and maturity to decline. She may still feel obligated. So, I would have trepidation about doing that . . . but, it is an option.

Anyway, I made a point of keeping that topic rather light-hearted . . . just kind of mixed it into the conversation as a side-tangent . . . I didn’t want it to take on a heavy feel. We only spent a few minutes talking about it and then we moved onto her assigned piece of music.

Renee asked me to play with her on her assigned piece. We spent about 10 minutes on the piece (both of us playing) and she made some great progress. She didn’t want to start learning a second piece, so I asked if she would be willing to do some sight-reading exercises. She said she would be willing.

The sight-reading exercises are one-line simple pieces . . . most are a dozen or so notes long. Before playing each piece, the student identifies her ideal hand position, notes the key signature and the time signature, and then attempts to play the piece while keeping up with a metronome set at a slow tempo (like 60bpm). The pieces are so simple that students can do well on them, yet it gives them very effective practice at sight-reading. I enhance the skill building by whiting-out ALL of the finger numbers so the student has to really study the position of the notes on the staff.

Anytime I use these exercises with a student, I see dramatic improvement in his sight-reading skill within the first 20 or 30 minutes spent on the exercises. Renee was no exception . . . and, she started flying through the exercises so quickly that I was truly impressed.

I found it interesting that she didn’t ask me to play along with her during these exercises. We had used the sight-reading book before, so the experience wasn’t new to her. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when she opted to play them all by herself. It was the first time she has done that since I implemented Edward’s advice.

After she had played through all of the first level exercises, I asked her if she was willing to try the second level . . . I told her that the second level had skips in them, which she had not yet learned about. She said she would give the second level exercises a try . . .

So, I explained what skips were, and she caught on to the concept within a few minutes. She jumped right into the exercises and did very well with them. Even when she did make a mistake, instead of falling into the “helpless” behavior, she would just say, “Oh, wait, that’s not right” and she would try again until she got it right . . . no drama.

I kept telling her how amazingly she was doing . . . how she was sight-reading at a level more advanced that where she was in the lesson book . . . that, usually, people aren’t able to sight-read better than where they are in the lesson book. I made a big deal of how quickly she was catching on to the reading of music notation and I told her she must be a natural. She seemed very pleased with hearing my praises and she seemed proud of herself . . . and I am so very proud of her . . . and I told her so!

This is not the same girl who was showing up for her lessons a couple of months ago . . . she is progressing so quickly now, and her helplessness has gone away. I am so excited for her!!

Quotes 836

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