Challenges with 12-year-old student

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Joyce Pierson Smith said: Jun 15, 2011
Joyce Pierson Smith
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
1 posts

My 12-year old student (a boy) has had lessons for about five years and finished Book 2 a year ago. Having attended a summer institute last year in which the teacher trainer encouraged more review than I had been doing, I began a review program with this student. Nine of the Book 2 pieces were on this list. Previous to this, I had required only review of a few “key pieces” from previous books. This year, the student did not progress as I had hoped he would. He did the review, but rushed through it and did not really perfect many pieces this year, sad to say. He barely started Book 3. I have used similar review programs with Book 2 students, asking them to review Book 1 pieces and it has been accomplished well, but I have not been able to encourage meaningful review in this student. I am concerned that the student will lose interest if there is no significant improvement in his practise methods, which seem to consist of very little repetition and a lot of careless “playing through” material simply to get it over with. I have discussed the problem with the student’s mother and expressed my concern that he has not progressed this year. Is the review counterproductive or is the problem simply a lack of careful practise no matter whether the material is review or new repertoire? How can I motivate this student, who is becoming independent of his mother, to engage in meaningful practise?

Ruth Brons said: Jun 15, 2011
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

I have found that students who do the review warm-up portion of their daily practice do indeed progress the best.
In my studio that means rotating through 1/6th of our standard repertoire [Suzuki repertoire, supplemental repertoire, and scales] each day so everything is covered about once a week over 6 practice sessions. It should take up about a third of their practice time.
Are they carefully going through the pieces and correcting and repeating sections?
I seriously doubt it and don’t especially expect them to.
So what do they gain?
They are warming up, relaxing and enjoying the old and familiar AND they are gaining facility and memory.
Knowing that the review portion is NOT where the careful technique work is likely to happen, I trust that technique will improve when continuously attacked from multiple angles: a written technical goal for the review; short and specific technique assignments apart from review; careful monitoring and repetitions at lessons; selecting old enough review pieces for intensive polishing for recitals; monitoring and repetition in the social pressure of group class; good technique modeled by myself at lessons and classes; encouraging professional concert attendance; good technique modeled by advanced students at classes and recitals; and last but NOT least, forging ahead to the delights of the repertoire.

Of course technique is key, but remember the whole point is to serve the beauty of the music.
Students will master the techniques they need when the music they love requires it.

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