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file2021238176025I have been doing some judging for various evaluation programs this spring. I love hearing the students. Mostly they are proud of their accomplishments but a little nervous too. I know they want me to know the real musical person who is performing and not the nervous one who can do so much better at home. And, I try to always hear that person.

Every so often one will ask, “Did I do good?” (or, OK, or something similar.) This concerns me. Even a young student should be confident in themselves and what they have done. They should know what went well and what could have gone better.

I know that we don’t always hear ourselves as others hear us. Yes, occasionally we are so focused on the unfolding music that it goes by in a blur and we don’t remember anything. But, still… A student should not be so reliant on teacher feedback that they don’t know what was good about their performance.

I really try, as a teacher, to help my students know what it is that they are doing well and what needs improvement. I teach them to talk about these things with each other.  I try to help them rely on their strengths and build up deficits throughout the year so that when someone is evaluating them, they understand that most musicians listen for the same things—even judges.

Students need to know what specific things are good in their playing. So, they don’t need to ask, “Did I do good?”  So, they don’t feel that each performance has a random outcome. They should know where they are and be able to accept and learn from comments without fear. They should be able to take comments to heart and use them to build upon. The quote below says it all for me. Please substitute the word teacher for friend.

“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” George Elliot

Thank you, fellow addicts, for the good wishes that that come over the last week. I am getting better and able to do more each day. Please note that the incident in the last Vintage PA post took place a number of years ago so my nose and knee have long healed.

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