What are the greatest gifts we give to students? (Part 1)

Grit is one of our greatest gifts to students

How hard should we push students? How do we create the right balance of passion and perseverance in their mindset?

Most music teachers know what students can take in a one-on-one lesson. We know their level of mental pressure they can absorb without breaking, but how often do we push this? How about focus, listening and technical ability? How far can the student go?

If we push students too much and they quit, is that okay? Personalization is everything and it’s too simple just to say that every student is different. Most of my best students are the ones who I consider gritty. The ones who can survive a mental hurricane from me while working through their practice from the last week.

Is this detailed approach for every student – absoloutely not. Most beginners would quit. But once a student is ready, I find it to be my responsibility to transition them into this gritty mindset.

What does a mental hurricane feel like?

Performing music is insanely difficult and there are an infinite amount of corrections to make. Great teachers consider what the student can take and then dish out the corrections accordingly. This usually means several corrections per bar or 25-30 per page of music. Asking students to juggle this on the spot makes them walk away with a mindset that says – “I need to practice more carefully.” and “I need to listen more deeply.” It isn’t a great feeling. For years and years, I would walk out of lessons feeling depressed that I could never be great at music. But regardless of what happens in the end, students develop a mental capacity to endure multiple high-level tasks and can perform strong under pressure. Teachers are obligated to push students to that headspace – it’s the most valuable thing we do.


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