Wednesday, September 1, 2010

When a Student Hits a Proverbial Wall

Piano lessons are up and running again and I am having so much fun!  Students are excited about learning and about the new additions to our studio.  Perhaps I should qualify that statement....everyone is excited about piano except one of my students.  Let me paint the picture for you and share my dilemma with you.

This young lady is in 7th grade and has studied piano with several teachers already.  She first transferred into my studio last fall.  At her first lesson, I learned that she has been stuck in level 1 of her method book for several years.  The problem?  She simply cannot read bass clef!  I have played games with her, assigned pieces that are exclusively in the bass clef, and even tried becoming the harsh teacher that I despised as a child to find what would motivate her.  So far, nothing has worked.

As she returned to lessons this fall, I was told that she has now also enrolled in voice lessons with an overpriced, under-talented theater director (strictly my opinion of the teacher) and is now taking up French horn in the school band.  Her opinion of her own talent is supported by her parents' numerous accolades.  Sadly, her talent does not support such high praise.

Now I'm stuck trying to figure out how to proceed?  At this point in her piano development, learning how to read bass clef is essential.  When I pull her away from the instrument, she has the tools to figure out the note names, but it is definitely a struggle.  When she searches for the notes at the keyboard, a short 8-measure piece takes nearly the entire 30-minute lesson to plow through.

Clearly, she is not practicing.  I know that's the best solution to learning to read....just do it!  In the light that I have already spoken with her parent about the situation and they do not seem to object to essentially wasting their money on lessons that are at a stand still, what is my next step?  I don't mind taking the money (obviously), but even the most patient teacher in the world can only deal with the same issue for so long before going absolutely insane! 

As an act of desperation, I finally moved her through the rest of book 1 and now we are working on the review material found in the next level of the method.  At this point, I don't know who is beating their head against a brick wall -- her or me!  I'm looking forward to your hearing your comments, experiences, and suggestions.