Progress Update

Hi Tasha! 

I made this extra page to give us a little privacy to chat about where Anna and I are at so far. I am so happy to be working with her, she is incredibly smart and has such a great sense of humor. She’s truly a pleasure to be around! 

After having her play through a few pieces in her current book, I am realizing that her previous teacher skipped out on a surprising amount of music theory basics and technique. I think that Anna was likely able to pick up the songs she’s done so far because of the fact that she’s so smart and passionate, and is a keen observer who could repeat the teacher’s demonstrations through rote memorization.

In the pieces she’s been working on, she shows a great ability to read directionally, meaning being able to follow the upward or downward motion of the notes while playing, which is an amazing start! She also has an incredible sense of internal rhythm, and can keep a steady beat better than most students her age. 

Our last couple of lessons, I’ve tried focusing on filling in the gaps left by her other teacher by talking about the difference between eighth notes and quarter notes. Essentially that quarter notes each fall on the big beats in a measure (1 – 2 – 3 – 4) and that eighth notes are only half of a beat, so that the are two in each of the big beats. We practiced counting them as 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +, where the plus signs are the word “and”, which helps us create two notes within the same time frame as a single beat. I’m eager to know if you were able to print out the worksheets I sent, and how she felt about her ability to understand them! I’m hoping the Lesson 12 one was comfortable for her 🤞

This is absolutely no fault of Anna’s, but I’m honestly in awe of the lack of foundation in the basics provided or reinforced by her previous teacher. Things like the names of the Clefs for the Right Hand and Left Hand, which letter each of those represent, why there is a middle C for both hands and where it is located on the staff, what beats are and how to count out a measure, and how to play with a rounded hand shape seem to have been glossed over. 

The challenge that presents to me is that Anna deserves to be able to retain her feeling of advanced progress, but there are a lot of details missing from even a primer level standpoint. Last lesson, I tried to backtrack a bit in her book so that we could cover some initial bases that her teacher skipped, but I could see that the idea of even turning back a few pages felt really discouraging, which is entirely understandable. She’s obviously put a lot of work and effort to get to where she’s at in her book, and I think it hurt her pride a bit to think about us looking backwards to read some of the chapter headers where that book explains some of what she’s missed out on. Where her other teacher left her is in a pretty unfair place, and I completely sympathized with her frustration at that, so it’s not something I pushed and we went back to the pieces she’s been working on.

As her teacher and someone who cares about her, it’s incredibly important to me that she feel pride in her accomplishments and not feel discouraged at all about piano, but I’m really afraid that’s where we are going to wind up if we keep working in this book at the moment (at least until some gaps are bridged). Tonight my lesson plan is to try having her start on a different curricula series (Piano Adventures) in Level 1, which has us skipping their Primer level. We will be looking through the Primer book together to go over a few of the bigger missing ideas, and then start the first pieces in Level 1. I’m hoping that will give her a good confidence boost knowing she’s skipping a whole level, while still allowing us to take a bit more time on concepts she’s never been taught before. The Level 1 books start with all quarter notes, which I think will also bolster her self-esteem as we work to reinforce everything she’s learned so far!

I know this has been a lot to take in, so here’s a quick recap and  a few things I’d like to follow up on with you before her lesson if possible:

  • Today we’re going to try Level 1 Piano Adventures to switch gears and build her confidence back up.
  • Has she tried the worksheets I sent, and if so how’d that go?
  • Make sure to fill out days/length of practice in her journal, and sign off on it at the end of each week.
  • Will you be upstairs with her during lesson today? No worries if not, I just have some new student papers that get filled out at our first lesson and I can bring them down to you if that’s easier 🙂
  • Sorry I’m a bit late with this month’s invoice, I’ll be sending that today!

I hope you guys had a great week! Anna is such a joy, and I’m really excited to be working with her. Please feel free to call or text with any questions or concerns ❤️