A Day in the Life of a Student - Part 1: The New Student
"My first week as a new student (again) was an interesting experience for me. It was sometimes exciting, sometimes anxiety provoking, and sometimes a strange mixture of both."
For those of you who don't know this yet, I am a passionate pianist. I started playing piano at the tender age of 7 whilst living in South Africa. Shortly after my 10th birthday, my family moved to Perth, Australia, where I promptly found a new teacher and continued my music journey. The piano has always been a constant in my life... throughout primary school, high school, and university. And now, it is the foundation of my career. The joy I receive from playing the piano is unlike anything else in the world to me. It is where I find true relaxation and satisfaction. It stimulates my mind and encourages deep reflection. It is my 'me time'.
Its all very romantic now, but it was not always like this. Until very recently, I had forgotten what it was truly like to be a student. As a teacher, I always try to empathise with my students. I try to see the world from their point of view. However, I cannot deny that I had lost touch with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a student.
A few weeks ago, I began Cello lessons. As a child, I dabbled in a few other instruments, but the Cello always appealed to me. I finally decided to bite the bullet and enrol in lessons this term. It has now been 4 weeks, and the journey has already challenged me in ways I forgot existed! It is this journey that has inspired me to create this 3 part blog series: "A Day in the Life of a Student". I write it in the hope that parents & students can identify with whatever stage they are at, and that they can get a glimpse into the thoughts of another student. I also hope that it will allow teachers to take a step back and embrace the music journey from the very start.
So, here goes...
Part 1: The New Student
During the school holidays, I organised my hire Cello. I followed the advice I so often give to my students... try before you buy! I walked into the shop with a little hop in my step, and walked out with my excitement bubbling away. When I got home, I unpacked my Cello, and although I had no idea how to play it, gave it a good crack anyway! It was blatantly obvious I had no idea what I was doing, but I was home alone, so didn't mind.
Before my first lesson, I didn't know if I was excited or anxious. This dream had been brewing for years and I was finally about to explore it, but I couldn't shake the nervousness. Im not going to lie (and only because I know A LOT of other people feel this way too), I desperately wanted to impress my teacher. I wanted him to think that I was talented. I've been labeled 'musical' (a term I am hoping to define more clearly as WCMS grows). I could definitely feel that one weighing down on my shoulders. When I got to the school, I grabbed my cello out of my car, trying to look cool, as if this was something I have done numerous times before. I walked into my lesson and started chatting with my teacher while he showed me how to set up. I felt extremely clumsy as I set up my Cello and Bow. The weight, size and shape of both of them was so foreign to me. However, as I settled in, the nerves began to subside and the intense concentration and joy set it. I had an absolute ball! I loved every minute of it, and before I knew it, my lesson was over. I walked out of there feeling confident and excited to practice.
When I got home, all I wanted to do was show my family everything I had learnt. I wasn't as clumsy setting up this time - although I'm sure I didn't look very elegant - and I played what I had learnt for them. I was very conscious of the strange and incorrect sounds I would make on occasion, but was quite happy with how it all turned out. My family applauded and we all went along on our merry way.
I felt motivated to practice. The novelty didn't wear off all week and I practiced almost every day. Each day I became more comfortable with what I was doing, but I started to become aware of the fact that I tended to practice when no else was home. I was worried about what I sounded like to everyone else. I was very conscious of the fact that the music I was playing was very repetitive and simple and not exactly musically stimulating to anyone else around me. I was fortunate that I had the flexibility of practicing at most times of the day and I realised that a lot students do not have this luxury. I understand that our youngest students may not be feeling this self aware yet, however, we all have that little voice in our head telling us we should be doing better. I didn't want to upset the harmony in the house with the 'racket', or disappoint those around me, and this strongly influenced my practice time. None the less, I religiously practiced in preparation for my next lesson. After all, I wanted my teacher to think I was a great student!
My first week as a new student (again) was an interesting experience for me. It was sometimes exciting, sometimes anxiety provoking, and sometimes a strange concoction of both. I felt motivated to practice and ready to tackle my second lesson. On the flip side, I was conscious of my beginner state and what this would sound like to others.
My advice to the family and friends of new students is: be supportive and encouraging. One negative comment may be enough to put a permanent hold on your loved one's music journey. Encourage them to practice loudly and embrace their mistakes.
My advice to new students is: hang in there! Embrace every emotion that comes your way and use it to guide your practice. Its ok to feel apprehensive, but you should never be embarrassed. After all, every musical great before you started exactly where you are today. At the beginning.