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Excerpt from "Golliwog's Cakewalk" ~ Debussy ~ Public Domain

My  students often choose one piece as a favorite in piano recitals.  The “winner” in one was, not surprisingly, Debussy‘s “Golliwog’s Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner.*

It was played very well by a high school junior.  And the student who was completely bowled over was in seventh grade!

First lesson following the recital

The younger student (I’ll call her “H”) told me excitedly that she wanted to play that piece.

What would you think of first when considering her request?

My immediate reaction was, “The student who played the piece is four years older!”

After that, I thought, “You’re really not ready.”

And I said “no.”

This went on for a couple of weeks.

The challenge

H then asked me why I kept saying “no.”  I’m so glad she had the courage to call me on it!

I was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to handle the piece, would become completely discouraged, and stop studying.  So I told her all of that.

Next lesson

H said, “What if I promise not to quit?”  Aha!  Good suggestion!

So I felt much better about saying “yes.”

And then

We tackled the piece! H could handle the beginning and the end fairly well.  The middle section, though, was beyond her.  “Cedez?”  What the heck is that?  In addition, she hadn’t had much experience pedaling.  (There were also hand-position changes, wide stretches, unusual fingerings…. and the key signature!  See musical example, above.)

So we did the difficult parts by rote.  That was a little tedious, but possible.

Next recital

H performed the piece!  She was terrific!!!

End result

H had skipped at least a year of slower, step-by-step learning.  She improved more than I could have imagined.

So I’ll resist saying “no” in the future.  Enthusiasm trumps experience sometimes!

Have you been challenged by a student who wanted to play something that seemed too difficult?  How did you handle the situation?  What were the results?

Please share your experience in the comment section below!

While you’re here, please take a look at my new E-book ~ “Goal-oriented Practice:  How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer ~ make steady progress without getting stuck!  PRINT VERSION NOW AVAILABLE.  Coming soon:  Kindle version on Amazon.com!

*Read more about Children’s Corner on this blog here.

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