Resistance Writing Lyrics
Joy O., Alabama
One of my farthest-along students is pushing back on writing lyrics because she doesn’t want to sing. I assigned composition two weeks in a row–make up a song. Then I assigned to make up words for the song.
Mom texted me today (their lesson is in about 3 hours) that she didn’t make up lyrics because she was uncomfortable with it. She doesn’t want to sing. This child is painfully shy and won’t even sing for her grandparents at home. She and her brother are homeschooled.
In the text, the mom said that the girl wasn’t comfortable last week composing, but the parents insisted she do the assignment because they knew she could do it. This week they didn’t insist.
I don’t want to blast them–but I’ve found that parents who start choosing what they will and won’t have their student do are getting ready to quit lessons.
I never said she would have to sing. I think there is real tenderness there, and I know in the composition training Neil Moore talks about being compassionate. So how do I deal with this issue with compassion but also with a requirement? Honestly, composition is an area that is emotionally hard for me, and I’m composing right along with them.
Mark M., New York
So the student is very far along? Has she written lyrics before? You said you never said she would have to sing — so maybe this isn’t an issue of integrity, an issue of them picking and choosing, maybe it’s an issue of it was never a requirement in the first place, and so in the face of enough resistance, it’s okay to “give in” for this particular situation. Singing and lyrics can be suggestions, that you’ll keep suggesting, because you say you know that they are valuable, and you want to keep planting the seed, and you suspect that perhaps someday the student will be willing to do it. And you can also say that it’s okay if the student does it just for herself, not in front of anyone. I feel like there are a lot of legitimately gray paths here between the black and the white.
Composition may be a different story. That is part of the curriculum. That is piano skill. And it may be easier to stand by that requirement and get compliance if you’re willing to give on the singing and the lyrics.
Rochelle G., California
I’m putting on my parent hat for a moment. I have shy children as well, and sometimes there’s a line between pushing them to do something they are uncomfortable with because you know they can do it and it’s good for them (and it’s the assignment) and pushing them beyond their current emotional/mental limits. It sounds like this mom is making that type of decision right now. I don’t see it as pushing back in your requirements as much as it is advocating for their child. Working with them on this one seems like the right thing to do 🙂 I would thank the mom for letting you know how much of a difficult arena this is for the student and that you’ll be glad to meet her where she’s at right now.
Laurie Richards, Nebraska
So tell her she doesn’t have to sing the lyrics. I require lyric-writing (it’s a self-generative skill) but if they are not comfortable singing them I sing it for them. Or ask everyone to sing along with me. I wouldn’t require someone to sing solo if they were very uncomfortable with it. I always say ‘there’s safety in numbers’ if we all sing together, parents included.
Kids have to write words down for school projects, right? It’s like writing a poem only it fits with the melody. If it’s truly that difficult for her to get started, help her out. Couple ideas to make it as fail-proof as humanly possible:
* Give a topic helps, like “write lyrics about…. snow, school, dogs, pizza…whatever.
* If that’s still not enough, sound out the first phrase of the song you’re assigning lyrics to (e.g. for Night Storm, “buh buh buh buh” for ‘rolling thunder’
* What words would fit that rhythm: buh buh buh buh? It’s only 4 syllables and you’ve given a topic
If she won’t do that, it’s claiming territory, no?
Cate R., Australia
Have her write a whole bunch of sentences down. Cut them up into strips. Mix n match the strips. Have her talk them through. Rappers do.
Original discussion started January 24, 2019