Traditional Students to SM
Diane C., California
Yesterday I did an FIS for a student that has had 2 years of traditional lessons. She is a cousin of my student that also has had 2 years of lessons, all SM! The Mom wants to switch her daughter to me because she is beginning to lose interest and Kaitlyn (my student )is not.
I tried to explain to her the difference between our method and traditional. I explained the “Playing Based” method, and her comment was I don’t care she already knows how to read. I explained I would need to start her form the beginning and I would need Moms support to help her through the switch. Frankly, I don’t think Mom gets it. I tried to discourage her from starting because I had a student that came from a traditional background that I lost, earlier this year.
Bottom line is what can I do to help retain this student? I believe if she can get through that “switch” , SM has so much more to offer her musically. Any suggestions for a smooth transition would be helpful!
I have looked through Simpedia but I need more ideas; I think having lost the other student earlier this year has me gun shy. Thanks in advance!
I don’t have the wealth of SM experience that many in this group has, but I have finished my first 3 lessons of transitioning 7 students from traditional to SM. I have one group of 4 boys, 5th to 7th graders all with two years traditional lessons with me, with varying degrees of success; one group of two siblings two years apart 1st and 3rd grade (and the elder is just an AMAZING reader and player), and one group with two girls one a freshman with two years with me (came to me carrying issues from other teachers/lessons on the verge of quitting) and one 7th grade who is sibling to the OTHER siblings and is just starting lessons. The last three weeks have gone almost without a hitch. I would like to share my experience and it may be helpful for Diane.
1. First, taking the onus of reading off some of these kids has been a very freeing thing for them, especially in the boy’s group. Others, it didn’t matter to them one way or the other.
2. Because of the whole ‘starting at the beginning’ thing that can produce much anxiety and can carry negative connotations, I have emphasized repeatedly the metaphor of learning a new language but using the same alphabet for the ‘learning a new way to learn’ concept. It takes the negativity away immediately. That works for the parents — but depending on the age of the children, I have used other metaphors closer to their own experiences. For example, for the boys I used a football metaphor: they may play football ALL their life, starting with playing catch with Dad, then touch football, then on to school sports. But when they get to high school, where they REALLY learn to play, they have a coach who tells them they have to learn how to throw the ball – this time learning it a different way, one that produces real results because of the new way of learning. This worked fabulously. With girls, I was able to use dancing, or art, as the metaphor.
Now, the single most important thing that I did with these students was to have the meeting with them as a group and their parents, and at that meeting asked that all ghosts get out on the table. This is a huge switch, and that was the time to be completely honest about apprehensions – on ALL our parts. And at the same time, that was the very place to get the commitment – and it was essential to have the relationship conversation at that point. Because the majority of parents had SOME experience with traditional methods themselves as children, this became a major teachable moment. I asked the parents about first their expectations of their lessons (and their own parent’s expectations of lessons), and their involvement with music TODAY after having those years of lessons. With that as an opener, I then was able to talk about music as a lifelong expression of self – and it was obvious these parents felt that their lessons had not impacted them as adults, but they wanted this for their children. At this point the conversation became the invitation for the parents to recapture what they missed by being part of the lessons. For the parent who had never had experience with playing, it was like she was getting a two-fer: lessons for daughter while she gets to learn at the same time!
3. With students that are accustomed to apparently much more challenging music, I have immediately dived into the arrangements and composition aspects of the lessons – and these kids have responded most enthusiastically. I was very concerned about their interest waning since this at first appears much less demanding than my other lessons with the kids, but first having them share lessons, and second have the creative element emerging, has really helped.
4. I asked them to continue playing some of the music they learned with me prior to starting SM. They are allowed to work on music on their own, since they have advanced knowledge that a beginner does not have. HOWEVER!!! they know they are to follow to the letter what is asked for in SM lesson. This seems to have worked fine – especially as, after explaining what an arrangement is, I asked them to come back the following week (3rd lesson) with either a new composition, or an arrangement of Dreams Come True. One boy asked at that lesson, after playing his composition, if he could do an arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon – which we had worked on last semester. I told him certainly, that would fill the requirement just fine. The value of the arrangements and the composition for these students with more experience than beginners is invaluable.
5. Because all these students have something to compare this with, and because I want to keep the ‘ghosts’ out in the open, I am asking them at the end of the lessons to rate their overall response thus far, on a scale from one to five, five being most positive. This allows room to address any issues that the kids may not feel comfortable just bringing up out of the blue. I found the most resistant go from first lesson rating of 2.5 (budding mathematician, wouldn’t you know!) to 4.75 this last week.
I hope you find some value in my sharing these early experiences, and that it helps with the issues of transitioning traditional students.
Mark M., New York
I would elaborate on the difference between traditional and SM this way.
The student has been climbing up a mountain. They’ve made some progress. It’s understandable that, all other things being equal, student and parent would be reluctant to climb down and start over on a new mountain. Tell them you understand that. Absolutely.
Then tell them that all other things are not equal. Tell them that there is a crucial difference between the mountains.
The difference isn’t how high they are. They are the same height. Every foot above ground level is an increase in musical ability. It is possible to hit any height on either mountain.
The difference is in the slope. The mountain the student is currently on is steep. Really steep. Some are able to make it a few feet. Fewer make it the next few feet. And so on. Only a very, very few are able to scale the highest heights. And however high anyone gets, it’s a difficult climb.
The Simply Music mountain has a much gentler slope from the bottom all the way to the top. Can it be promised that everyone will make it to the top and become a virtuoso? No. But it *can* be promised that, no matter who you are, you will get to a much higher height on this mountain than you would on the other. Because the climb is simply easier, every step of the way. Every person can make it several times higher here than on the first mountain.
A mountaineer whose goal was to get as high up above the ground as possible and had started up that first mountain and only partway up learned about that second mountain would know right away that the best course — the best path to the highest height, the true path of least resistance to the highest height — would be to climb down and go over to that new mountain and start again. Only a mountaineer who was already in the upper reaches of the first mountain might not find it the path of least resistance to higher heights. 2 years in traditional lessons is not the upper reaches. 5-10 years of traditional lessons likely isn’t either.
Understanding the difference between the mountains, understanding what path will lead to the highest height for the least amount of energy put in over time, that mountaineer is not frustrated to start over on the second mountain. On the contrary, the mountaineer’s only frustration might be that he/she had bothered with the first mountain in the first place and hadn’t heard about the second mountain sooner. The sooner one starts up the second mountain, the sooner — and easier — one will reach one’s highest heights.
People who fail to understand the difference after painting it this way, people who balk even after this, are likely to have some real issues that would get in the way of their progress with Simply Music even if you somehow did get them to switch. It’s not your role to try to deal with these issues. And issues or not, if someone continues to put up resistance after having this laid out for them, you are simply unlikely to convince them and would serve yourself best by moving on and letting them know that you’ll be happy to take them on if and when they ever decide they want to get as high up a mountain as they can.
Diane C., California
Thank you for all the great ideas. Here is what I have done so far..
I explained our goals… (I went more in depth then I’ve written but you get the picture)
- positive/ self affirmation
- self generation
Then on with the lesson I did the norm but also went more in depth about what the method in tails and what we will be doing from here on out.
I started by explaining the playing-based method on my whiteboard with the word playing then put a big circle around it and added each of the many components with lines spiking outward as I explained and demonstrated them….
- foundation songs
- R notes
I explained that we will read, but reading is not our ending goal but yet an important part of “playing” etc. etc ( you all know the story), by the time we finished I think Mom and daughter we dually excited. We talked of the graph… ups and downs and I emphasized COMMUNICATION! I also acknowledged what she has learned is wonderful and to keep playing them. We ended with her stating that she knows one Elvis song by memory, so we put that at the top of her play list!
I will let you know how it goes, but since I have had this conversation with 2 other tradition parents and I they seem excited too. Both were interested yet skeptical about change but we’ll see. At least this experience has allowed me more comfort talking to traditional parents/students!
Now I just need to convince them of the benefits of shared lessons…. but I’ll get um. Again that’s for the help.