Adult Students

Traditional Students to SM

Leah P.

I have started teaching another 6 week session at our community center here. The first one I taught went amazingly well. Everyone got it and I am now teaching lessons to 2 of my previous students from that class.

So, I just started another one. It’s not going as smoothly. I have 2 students who come from the traditional background. One of them whom has her daughter in the class with her, who is 6 or 7 years old. Then I have 2 other adults and one child in the class… that have no prior piano lesson experience.

Last week we learned Dreams Come True… and well it went ok. I showed the testimonial video and I thought it would help with their hesitation towards the method, but it didn’t .

They don’t understand it. I have explained to the best of my ability and to the way that I have explained to others who have understood it. They wanted to know how I know what the patterns and numbers and sequences mean? They were saying they felt like they were missing something. The lady with the previous traditional method experience does not seem to have an open enough mind to even let this in.

I need advice as to how to approach it. Anyone ever deal with a situation like this? I have another session starting June 28th, so I want to be prepared and maybe have a different approach to it.

Victoria S., California

Try emphasizing that Simply Music is a ‘learning a new way of learning’. The more they understand that, the more likely they will be to come along. Otherwise, you will encounter resistance.

Winnie B., Colorado

I get this reaction all the time. Many are confused by the book diagrams as we start, and others try to make it into a literal language. I tell them not to worry about it just yet–it becomes more sensible as they go on.

It is part of our review for Dreams near the end of the book I that they begin to become more accepting and less questioning about the diagrams. Using a tools list at the end of book I is usually effective, because by that time there has been enough experience with the diagrams that they begin to be more comfortable.

I would tell them that this is an experiment in a new way to learn, and, like learning to drive or ride a bike, you have to do the moves to master the process! No one can learn either of these things with a book of instructions! Move the body, train the mind. Our natural way to learn until we start school.

Cindy B., Illinois

One principle I’ve been learning is about change. People may say they want a change, they may agree with everything you say in the FIS and subsequent conversations, but to believe you, and to take the risk and trust you, to step into unknown territory and live according to your word – is very scary and most people will hang on to something they
are familiar with in order to feel safe. In piano lessons, this looks like:

  • not doing the playlist
  • not practicing at the same time every day
  • not doing all of the assignment
  • etc

I daresay that Neil encounters this frequently with new teachers. How many of us opened our first package when he told us specifically to wait until we were on the phone? How many of us followed his instructions to the letter when we started our training, or even now, when he tells us that the only way to teach this method successfully is to have a requirement based studio?

I for one have had a tremendously difficult time with parents or students like you all have been describing. Don’t have any really great answers, but I’m starting to see that it has a lot to do with motivating people to change, and to trust me, and not always believing them when they say they agree with me, but finding ways to know what they’re really feeling/thinking.

Laurie Richards, Nebraska

That happens a lot with parents who have traditional background. They are used to having a complete “map” telling them what to do (the music), and we are not providing that – they are getting partial information, and they don’t understand why.

I always take a little extra time with these parents. I ask them to try to put aside their expectations based on previous training and to open their minds to something different. I acknowledge that in the past they have always had that map with all the info and that we are now taking some of that away. And that it is designed that way intentionally for THIS way of learning. (Neil’s alphabet analogy is great for this conversation.) They may not understand the reasons right away (you probably won’t either, until you’ve taught further into the curriculum), but trust the process and be amazed at what transpires.

If you speak with conviction, it helps them to be willing to at least keep going and see what happens.

Carol P., Michigan

Oh Yeah, I’ve definitely had some of this go on. To overcome some initial skepticism I’ve had pretty good luck using Neil’s Neil Armstong analogy, you know “Imagine you’ve never ridden a bike before so you call Neil and ask him to tell you how over the phone……..” I tell them that they won’t get much of it until they actually do it and that I’m discovering and uncovering new understanding of the SM system all the time. Some people are just going to be resistant to the point where they never will get it.

I have an adult student who has been with me for 3 years or so. She’s intelligent, and she works in the medical field. She has steadfastly refused to keep a play list. And recently has gotten very unpleasant about the whole reading based vs playing based thing. We’ve completed level 5 and are starting into reading notes. She has gotten more and more adamant that she’s not planning to do anymore “memorization”, and if the program is only about her “memorizing” all these pieces she’ll quit.

For three years I’ve tried to explain the tools and strategies and to get her to understand that we’re not working with rote memorization in our playlist. I really can’t say anymore about it without her getting ……. lets call it “stubborn” to be polite. She’s doing pretty well with interval streams. Going through the reading rhythm program was very difficult with her. She just didn’t get it, and I suspect much of it was because she kept going back to her previous music reading as a high school clarinetist. Here’s the kicker: she signed up for SM because she failed to learn to read the other way, and reading is what she really wants to be able to do.

I have found this to be true with some other adults as well. The other way didn’t work, but they are so stuck on it that they won’t let go of it enough to really commit to trying something different. I think there is an AA saying that goes “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting the results you’ve been getting”. This woman has made some decisions for herself, and there’s really nothing I can do about it at this point: maybe there never was. She’ll probably fail. But she is doing the assignments for the most part and she keeps coming back. We’ll see how it goes after reading notes. She used to love to play her pieces and maybe I need to focus more on that. Lately she’s been more focused on what she can’t do than on what she can do.

I’ve had two other adult students who pretty much followed the same path. One quit and the other one (who is in her late 70’s) keeps coming and going due to health issues and travel. That one insists that she has short term memory loss and CAN’T memorize. After an absence of two years she came back. I asked her to play Night Storm which she did. Then she said “I don’t know how I remembered that”. Now it seems to me that that would prove to her that she doesn’t have the memory issues that she thinks she does, but even in the face of that “proof” she still insists that she can’t “memorize”. Frankly, I don’t know why she keeps coming back.

I guess my feeling about this at present is that while most people I’ve encountered do eventually “get it” if they don’t right off the bat, but some of them never do. The two above are kind of half in and I’m interested to see what will happen in the future. In spite of their self-defeating beliefs they keep coming back so something much be getting through to them.