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Thrown out of the studio for lack of practice??

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Teachers do you discontinue lessons with students who are not practicing? Parents would you want you child removed from a studio for not practicing? Students have you ever had this issue and how was it resolved.

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I'm thinking you mean in a private studio, not a school situation.

Modern pedagogy is influenced by Suzuki and Montessori, which are very similar; "child- or student-centered," so the idea of just removing someone is sort of an authoritarian notion and not consistent with modern practice. But not-practicing does have to be dealt with and is a concern.

The private teacher does have to be consistent in insisting there is home practice; usually if you're kind and consistent the student gets the message and either develops a practice habit or quits. Sometimes quitting is the best thing for them; if they really don't enjoy playing the instrument, maybe they should do something else. But you have to teach them how to practice, and how to approach the practice. You can't just automatically think they'll figure this out on their own.

Motivating students to work is a big part of your job as a teacher; group lessons and recitals help, and lots of consistent insistence, without mean personal remarks or snide comments. You have to present the artistic life in a positive manner.

Students are not stupid, and they will eventually get that they're not doing well; they will see other students progressing much faster, doing better in ensembles, playing more beautifully than they are, and they will either quit or work. You do have to be patient.

Galamian had a remark in his book which I love; he cautions teachers to be patient with students and give students a chance to develop. He also then adds, however, that "you can't light a fire where there is no flammable material."

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I like Galamian's Quote. I have had some very infammable students.

I have kicked three students out of my studio. One who just refused to learn anything - after over a year, he still did not know the notes on the staff, we even did flash cards during lesson, but he just coudl not grasp the relationship between the alphabet and the staff - and this was not a small child. He could barely play past twinkle. There was no practicing going on and no flammable material that I could find. I told his mother that either he had no interest in learning or I was not the one to be able to teach him and that any further time with me was wasting her money.

The other two students I kicked out kept missing lessons without the courtesy of notifying me, and since I don't want to do the pay in advance thing (puts me on the hook if I have a conflict, and I usually just don't have time to do make up lessons), it became very annoying. I warned them several times and then finally told them to just not come back. It happens ocassionally with most of my students, but these kids were missing half of their lessons.

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Occasionally I find not-enough-there-there caused by several missing elements in a relationship. These "not good matches" are usually easy to end, but are not always so. It's a little surprising and always sad when a parent tries to enforce a game of don't-and-say-we-did. (Dashes instead of quotes, as thus far I've managed not to say the phrases aloud to a supplicant.)

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The OP was inquiring about removing students if they don't practice, but there sure are other reasons for removing them. Dishonesty, primarily: not paying on time, no shows/no calls (I give them three and then ask them to find someone else to work with), behaviors which are scary, or otherwise counterproductive.

You get all kinds of people coming through your door, if you have a private studio. The kids are usually alright, it's the adults that cause problems, especially if you teach adult students. I can't have adult students around who have emotional problems or odd behaviors. Some of the young college kids really have behavioral problems and I can't work with them if their behaviors are inappropriate. If I listed all the weird things that have happened, it would be a very long list.

I teach autistic children and sometimes they have defiant disorder. That's very difficult, and especailly when they get big and try to hit or bite me; at some point I have to let them go. Your heart goes out to them because it's not their fault, but you can't take the chance that someone will get hurt. I dismissed one such student and the following week he was at a social function with his family, and put his hand through the glass window of a car outside.

Some adults who just don't have a lot of common sense, make the rounds of all the teachers in the area, persisting in thinking they can play the instrument, and control what goes on in the lesson, but understand nothing about it really, and can't play at all. Then you have college students who are sometimes very immature, and inconsistent with respect to paying, showing up, practicing, and yet harbor the notion that they are musicians, when they are not. It's just a fantasy, really.

If the student (or parent) has a personality disorder or emotional illness, it shows up pretty early on. I've had a stage mother who threatened suicide when her child didn't live up to her unreasonable expectations; I had to immediately tell her that threatening suicide was a threat to commit murder, really (of the self), and she right away backed down and apologized. But I finally did have to dismiss her; I wanted no part of the abuse of a child, which is what she was doing (slapping her child if the child didn't play well, for example). In my experience, it's not at all unusual to encounter parents who are abusive to their children. Your heart breaks for these children, but there is nothing you can do, aside from reporting them to the authorities -- which I never have done, though maybe should have in some cases, I think now.

[i'm sorry this sounds so gloomy; most people are just fine.]

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The other two students I kicked out kept missing lessons without the courtesy of notifying me,

Some teachers have a policy for this. The lesson is partially charged if it's cancelled with less than x hours notice, fully charged in the case of a no-show..

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Guest erich_zann
Teachers do you discontinue lessons with students who are not practicing? Parents would you want you child removed from a studio for not practicing? Students have you ever had this issue and how was it resolved.

Question 1: Yes.

If they don't practice, what's the point of a lesson ? The student should bring something to the table in a private lesson, whether they are aware of it or not, and if they aren't practicing it will show, and wiil be a waste of both parties time.

Question 2: Parents should say Yes to this. Because if the instructor is gonna let the student slide, it's gonna make them look bad. And the parent is just tossing money away again.

Just my $0.02 worth...............................

E.

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E

I am in absolute agreement.

I think the teacher should find agreement with the student and parents on how much time the student will practice, whether it is fifteen minutes or three hours, then the teacher should access the student's ability and figure out what they are capable of accomplishing during that practice time. Concise assignments that both the teacher and the student remember and acknowledge should be given at each lesson based on these factors. Of course there can be extenuating circumstances over nights, parties, term papers due, these are understandable and should be treated with consideration to the student, but the teacher's general expectation should be that practice will be done that it will be one of the student priorities (parent and student priorities if the child is young 8-9 and under, and fading into student only responsibility as the child ages). Hours spent watching movie trailers with practice being placed on hold are not valid excuses.

I think the teacher should discuss practice each lesson, "How did it go this week? Any problems? Are you still having difficulty on the stretch with the tenths, how is the Bartok at the top of the 5th page, Did you practice those 32nds individually without the slurs like I told you? Did it clean the passage up?" etc. Teachers with big studios should probably keep notes so that they remember where each student is and exactly what they assigned. Student may need to keep practice notebooks to keep track of their assignments.

The teacher during the lesson really should notice the practice and praise for improvement but I feel it is essential that they also remark on and express disappointment when practice did not occur or when something that was not brought up at the beginning of the lesson as a problem that was assigned is not fixed. This helps the student to own their work and helps them make progress. If the student loses interest in a concerto or seems to not be practicing something perhaps another piece should be chosen to work on whatever skill is being passed on this should be discussed with the student. However if the student is not practicing as agreed then I think the teacher should stop teaching them, as a favor to themselves, the student, and the parents. I think teaching a relatively pleasant talented child can be fun but allowing the weeks to go by with minimal effort is unacceptable.

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Teachers do you discontinue lessons with students who are not practicing? Parents would you want you child removed from a studio for not practicing? Students have you ever had this issue and how was it resolved.

++++++++++++++++

It is all about standard. If you hold a high standrd, of course, a bad student is an disappointment.

I am an amateur player who have taken many hours of private lessons. Sometime I did not learn anything from my teacher due to

(1) either I did not practice enough or (2) the teacher did not show me how to do things. We all take chances.

Anyway, I paid for the time which teachers spent on me, not according to what I did learn. Teacher had to make money to live too.

Why should we feel bad.

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Yes it is definitely all about standard!!

Since your response is standing alone perhaps you represent the norm in terms of standard, learn not learn, practice not practice, just get lessons and pay money. Don't feel bad!!

But I have different standards. Teaching is exciting as you watch improvement and see the gleam in the student's eye. Learning is joyous. Of course pay for any lesson that you take, but to me the idea of having a teacher of any subject who didn't show how to do things or care if practice occurred and continuing to take lessons from that person because they have to make money to live on too, is absurd.

I think they need a new career.

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Yes it is definitely all about standard!!

Since your response is standing alone perhaps you represent the norm in terms of standard, learn not learn, practice not practice, just get lessons and pay money. Don't feel bad!!

But I have different standards. Teaching is exciting as you watch improvement and see the gleam in the student's eye. Learning is joyous. Of course pay for any lesson that you take, but to me the idea of having a teacher of any subject who didn't show how to do things or care if practice occurred and continuing to take lessons from that person because they have to make money to live on too, is absurd.

I think they need a new career.

You are right - if I ever get to the point where I am just taking money from someone whether or not the student is learning anything, I hope I have the courage and decisiveness to find something else to do with my life! I don't teach music; I am an academic tutor, and yes, I do need money to live and this is the only way I earn it. But I have professional standards, and I am not willing to accept money from someone if the student is not trying. I do care, and I do find joy in learning, and I try to share that joy. Sometimes it is hard, but I keep on doing it because it is right and because it is so rewarding. I don't know why someone would continue with any kind of lessons if they are not really trying to learn. Maybe just to "keep up appearances," but that seems so hollow and pointless. I suppose to some, style is more than substance.

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I think it is very helpful for the teacher to post the rules of engagement on the door of the studio. You can make it perfectly clear to students and parents what you expect of the student. You can even put it on your contract and print the forms with your requirements on them. I certainly see students who either have no talent (and shouldn't be playing the violin) or won't practice (and shouldn't be playing the violin). It is not unreasonable of the teacher to want students to hold up their end of the bargain.

That said, it is often the case that a student or a parent is not aware of a lack of talent, and you have to be very tactful about it and suggest some alternative, such as playing an easier instrument--flute, for example, or clarinet. I don't think you have to bend over backward to be tactful about the lack of practicing. If several lessons go by without any sign of progress or practice, I think the teacher is obligated to speak up and ask if the student would rather be spending his or her time doing something else. After all, it is statistically abnormal for a child to prefer spending hours alone in his room, practicing the violin, instead of hanging with his friends, playing sports, riding his bike, etc. You can make an argument that is is much healthier to be very sociable and active than to stay in your room, practicing the violin. It is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. If a parent is pushing an unwilling child to play the violin, it is my view that this parent, who has such a desire to have a violinist in the family, ought to take up the instrument himself. Why live vicariously through your unwilling child? Live your own life and let your child live his or hers.

That's my two cents' worth.

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One of the problems here is that the primary underlying thesis in Suzuki method (or Montessori, for that matter) is the notion that "every child can" (or one assumes, every adult student can). The very first course in the series of coursework Suzuki teachers take is entitled "Every Child Can."

In other words, talent -- or the lack of it -- is not the prerequisite. Thinking that only the talented can study music is something Dr. Suzuki spoke against. Instead, the home environment and a loving parent/child/teacher triangle enables a student of any level of intellectual or musical ability to study an instrument, play at a high level, and benefit from their studies. This really does work.

This is in opposition to the older notions about, you know, if you don't practice, you can't come to lessons and you'll get kicked out of the studio. This more modern viewpoint is predicated on the premise that the student's happiness and development is more important than the authoritarian position of the teacher.

Teachers are not saints, however, and it's sometimes difficult to maintain this focus, but it is central to modern teaching, as I understand it.

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I did not mean to imply that I didn't understand what Dr. Suzuki envisioned. He felt that music enriched a child's life and that every child should have the opportunity to study music. This study would also make the child appreciate the performances of others, so even if he didn't become a violinist, he would still have a better understanding and appreciation of violin performances and music in general. I am sure he was correct in his assumptions. However, I don't see how a child or adult who has a tin ear can learn the violin. A minimum degree of talent is required to play the violin--one must have decent relative pitch. Not everyone does. Surely even Dr. Suzuki realized that. I have never seen anyone who was tone deaf become a tolerable violinist. Woodwinds are a good alternative for children who lack a good ear and want to play an instrument. They will do better with woodwinds and enjoy themselves more.

As for the authority of the teacher, there has to be some minimum standard for student's conduct. In Japan, I think parents are much more involved with their kids' musical studies than in this country. I am an adult student, and I meet a lot of parents who are simply forcing their kids to play violin, even though the kids really don't want to do it. The violin is hardly a source of joy to these unhappy children. The parents are not assisting their children in any way. They simply demand that their kids practice and punish them if they don't. This is not what Dr. Suzuki had in mind. These kids tend not to behave very well for the teacher because they wish they were somewhere else during the lesson. If the teacher is not an authority figure in that situation, what is s/he? The poor teacher has to be able to communicate to the parents that these violin lessons are not a good idea. The unhappy children tend to be rude and uncooperative with the teacher, and he or she dreads these lessons.

And then there are the kids who have talent and won't work. I don't know if Dr. Suzuki even addressed that problem. These kids are a source of great frustration to the teacher. In this country, parents don't learn violin alongside their children, which would go a long way toward resolving the practice issue. Dr. Suzuki thought the parents should learn along with their kids so they would understand the difficulties the children encountered and be able to help them. This is an excellent idea, but it is rarely practiced in the US. More often than not, the teacher eventually tells the parents that the talented non-practicing child is not progressing. The parents then cancel the lessons and wait to see if their child wants the lessons reinstated. This is exactly the opposite of what Dr. Suzuki had in mind--he wanted to enhance people's lives.

I think our western culture is not very conducive to the true Suzuki method. Dr. Suzuki always sounded to me like a very benevolent and loving person, almost saintly. His method doesn't really strike a chord in the hearts of most American parents. They want their children to "perform" for them, to reflect creditably upon them, and to be successful achievers, not necessarily happy and fulfilled people. If American parents truly wanted to enrich their children's lives, they would learn violin right along with them as Dr. Suzuki imagined. Music study would enrich the lives of whole families and their entire society. This is part of a Utopian vision that never took root in our society.

My own musical studies as a child followed the typical American model: practice or else! No help from the parents, just demands and constant reminders that the lessons were expensive. I had very mixed feelings about my music lessons. On the one hand, I knew I had talent and I wanted to develop it, and on the other hand, I felt that my parents were holding the price of the lessons over my head like the sword of Damocles. Eventually, I quit. At age 63, I began studying violin, and I am now practicing hours every day and doing it for my own enjoyment and not to satisfy someone else's demands. This is what the study of music is supposed to be about-- joy and elf-expression. Would that more American parents understood the role that the study of music is supposed to have in our lives.

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My well -known teachers were all old - school, ie negative -reinforcement. No Suzuki niceties, just the old military : break 'em down and rebuild 'em better. The Galamian/ Kniesel School of brow beat, yell, and shame. Didn't work well on me, but I did realize that reverse psychiatry was being employed to make me work harder - which it did. Lots of pretty talented kids were drummed out by this approach.

I attempt positive -reinforcement by building on a students strengths.

I have heard about a Professor in the LA area who weeds out undesirable pupils by telling them "you just don't love the violin enough." Kinda rough...

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Teachers do you discontinue lessons with students who are not practicing? Parents would you want you child removed from a studio for not practicing? Students have you ever had this issue and how was it resolved.

As a parent of two fair to middling strings players I have a slightly different perspective. When I was a kid and played piano, my parents constantly nagged me to practice and ultimately I quit - a move I regret as I really wasn't so bad at playing.

Both of my children, along with about a hundred of their classmates, picked up rental violins in 4th grade at school. I never paid any attention to it - we paid the rental bills, asked them each year if they wished to continue, and went to school concerts. It was an extracurricular activity that they enjoyed and I had the same attitude I would have had about soccer or basketball - my kids enjoy it but they ain't never gonna be pros.

It wasn't until my oldest got to high school that I finally started to pay for private lessons - and by that point it was pretty clear she was lacking in talent, but she enjoyed orchestra so much that she stuck it out till the bitter end. She has chosen, as well, to play in her college orchestra. My younger child is now a high school junior, and it turns out he actually has some talent, so now he is taking two types of lessons (fiddle and classical) and is actually angling for more. He loves it, and I don't have to pressure him to practice at all.

Of the 100+ kids that picked up string instruments at the same time as my daughter, exactly one other, a very talented cellist, continued playing throughout high school. In my son's grade, there are two who started with him. All the other kids playing in orchestra in their grades were started early with parents who were invested in their kid's string careers.

I guess my point it - there is a time and place for everything, including nagging your kid to practice. I am pretty sure that the lack of pressure led to my kid's being comfortable continuing with something that ultimately brought them a great deal of pleasure. Would they be better players now if I had pressured them from the start? Probably - if they were still playing. :)

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Hmm, interesting topic. I've never thrown anyone out for not practicing, but have been close. I had one teenager whose mother really wanted her to play violin, but never made her practice. I was her 4th teacher. My friend used to teach her until she moved out of state. It was interesting to see the comments written the music by her previous teacher. Everything was spoonfed to her and I soon found out why. She didn't play in tune at all, didn't hold the bow correctly and gripped the neck of the violin by nearly making a fist around it. It's not like she couldn't do these things, but she never took the time to. I would always stop her in lessons and remind her about bow grip and keeping her left palm away from the neck. I would really make her listen to the intonation. She did it at the lesson, but just didn't do these things at home and was very honest about that. She also had a major attitude problem. She once turned to me and said in a sarcastic tone: "Do I offend you because I don't practice?" to which I answer "No, I don't have to perform this piece and I also am not the one paying for your lessons." She didn't give me anymore attitude after that lesson. You would think that I wouldn't see her again after my remark, since I'm pretty sure she told her mom what I said, but she still took with me for up to another year. I repeatedly spoke to her mom about the fact that maybe I wasn't the right teacher for her, but her mom said that I was the most patient teacher she had ever had. I didn't like taking their money when it was clear that the only time the kid played was in school or at the lesson. Even her mom told me this. But, it was really apparent that for this family money was no object. She doesn't take privately anymore and just plays at school.

If a kid doesn't practice for private lessons, it's really a waste of the parent's money. But, what gets to me is that sometimes the parents don't even care. Some parents just treat private study as just another practice session. I find it frustrating that many if my school students don't practice. It's such a waste even when the lesson is free. You take lessons for free with your friends at school and you wouldn't want to take advantage of that? I already have many students in the public school who don't practice. I really expect that my private students step it up because they are usually taking lessons because they are really into playing the violin. The private teaching is something I do because I want to help students get further in their playing and a one on one setting is really ideal for that. If I have a student who isn't practicing at all, it's a waste of my time and theirs, so stopping their lessons isn't a necessarily the wrong thing to do. If the parents are shocked, maybe it's a good lesson for them too. Sometimes even the parents need to know excusing their child for not practicing isn't going to be tolerated by the teacher. No amount of money can buy hard work.

The fact is practicing is necessary to improve. All the patience and reviewing in the world on the teacher's part cannot make up for a lack of practicing on the student's part. (And by lack of practice, I mean the kid who only takes his/her instrument out at the weekly lesson.)

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>> However, I don't see how a child or adult who has a tin ear can learn the violin.

But that's just the point, really. Categorizing someone as having "a tin ear" is quite the opposite of Suzuki philosophy. Someone -- anyone -- who does have what you might call "a tin ear" can study the violin, and develop to a much higher degree, using the Suzuki perspective, that someone working with a teacher with the preconceived notion that musical ability is a prerequisite. Suzuki wrote of this, at length.

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I have a very good teacher who has an adult student, a very bright and determined student, who is tone deaf. This person wants desperately to learn the violin. The teacher has been working with the student for about two years now, trying to improve the student's intonation. They have used Suzuki, an ear training program, and other techniques to try to improve the student's intonation to the point where he can perform with others in public, which is his goal. He sounds terrible. He has improved somewhat over the two years, but he still sounds terrible and will never be a violinist. I feel sorry for him because he has such ambition, and such determination--he practices a lot! He and the teacher have tried everything they could find to improve his playing, but they seem to have reached the limit of his ability, and he cannot play in tune from the begininng to the end of one short piece. I have been playing only for a few months, but I have a good ear, and I already sound much better than this handicapped student.

I stand by what I said. I think that tone deafness is a real, factual phenomenon, and that it precludes learning to play the violin with accurate intonation. I don't care how patient and loving Dr. Suzuki was, he couldn't wave a magic wand over the tone deaf student and improve his intonation to the point where he sounded like a person without this handicap. I understand that a tone deaf student can improve with practice and help from the teacher, and can enjoy playing the violin, but such a student cannot compete with talented students who have good relative pitch as part of their genetic inheritance. If you have this handicap, and you want very much to play an instrument, you should choose one which does not require you to find the pitch of every note. It does not make sense to me to pretend that all students start out on a level playing field. Life is not democratic or fair. We should be realistic about our talents and our limitations. I am 4'9" tall, and I have never aspired to play basketball. No amount of training and practice would overcome my handicap in this arena. However, I have musical talent, and I can eventually master the violin.

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This is an interesting discussion. I am especially interested in the adults who didn't practice, stopped taking lessons for one reason or another... too much pressure and now blame their parents and regret not having studied longer. Lessons are expensive, I think getting them is a huge privilege and that should be respected. Sword of Damocles.... maybe, but maybe all our opportunities are like that, if a student is not practicing the sword is falling on the lessons anyway even if they continue for years and the sword is unacknowledged.

Bongeo a musical instrument is a funny thing the violin in particular and if you really master it you will be one of the only people in the world to do so. No matter how good you get there seems to always be ways to be that little bit better.

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I'm sure that very isolated incidents can be found to contradict this, but neuroscience has determined that there are certain abilities/senses/faculties, that if not stimulated before a certain aged, anywhere from between 3 and 18 years, depending on what it is, that the ability to improved these abilities/senses/faculties completely or almost completely disappear. As an example, there are certain languages that have nuances in them that no one who was not born into a community speaking that language will ever be able to hear. The ability to hear pitch very precisely is in the category of being able to only improve slightly after brain maturity. Mr. Suzuki is close to 100% correct that anyone can learn to hear well - IF they start young enough. I'm afraid the adult student that Bongeo is speaking of is doomed to mediocrity at best - but who knows, perhaps someone will come up with a way to break through the barriers in the brain so that anyone can learn anything anytime - perhaps some DNA therapy that will revitalize these brain centers and unlock them to new inputs?

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I'm afraid the adult student that Bongeo is speaking of is doomed to mediocrity at best

If you're referring to the adult student who starts as an adult, you are both right in that regard; i.e., that the prospect for professional, high level playing, is substantially diminished. But I have lots of adult students who learn the instrument quite well and get a lot of enjoyment from it.

It's like "following a path with heart": you can use violin study to help examine the history of man, the philosophy of art, and learn all kinds of lessons about patience and about yourself. Adults can learn a very great deal about music theory and history, and they can develop their playing skills to quite a high level.

They may be out of tune, their muscles may not have the spring in them that young people have, and their (short term) memories may not be as strong, but adults bring special gifts to the lessons; their maturity and life experiences. My concern is that somebody will tell an adult student (which I have heard of happening) that they can't study, since they are no longer young. This, in my experience, is a mistake.

"Mediocrity" is in the eye of the beholder?

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I'd like to address some of MingLoo's comments about us "older adults." I began playing the violin at age 49. My musical interests and aspirations have always been solely fiddle music. I don't plan to learn anything other than 1st position, and don't aspire to any fancy bowing techniques, although I want to learn more bow control. My goal is to play the music I like to play, primarily Celtic and old time music, with good intonation at a fairly fast tempo. I have never had any formal music training, but have been told by an instructor that I have a good ear. It is easy for me to memorize tunes - I've become pretty good at sight reading, but in order to really "get" a tune, I need to hear it played correctly. I've learned many tunes completely by ear; I've never even seen the sheet music for them.

The bottom line is that I don't think it is either my ear or my memory that is hindering me. It's the manual dexterity. My right fingers don't always go to the precise spot on the fingerboard to produce the right tone, and believe me, I can hear when it's even a teeny bit off. Of course this gets worse when playing faster. I also do not have the bow control to draw out the sound I need. My mental memory is fine, but my "muscle memory" is not the same as a young person's. Those neural pathways were not fixed in early life. The brain/hand connection and the response time of those muscles are those of an aging person. But I keep playing, and I am improving, just at a much slower pace than a child does.

As MingLoo points out, there are other rewards than just the playing. I have learned so much about the violin itself: its history and construction; music theory; folk music culture of different countries that have a tradition of fiddle music, etc. It has been and will continue to be a wonderful journey.

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I had a lady who started violin with me in her 70's. She got to the point where she was playing Bach unaccompanied sonatas and Kreutzer. Lot of starting and stopping, a little shaky bow, far from perfect intonation or phrasing, but she loved it and it was important to her.

People are regularly living to be 100, and barring catastrophic events, it is postulated that many of today's young people will live to be 120.

I live near a university; among my adult students, one is studying law, one is finishing a PhD in neurobiology, one is studying engineering, one is a physician. Will I kick them out of the studio if they don't practice? I don't think so. I do want them to practice, and they know they must, but it doesn't happen every single week.

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