Why it's OK to make mistakes

March 26, 2018

 

Every child is different and each will face their own challenges as they embark on their musical journey. I have one student who is very bright and really 'gets it' but she is struggling to get in to the habit of practicing. I have another student who plays the piano everyday, but doesn't structure her practice time well so her progress is limited. Both of these challenges are easy to fix, but they have to come from the student. I will keep telling them them that practice is important and showing them how to practice in the most efficient way, but ultimately it has to come from them.

 

I have another student who is having an all together different struggle, and this one is not so easy to fix. He is scared of making mistakes. To be honest, it's a wonder there aren't more children who face this fear when learning an instrument. In class, when the teacher asks a question, you only put your hand up to answer when you know the answer. If your not sure, you simply don't offer your opinion, and no one is any the wiser.

 

In a piano lesson, you are afforded no such offer of anonymity. Your only option is to play, and this comes with a significant element of risk. Your vulnerability is real and your exposure is unnerving. More than that, your mistakes are audible which makes them all the more scary. 

 

On this journey of self discovery, this student has come face to face with his worst fear- getting it wrong, getting it wrong out loud, so that 'everyone' knows about it, and most importantly having to hear the mistake for himself. We are not talking about getting it wrong in a performance in front of a room full of people, a performance that he has prepared for, we are talking about every single time he plays the piano, in a lesson or at home when he is practicing. I hope that by this point, after a year of learning together, he trusts me, but the thing that I believe is holding him back, is that he doesn't trust himself. There have been many little victories along the way and he has learnt so much, but the struggle is getting him to perceive those victories for what they are.

 

I was a shy child who lacked confidence. I never put my hand up in class and was always reluctant to stay at parties on my own or to join in with activities that were new. But for me, in music, I found an escape, a place where getting it wrong was a necessary part of the journey to getting it right. I lost my inhibitions when I was making music and I learnt to face myself and trust myself and the process of learning music became exhilarating and addictive, unlike the learning I experienced  in any other context.

 

I am working very hard to help this wonderful student to find his voice, to face his fears, to find that inner strength so that he can allow himself to let go, to feel the fear and do it anyway, because each little victory brings us closer to that place where music can become his outlet. Where music can become his safe place, where he can trust himself, where he can hear the mistakes and not cringe or sigh, but rather view each mistake as a necessary step towards perfection. 

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