I wonder … how many students have I discouraged even while they were working? (I don’t really worry too much about the ones who weren’t working at all.)

For most of my life, I have shied away from dancing, singing or playing musical instruments in front of other people, although I have enjoyed all three in solitude. I continue to enjoy dancing with the video, “African Healing Dance.” Sometime around 2000, I bought a Suzuki keyboard and some piano instruction books for children and taught myself to play in a way that brings me much happiness.

I wonder how many people were discouraged from drawing, in the way I was discouraged from dancing, singing and playing a musical instrument.

I was not a child who had the self-esteem to rebel against being told that I would never be “good enough” in one way or another. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I began to rebel against my internalized messages that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t “good enough.”

The old internalized “not good enough” messages are coming up as I experience my first days back in college at age 58. This time I am rebelling against those messages.

I read it here. And she has a cat named “Oboe”.


  1. Students can be tricky to read. I had one who was exceptional, playing through the Sellner etudes pretty confidently in the sixth grade! I complimented him and told him to “just watch out for a little rushing”, but was thoroughly impressed. The next week, his Mom informed me that when he got in the car to go home last week, he was crying and saying I hated him. Wow! That was a shock and I felt really bad not realizing that along with his talent came a high level of sensitivity. He was always confident and positive in his lessons. I hope he never gave up, but I had to leave him when I went into the USAF band. I would love to know how he’s playing now(14 years ago!).
    One student who I thought had few real prospects of becoming a professional, I gave the best instruction I could in terms of what she needed to do to improve. Really just simple advice and encouragement. She then went and told the school president that I “didn’t inspire her”, to which the president replied,”That’s not his job, you need to find your own inspiration”. Don’t know that I totally agree, but I appreciated the backup.
    So, you never know.

  2. I’ve learned to read most students pretty well, but I still get some surprises! I’ve also learned how to deal better with the “weepies”.

    Some sensitive students just have to learn to buck up a bit; if they plan on doing this as a career that over sensitive, cry-anytime-I’m-criticized stuff will get them out of that career pretty darn quick. Most of the time, anyway.

    Some students who complain about an instructor simply can’t take any instruction. I had one who gave me a scathing review. Unfortunately the student didn’t work diligently, and, to be honest, the “didn’t encourage me” comment could have been said by ME as well, about teaching the student.

    Ah well.

    There are always “interesting” moments in this career! I guess it keeps me alert.

  3. I always try to wait until after the lesson (when I’m back in the car) before I start crying.

    Of course, now your neighbors all think I’m some kind of Emo-boy…


  4. I thought you cried BEFORE the lessons, Tim, in fear of what was to come. Man, I’m disappointed.

  5. Nah, too dangerous – the traffic is much lighter on the way back.

  6. (lol!!) I have a couple of thoughts on this. I recall a time, four years ago almost exactly (creepy) when I was in the color guard at my school and had just signed up to be in the pit orchestra. I loved guard, really and truly, but some experiences in pit eventually caused me not to come back. Why? In guard we were continuously told what we were doing wrong. Nothing was ever good enough, or even close. We were yelled at continuously for lacking in effort. Meanwhile the rest of my life suffered lack of attention because I was putting so much energy into guard. I didn’t see anything wrong with this until pit when I was paired with another oboist for the first time in my life. (=D) Short story: I was literally shocked when he complimented my tone. I remember trying to remember the last time I had felt sincerely complimented at all, at least about something I cared about. Not that my teacher never had anything good to say, but I was barely practicing for some months because school and guard had eaten my life.
    Things have changed a bit. (haha, a bit) I think I have a fairly balenced concept of my playing. That is, I’ve recieved enough compliments by now not to doubt myself overmuch, but I certainly know I have a loooong way to go.

    In general, I think the younger a student is, the more important it is to be positive with them and to be careful about being negative. I’ve been told stories about how when I was very young I came home crying after school because there were too many rules and I was afraid I would break one… kinda funny now, really. But even when I started high school, I wonder who I’d be if I hadn’t been in pit orchestra? I’d still be in the color guard, I’m sure. Would I still even be playing oboe? What kind of self-image would I have? Remember: I was shocked to hear something positive about myself. Probably though that was also part of some larger psycological cycle anyway. Thing is, I do suspect kids get their spirits crushed all too often in the realm of the creative. We’re programmed to be afraid of being creative because everything we do is judged so rigorously. And I think that’s more of what this blogger is talking about.

  7. gah, I talk too much. *hide*