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#152: Never Have a Bad Lesson Again

When I was preparing for this week’s show, I couldn’t help being reminded of a couple of tired old jokes.

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this. 
Doctor: Then don’t do that.


Patient: Doctor, it hurts and I don’t know what’s wrong.
Doctor: Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

When we’re thinking about our harp lessons, we may sometimes think of it like a doctor-patient relationship. Something is wrong with our playing and we want to get it fixed. Give me the prescription and let me go home.

Or we may think of our lessons in a less transactional, more relationship based-way. Our teacher isn’t just our expert harp guide but our friend as well. We look forward to our lessons as a time to reconnect with our harp and with our teacher too.

While both of those scenarios may be accurate to some extent, neither one truly describes what a music lesson is or should be. If our lessons are transactional - just give me the scrip, doc - we’re missing out on the deeper experience and knowledge our teacher can offer us. If our lessons are mainly relational, we may find ourselves meandering through a succession of pieces and wondering if we’re really making progress. Fortunately, most teacher-student interactions have a little of the best of each of those scenarios, plus a whole lot more beneficial instruction and guidance. 

But all that can sour quickly if you have a bad lesson. That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

First, let me say that I don’t like the term “bad lesson.” Oh, yes, I had plenty of them in my student days, the kind of lesson that would leave me in tears, frustrated, angry and wanting to quit the harp. From the perspective I have now, though, with decades of teaching experience, I can see that most of those bad lessons were the best learning opportunities. They were the times when my teacher’s expertise and guidance made the most difference for me. They were the lessons that taught me the most about harp playing and being a harpist. I simply didn’t have the perspective at the time to understand it.

I believe adult students bring a more sophisticated and mature viewpoint to their lessons and usually, so-called “bad lessons” aren't an issue. But they still happen. Occasionally you have a lesson that leaves you feeling demoralized or frustrated, and that’s what I want to talk about. I want to help you sort out the facts from the feelings, help you set clear expectations for your lesson outcomes, and give you my not-so-secret tips for preparing for a lesson so you know every lesson will be a good one. And I won’t ignore those bad lessons; I’ll share my best pep talk with you too. 

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions and suggestions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected] 


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