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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Noisemakers and Upgrades

We have been having fun at my teaching studio this week. First, let me show you the tools we used:

The buzzer is from the game "Taboo." My family has never used the buzzer for the game because of its annoying sound. However, the buzzer is my students' most often requested noisemaker tool. I found the hotel-front-desk bell in an office supply store. The dog clicker is a training tool for dogs, and I purchased a lot of them from pet stores.

I have a young student with a sister who also takes lessons. During the young girl's lesson, I involved her mother and her sister in the fun of teaching. The young student was being inattentive and lax in her playing. Her bow kept bumping other strings, slipping off the bow highway, and generally making squeaky sounds. I wanted the student to be more careful about how she played and to become more aware of what she sounded like, so I devised a fun game. I pulled out the three tools you saw in the movie above. The sister took the buzzer (naturally, since this is the most fun tool!), the mother took the bell, and I took the dog clicker. Every time we heard the young girl make an inappropriate sound with her bow, we would buzz/ring/click. At first we did a lot of laughing when all three of the noisemakers happened at the same time. Other times, one of us would be more vigilant than the others. After about a minute though, there was no need to make any more noise, because the young student became more vigilant about the sounds she created with her violin and bow. She paid better attention to how she played, and she stopped squeaking, bumping, and sliding off the road. As a reward, the young student got to buzz/ring/click the tools. What a fun lesson that was!

In another recent lesson, I had a conversation between a father and his young boy, who is 10 years old going on 11. The father and I talked about how we might help the young boy to remember to take care of his violin and bow better so that the boy would not risk damaging either violin or bow. The boy has the habit of twirling his bow around his index finger. When the boy twirled his bow around his finger at the tip of the bow, I explained the danger of pulling out the plug that held the bow hair in place at the tip. When the boy twirled his bow around his finger at the frog, I related the story of one of my students whose twirling had gotten out of control and whose bow had gone sailing through the air and broken on landing. When the young boy touched his bow tip to the ground, I told him the story of another student who had done the same thing, lost his balance, and landed on the bow like a cane and snapped the bow in half. In other words, for each of the young boy's attempts at misusing the bow, I had a story to relate to show why the boy's actions were not a good idea. The boy persisted in misusing his bow and violin throughout his lesson.

At this point, if our efforts to discourage this behavior are unsuccessful, the parent and I begin charging the child a fine. Usually the fine is 10 cents; in some cases the child may need to work off the fine by doing chores. The purpose of charging the fine is to begin building up a savings account to replace the bow when it needs to be repaired or replaced due to the child's improper handling.

The parent of this young boy thought that the fine should be 25 cents since the boy was about to turn 11. The parent explained to me that he and the boy's mother had been discussing how the boy's chore responsibilities might change now that the child was older. Here is how the conversation then continued between the boy and his father:

Boy: "If you're going to upgrade my chores, then you need to upgrade my pay for the chores."

There were a few beats of silence.

Father: "Do you get good food at home?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "Do you have a nice home to live in?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "Is the house an upgrade from the house we lived in last year?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "Do you have a bigger yard to play in?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "Do you have a nice creek to play in?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "Do you have a little forest area to roam in?"
Boy: "Yes."
Father: "That's your upgrade in pay."

Beautiful! I almost fell out of my chair with laughter. This is a parent that I admire!

Happy Practicing!

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