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One of last week’s piano lessons was unusual in that light bulbs went off in MY head. My little friend did not like the idea that I cover her hands with a book as she tried to play a piece, pushing my book away and pulling it up to look under it. She did everything she could to thwart my efforts to encourage playing while reading the music rather than looking back and forth between music and keys. It got to the point where I was ready to give up because it was getting a little physical for a piano lesson, and she said outright it was too hard. She really believed it. It was just something she COULD NOT do.

So in my usual way we wrote that in the lesson book,”This is too hard to do” with an arrow pointing towards the name and page number of the piece. She agreed wholeheartedly this was indeed too hard to do.

I told her that I did not see it as too hard for her. She does hard stuff all the time, and this was just one of those things. I am confident you can do this, I told her. She did not like this plan at all.  This is a student that is cautious. She checks everything before she begins. I urge her on, saying, let’s go, no more stalling, do it. She wants to readjust her seat, crack her knuckles, give heavy sighs and mention the weather, coming up with all manner of distraction rather than try the difficult task.

Ho hum. Get on with it. Eventually it occurred to me that fear was driving her actions or should I say, inaction, and I decided to break it down to its component parts to demystify the project. I think she feared making mistakes and hitting the wrong keys if she couldn’t look down and be sure of what she was doing.

I showed her how she could feel, with her fingers alone, where on the keyboard there are three black notes in a row. We practiced both looking at three notes in a row and looking away and feeling three black notes in a row. I showed her how just south of one of the black notes, F#, is the F we’d be needing for the song in question. She was delighted to see that she could do it. So we tempted fate and I had her wave her hands in the air and swing them around behind her, close her eyes, look here and look there, and then close her eyes again and then place her hands on the F. With no problem at all, there it was, under her fingers where she needed it to be, without any looking at all. F!

Next thing you know, playing the song with a book over her hands made not a difference. Now that she knew where F was without looking, and how the other notes related to those, because we of course walked through a conversation about that, she was golden. All the fear seem to drift away.

I was not that clear on how my little friend felt about all this until her father walked in at the end of the lesson. She called out for him to be awed by her ability to close her eyes and miraculously locate F on the keyboard and she grandly demonstrated this new ability. He had no idea what this meant or why it mattered but he applauded her success and celebrated in her great achievement.

Phew! I told him, even if he doesn’t understand, he should know for sure that he got his money’s worth today.

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