We always had heard that “A genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration”. I have seen it while being a piano student and now being a piano teacher.
I have one specific case that shows the dedication of someone who, not being naturally skilled for the piano, is able to overcome herself every day. I consider her one of my best student in terms of dedication and hard work.
My young student is eight years old and had been having lessons with her previous teacher before I met her. I always test my new students (the ones that had had piano lessons before) asking them to play something they already know, usually the most difficult piece they can play, so I can see their technique and musicality. After that I ask them to play a piece, easier than what they have shown me before, as sight reading. In that moment is where you notice how big their music knowledge is, at least talking about music notation and musicality.
On the same moment I saw her playing I could see her hands bouncing every time she pressed a key. She has been playing for over a year at that time so I asked myself why no one corrected that. I could also identify a lack of knowledge on very basic music notation: she did not know the name or meaning of the clefs, staff, time signature, key signature and a long etcetera. I was even more surprised that she was not able to play the sight reading piece I asked her to do, not recognising either the note Middle C on the staff.
My first thought was that because she was not naturally musical her previous teacher considered that it was enough for her to play some music but not fully understanding what she was doing, what I consider of vital importance. I could also see that she was not fully engaged and was not following a regular practice.
When I found that situation I did not say any of this to my student. I just started to work hard with her during the lessons, asking her to get a sight reading and a theory book, stop writing every single finger on the score but just the guidance ones and to have a practising routine, among other advices.
At the beginning it was hard for her to get rid of the bad habits but with the passing of time she got more and more engaged as she now understands what to do and why she is doing it.
She still has some basic doubts on the sight reading, where she suddenly is not able to tell me the name of a note she has played hundreds of times but she is faster now identifying her own mistakes and correcting them.
Her playing has improved considerably and she barely bounces her hands while playing unless it is technically necessary. Her favourite activity is the music theory. She is incredibly good at it and I was very surprised that she looks the whole book in advance and she asks me deep questions about the meaning of some terminology. Now she is interested in knowing the meaning of everything! At the beginning she did not talk at all during the lessons and was very insecure about her own answers when I asked her a question (what I do a lot during every lesson), now I have to ask her to keep some of her questions for the next lesson because otherwise we can not play at all!.
We may think that some of our students are just not skilled for music or piano and they do not have to learn certain things but with patience and giving them the opportunity we will discover that they have much more to offer that we thought they did.