An experiment in self-assessment

M is excited for the Suzuki Association graduation tomorrow. She’s going to be playing all the Twinkles, so that was what we practiced. She dawdled a little with a doll before practice, but she had a pretty good attitude going into it.

But on our first Twinkle, she clanged the first note because she didn’t check her hand position. I stopped, lectured, and started again. She clanged a note during the song just because of careless left-hand work. We started over.

We got through two variations, and then on the third, she just stopped playing after the first A section. She said she thought the song was over.

What to do? Here’s what I did: Sat there mute, hands on my head, thinking. Meanwhile, M continued playing — she even played her own introduction for the next variation.

I decided to try an experiment. The problem is her concentration — she’s not paying attention to what she’s doing, perhaps because she doesn’t own it enough. So I decided to give her ownership. I explained that she needed to figure out what to do to improve her playing, and I was going to let her do that on her own. She could get me when she thought she was ready to play through them with me.

I left the room, and I watched from behind from another room as she played the variations, usually with a 4-bar intro she played herself. She seemed really focused on what she was doing: her head was pointed at her left hand (I obviously couldn’t see her eyes), she remembered to play tosto in every second B section, and I think she got the form of every song right. She played everything but the theme, then said she was ready for me.

We played them through together, and she did pretty well. Not great — she spent a lot of time staring around the room, and it was obvious she wasn’t paying great attention to what she was doing. Her right hand, in particular, is stuck in bad habits.

But she definitely made an effort when I left her alone, and she’s probably pretty ready for tomorrow. In any event, I decided we had done enough and we finished early on a positive note.

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