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How Shall We Educate The Parents Of Our Pupils?


One of the greatest trials of the music teacher at the present day is caused by the lack of a musical education in the parents of the children. Let me relate an experience which I recently had: Mrs. Smith and her daughter, aged about thirteen, came into my music room. Mrs. Smith said, “I have brought my daughter Nellie to you to take a few music lessons, and knowing that you are usually so strict and thorough, I thought I would come along with Nellie and tell you just what we want; for we don’t expect to make a music teacher of Nellie, and only want her to learn a few brilliant pieces for society, and she is already quite well advanced, but we want you to give her a few brilliant touches. Now don’t give her any exercises, because we don’t want to spend any money on them, but are willing to buy a few pieces of music if they are brilliant and showy. Of course she wont (sic) need an instruction book, because we don’t want her to teach.”

“Now Nellie,” turning to her daughter, “come and play one of your pieces for Mrs. C____.” Then Nellie, glistening and jingling with bangled rings, bangled bracelets, ear-rings etc., went to the piano. I groaned inwardly, as soon as I beheld the rings and bangled bracelets, for I honestly do not believe it possible for any one to learn to play the piano, who will persist in wearing such ornaments.

Nellie sat down at the piano and attempted a piece four or five times too difficult for her; the result was, of course, that she stumbled, her fingers got twisted, she struck false notes, broke the time, the notes had a pell-mell jumble with one another, until they got into such a dreadful tangle that Nellie was forced to give up, and said she did not know what was the matter, as she could usually play that piece so well. I was thankful for the final tangle because she stopped. Her mother’s countenance had fallen, but she said; “Why Nellie what is the matter? You usually play that piece so beautifully.” I said, Mrs. Smith, I know exactly what is the matter; in the first place, the piece is entirely too difficult for her, and then her hand needs training, and again she has never been taught to observe fingering. What she needs is the very exercises that you don’t want her to have. Your daughter would have good execution with proper training, but I can’t any more teach her to play brilliantly with her hand in its present condition, and with her present knowledge of the first principles of music, than a carpenter can build you a fine and artistic house with rusty and dull tools, and out of green lumber. She then told me I might give her a few exercises if I could not teach her any other way.

After the mother left, I undertook to give Nellie a lesson, and after asking her to take off her bangled rings and bracelets, telling her they would be very much in her way (though I don’t believe that to be their only evil), I then told her how necessary it is to get ready for everything we do in this life, and the more artistic a work is, the more work there is to be done in the getting ready. She seemed to realize the truth of what I said, and took lessons for one term, and never said one word about a piece. The first piece I gave her was in The Etude; I asked her to ask her Mamma to read certain articles in it and see if she did not think they were good, and I did not forget to ask her how her Mamma liked them.

The result was that the mother became interested, and finally began to see what it takes to be an artistic musician, and that in order to play even a few pieces brilliantly, one must do a certain amount of rudimental work. This experience, with many other similar ones, has caused me to firmly believe that one of the very best ways to educate the parents of our pupils is to get our best musical journals into the homes of our pupils, and for each teacher to exert every effort possible to make these journals meet the demands of the times.

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