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One or Two Lessons a Week.

In answer to the desire expressed in the March number for arguments against the one lesson a week custom of many pupils, Mr. Herbert Reed, of San Antonio, Texas, sends the following in the form of a letter sent to a mother urging her to allow her daughter to take two lessons a week. Space will only permit me to quote in part:

Dear Madam :—Replying to your note, I would advise that Mary continue coming for two lessons a week as usual. In spite of the fact that she has little time to practice, yet my experience during years of music teaching causes me to be more and more of the opinion that no young pupil should be expected to take less than two lessons a week. Indeed, many teachers require three lessons from children, and one a day from beginners, the wisdom of which is proved by results. You would not think of sending a child to school for a half hour a week, or even each day. Children cannot make advancement on such meagre allowances of instruction. The teacher’s constant supervision of the pupil’s work is the great necessity.

Two important things in which children must have instruction are:—What to practice, and—How to practice. The latter is of even more importance than the former, for the habit of doing a thing correctly can only be gained under the constant guidance of the teacher. The principal trouble with pupils who come from other teachers is that they have never learned the art of practicing correctly. With children, a week is too long a time for them to practice without some one to overlook and correct errors, and add zest to the practice by further advice and encouragement. How many times have you heard your little girl exclaim: “O, I am so tired of practicing that!” The trouble is that her own study has given her all that lies on the surface. She thinks she is playing it pretty well after two days practice, and continuing to repeat it, her interest diminishes with each repetition, as well as carefulness, and errors of all kind creep in. At this particular moment she needs the teacher to correct errors, and furnish fresh inspiration, and develop beauties that can only be discerned when the music is technically learned.

But perhaps you will ask:—“Why not tell her all these things when she begins the piece, so she will know just how she ought to play it?” You forget, perhaps, that children do not learn many things at a time. It is not child nature. A little advice to-day, some encouragement to-morrow, a slight reproof the next day, more instruction the following, and so on;—in this way a child’s character is developed and formed. It would be impossible for her to understand or remember many things told at a single lesson, but must be told them one by one. Errors often creep into a pupil’s practice. She thinks she is learning everything correctly, when perhaps there may be a dozen mistakes that she is repeating over and over again. If now she continues practicing these mistakes in. a week, the teacher will have a difficult task trying to correct them. Then the little pupil will have to practice another week, learning the piece in the new way before being ready to put on the finishing touches, thus taking three weeks to do what ought to have been done in two. It is not strange that children dislike practice that is unnecessarily prolonged. No wonder their progress is slow. When I compare the progress of my pupils who take two lessons a week with those who take but one, I find the results very much in favor of the former. Their interest in their music is also very much greater. I could quote you many examples of increased progress on the part of pupils who have changed from one to two lessons a week, and with no more time for practice,—but will let this suffice.

It may be well for the members of the Round Table to beware of getting too didactic and serious over the shortcomings of pupils and teachers. It may be well to criticise the way teachers teach, and the way pupils study and practice, and otherwise try and mutually improve ourselves. But it may also be well to pause for a moment and look at ourselves from another standpoint. We have received a characteristic article which will be of interest to every one but the ladies. And having made which observation the ladies will probably be the first to read it. But who ever heard of a lady being dubbed professor? They at least have escaped this chagrin the article is entitled:

A Needed Reform.

We have read much recently of the emancipation of the musician from the thraldom of old customs and worn-out precedents; of his gradual rise from the marshes of prejudice and ignorant misapprehension to quite an elevated plane of citizenship and public respect. We have seen his evolution from a kitchen menial to a person of high degree, which indeed gives us courage. There is yet room for further improvement, however, for the lump is by no means entirely leavened. It is quite within the province of any one—in the profession or out of it—to point out any weakness, any deficiency, any useless habit, or in short, anything that is likely to act as a handicap to progress.

One thing I wish to speak of here, and that is the indiscriminate use of the title “Professor.” There was never but one class of men entitled to the use of this term. This consists of those who hold a “chair” in an institution of learning. But the name has become cheapened to such an extraordinary degree that even many of those who hold such positions would like to reject the title. All the teachers of my acquaintance—and I know scores of them in universities, colleges, high and public schools—dislike to be called “professor,” and do all in their power to suppress the custom. And small wonder! Dog trainers, pugilists, horseshoers, palmists, negro whitewashers, high divers, barbers, trick bicyclists, saloon musicians, dancing masters and many others of equal eminence, have taken and held the prefix until it has fallen from its high estate to so low a level that is has almost become a term of reproach, and one that almost makes a person ashamed to read it upon his envelopes. A waggish friend of a music teacher, knowing the latter’s antipathy to the term, once addressed a letter to him somewhat as follows:

Proffessor Smith-Jones,
Proffessing done neatly
    and with despatch.
    Open all night.
             Coon Hollow, Mo.

The satire was none too keen.

Now, I do not think that sincere, self-respecting musicians wish to be called “professor,” and they certainly will not call themselves by this title. The trouble is with their pupils and friends, and to these I would say, in the parlance of the street, “cut it out, cut it out.” I am sure that hundreds of musicians would be very grateful for this. “Mr.” is very much more respectable and dignified, and really means more. Let the objectionable title be relegated to the background, and pretty far back at that, to keep company with the “esquire” foolishness of forty or fifty years ago. Girl pupils and ladies generally are the greatest offenders in this regard, and by way of conclusion, I would ask them if they really think any man could possibly be pleased to hear himself continually called “puffessor,” or, as is too often the case, even “‘fesser?” When this threadbare, shabby title is entirely eliminated, the musician individually and as a class, will have taken a step—or rather a great stride —forward. Reader, will you help by resolving to drop the word from your vocabulary in the future?— T. L. Rickaby.


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You are reading One or Two Lessons a Week. from the July, 1906 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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