tip of the month 

What do you do with a student that is normally high achieving, but one week keeps making mistakes that she has never made before, and then when you try to work on those areas she is very resistant and even comes close to crying?

            I would first talk to her about priorities saying something like, “Wow, you never made those mistakes before.  Did you have projects, a paper, test or sports event that took up the time this week that you would have spent practicing?  You know, we all have to set priorities, and it seems that you had more pressing priorities than flute this week.  If this happened all of the time, I might worry, but usually you are so prepared, I’m not concerned.  We all have bad weeks.  Would you like to use today as a practice session and work on these parts?”
            If she said no or was quiet, I would know that there is a lot more than just flute practice that is bothering the student.  I would continue, “Part of playing the flute for me is enjoyment.  I use music as a break from all of the pressures to achieve.  Let’s just play duets today.”
            Without saying it, we will be working on sight-reading which is as valuable a skill as preparing music.  If the student seems especially vulnerable, I would start with very easy pieces, probably a slow minor piece so that she could let out some of her negative emotions without having to saying anything about emotions.  Then I would progress to more difficult and happy pieces.  I find that 6/8 gigs are a good way to end.  No matter how awful the day, it is very difficult for anyone to remain completely negative after playing a simple 6/8 melody.