War of the Worlds

There’s more to teaching piano than a degree. Play with fingers, think on your feet, yes – but hear with your heart.

Deep Bluesforget texting while playing piano

Have you ever had the “other world” encroach on your lesson time with a student? I don’t mean the ringing of cell phones and the beeps of a new text. They shouldn’t be anywhere near the piano bench nor allowed on until after the lesson. This “world” is a more old fashioned disruption. It is daily life brought into the lesson time or rearing it’s devious head in the middle of an important musical point you’re trying to make.

 

A similar incident happened when a nine year old started crying upon turning to the song “The Circus is Coming to Town.” I must be the most obtuse teacher around. I saw no reason for the tears.  The obvious connection to her tears – “The teacher said we are all going to die because of global warming.” Those were her exact words in 1991. I was flabbergasted. Firstly, global warning wasn’t going to be allowed during my lesson time! But, secondly, seeing her real distress (and my tissues piling up beside her) I was glad I didn’t mention this. I told her that we all needed to be responsible for taking care of the world (resources may have been too big a word) and God will take care of us. This satisfied her, but now I  had the problem. I was angry. Angry that a teacher would scare children with such topics when they had no concept of time and how true, natural science truly works. I had to explain this to the mother when she picked up her daughter a few minutes later, wondering why there were tears.

To cap my experiences off, a couple years later a young student and I were trying to make up words using the musical alphabet. Eventually, I chanced on the word D-A-D. A look of terror sprung up on her face and the tears started down her face. Tissues leaped into my fingers and I told her she was safe here and we could play a happy song to chase the sad thoughts away. To be truthful, I’m not sure why I actually got through the lesson as well as I did and the mother explained to me that the two of them don’t mention that word at home. And I thought I was having a bad week because a couple students didn’t pay up. This was a new level of perspective.
critismn not enough emotion

Effective Resolutions

So, some schools do teach you how to handle the unruly students. They convince you that showing the unwilling out the door is better for you than a hard-earned paycheck. You develop a love for a beautiful medium of expression and nothing prepares you for the student and the tissue box event. That’s where you need to draw on your love, not just for music, but for the student. Pray for a caring response and guidance on how music can help the student cope with the disappointments and heartaches in life.

Music Therapy – ancient remedy

There were many students who had very hard lives and never showed it, but I could hear it through their fingers and see it on their faces as they lost themselves in the notes pouring from the antique Steinway. Sorrows as old as time, remedies just as tried through the ages. Just as the Psalms tell of men, overwhelmed by sorrows, find relief through music and faith their faith in a faithful God. 

But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning:
for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.
(17) Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing:
for God is my defense, and the God of my mercy.Ps 59:16

I teach improvisation to all my students so they can have a means of expressions and a skill to play new songs well past the years they were “made to take piano lessons.” But we must also give our students the skill to express their emotions through music as a form of therapy and expression. And, may the songs they require include many happy songs!

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The High Cost of Ignorance

What are five things you wish you had learned earlier in life?

Everyday I am learning new things. A couple posts ago I mentioned the shortcuts some artists take that’s pretty much akin to a vocalist lip-synching at a concert.
After saying goodbye to the refrigerator repair man (hopefully not the compressor) I took a walk among the genuine creatures on the farm – the ducks and my Border Collie, Kansa. I was hunting grasshoppers when oCapture16ne crept it’s way up my pant leg. I learned grasshoppers only travel UP and I was dancing a jig trying to turn him around fast! The neighbors just had confirmation that I lost it. This incident is not profound in its own right; however, I was reminded of one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

#1 It’s okay to laugh at yourself (and not at others unless they are laughing at themselves, too). I was at a small tiny town in north central Kansas, practicing on the organ for a funeral the next day. The town was astir with talk that a musician from the east was going to be playing at the ceremony. This was big news to them. It was important to me to make that good impression (after all, I had a reputation to make and uphold in only an hour). I pulled out the different stops and played some nice sounding chords. As the journey down the tabs progressed, the chords became more creative, maybe more intense, too. Well, I’ll just admit it, I started playing good old diminished seventh chords just like they did in the old movies when the train was boring down on the lady, tied up and lying on the tracks.
This was getting really fun!
As I took a break to set the tabs to a new setting, someone called out to me, “Heh, there, just wanna let you know the tower speaker’s on and the whole town’s hearing you make that awful noise!”
I guess then that knowing when to laugh at yourself is more important than making a good impression.

#2 You only have one time to make a great first impression but you should give people more than one chance.

A piano student’s mother sat in a lesson with her daughter for the first time. Now, I am a very good piano teacher and am passionate about teaching; however, I had a massive sinus infection (from sanding drywall mud) and this was a very bad day but not the type to cancel piano lessons. Without asking for my feedback, she stopped her daughter’s lessons because she said I lacked enthusiasm. The sad part was her daughter was learning well and enjoyed lessons, but the mother felt her daughter didn’t need her help anymore to learn piano and probably felt threatened.
How many times we wished we weren’t judge by the impression we gave others that in no way truly represented our self? How many times did we lose out on a good opportunity because we were quick to judge someone based on one impression?

#3 Being yourself is more important than being important. And there is no one more important than one in need. So, try to be giving.

I don’t know how much of my life was used up trying to impress or please others instead of just being my self. I’m not saying it’s wrong to try to make a good impression – on the contrary. First and good impressions are very important. They allow those you interact with to have confidence in your word and work. But if you think making great first impressions is hard, try being someone you’re not!
It’s like the time our family had a couple over to share a meal and to see our new house we built. Everything was going to plan. The meal was great, I got to use a dishwasher for the first time leaving both hubby and myself free to take the couple on the grand tour.
The lady guest and I were following behind the men when the man ask,”Why is there so much foam spilling out from the dishwasher?”
I tried to stay calm as I rounded the turn into the kitchen – but there was no denying the gallons of containers of foam engulfing the kitchen floor. It looked like a 7′ x 12′ hot tub spewing out suds galore! It must have been quite hilarious to watch me try to mop up the mess as elegantly and inconspicuously as possible.

Now, if anyone has a “right” to be important, you would think it would be Jesus Christ! Yet Christ took up the towel and washed His disciples’ feet. He specifically said that this was done as an example of an attitude for us to follow. His actions backed up the words He spoke, “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16)

So-Amish or Mennonites? Which one answered God’s call in my life? womens-control-top-pantyhose_nude-rt
One Sunday our family was in route from Massachusetts to Kansas when our car motor’s belt broke in Berne, Indiana. My hubby quickly pulled to the shoulder. The Amish guided their buggies around us. The faces of the elders looked on in disapproval, maybe a little relish and youngsters looked at us with curiosity. Well, I sacrificed a pair of panty hose that actually got us a couple miles (literally) further down the road. Amazing invention – yet they still run when snagged, a pity. Again we were on the side of the road next to a large wheat field. More buggies and frowns came our way. The strong August sun had no competition from any shade and we were hot, discouraged and very thristy. Temps were near 100 degrees. Would you believe a Mennonite family came out of their house to help and we informed them of our predicament. Their neighbor, also a Mennonite, owned a garage and helped my husband replace the belt while the lady invited us into an air conditioned house and pumped us with iced tea and popcorn. Sure, the Amish thought they made the right impression, but –

you can’t beat the impact you’ll have on a life if you meet a need.

Voluntarily.

We weren’t important, but that caring, Mennonite family, just by being themselves, made us feel important to them and that makes me feel small just thinking about it.

Enough for now. Watch later for more lessons I wished I had learned. BUT – what do you wish you had learned earlier?

What is Christmas Anyway?

 

What is Christmas Anyway?

 

I remember teaching from a Christmas favorites book and my piano student asked me why do we celebrate Christmas. So I told him that it is a day to remember the birth of Jesus. He countered with “Who’s he?” I have to admit, I was a bit stunned, but thought maybe he’s Jehovah Witness or something like that and I tried to form a brief answer to the nine-year old sitting on my piano bench. “God sent His Son Jesus to earth to die for our sins. Jesus came as a baby and this is the way we celebrate the event. That’s why it’s a joyful time.”a-Light Echoes from Red Supergiant star V838 Monocerotis - Copy

 

I wanted to say it’s the most important act God ever extended towards mankind. I wanted to say that when I heard the Christmas story one year, it dawned on me how bad I must have been for God to resort to such extreme measures. I wanted to tell him how much joy there is in believing that God wants the relationship between mankind restored and that it can be – and has been for so many.

But I figured parents pay me to program their children to learn piano – not preach to them or give a testimony, so I did keep the answer “bare bones.” 

 

Not enough.

The parent talked with me about his plan to raise his son with no exposure to religion. When piano books are riddled with “Silent Night” and “Away in the Manger” it’s hard to ignore the reason for the celebration. It doesn’t matter, he had chosen the book and the child picked the song and I respectfully listened. But inside I thought, “It’s like going to a party but you don’t know who it’s for.”

God – the greatest Visual artist

 

Proof#1

 

I am glad our God is bigger than our opinions – and our imagination. Who else, other than God, would think to stoop to the level of a baby in a manger to paint the word “LOVE.”

 

All our altruistic depictions are nothing more than adaptations of “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” You must admit, Hollywood falls way short of inspiring in how it portrays love. I”ll take God’s definition any day.

 

It would be interesting to know:

 

How would you depict love in visual form?

 

until then – “Have a Joyous Holy-day!

 

What do you value?

We just passed the season of gifts and giving. What was your favorite gift? My husband and I had the privilege of spending time with both our children and their families. That’s priceless. You only have a set time to create certain memories and this year my husband and I tried to make as many memories as possible.

But what else do you value?

Time

Have you ever been discouraged about your studio practice?

In my early years of teaching I would bring my husband to work and go home. Then I would teach my lessons and go home – only to turn around and get my husband at 11 pm and travel home. We could only be a one car family at the time, but we made my teaching piano work. However, several times I would drive up to a student’s house only to find they were out (The mother wanted to go to the mall.) – or still in bed! I decided to end the madness and only teach at home.

The wasted gas stopped; however, there were still calls canceling because students didn’t practice or worse yet the no-shows. I bawled in private but was gracious to those that little valued my time. But help came.

A colleague told me, “If you don’t value your time, the students will never value it. Charge them for their missed lessons.” So after five years of teaching I finally wrote a studio policy. Who would have thought boundaries bring…

Freedom.

When you know what the rules are you can point out to the parent the policy and say, “You agreed to these terms and I still get paid whether you practiced or not.” When I was called to jury duty, I reimbursed my students. My time became a commodity of a set value and my students, the parents, my family and myself knew what value I put on it.

Opportunity

Then there are the scholarships. I made it a practice to give greatly reduced rates or free lessons to one or more individuals each year. Over time I saw the result of my generosity. With one, maybe two exceptions, of the dozens given – the students didn’t value their opportunities. I sat amazed at the gifts given to them and the way they squandered their time and lessons. They were some of the most ill-prepared students and what once was desired became an annoyance to their daily schedule.

So, if I really feel the need to offer scholarships, then I have a 3 strikes policy. The first lesson they come unprepared I warn the student. The second lesson I give a written warning to the parent stating the scholarship is in jeopardy. The third lesson (and not necessarily consecutive) and the scholarship is withdrawn.

It may sound cruel. I am a soft soul and have given latitude for mid-terms and injury but what do I teach them to value if I don’t value the opportunity I have given to them?

I would like to know what you value? How do you protect what you value?

Music Notation – Help!

Music Notation Software – A Blessing or Curse?

This month was filled with making up level appropriate tests for my piano students. Testing is so important for both students and teacher. Students have a sense of accomplishment knowing they learned another level of music. Teachers use the results to choose material that teaches the weaker areas of the student. They also can use these results to point out to the parent why it is important for their child to learn “X” in the assignment.

All this preparation is a bit time consuming at the present – all because I can never get a good musical notation program to work with my computer.

I’ve bought a program only to find out my computer (just a year old) wasn’t compatible though the box said my computer was – SUCH FRUSTRATION!

So I manually write out my arrangement and notations, scan, Crop to size, edit for clarity, then cut and paste and print out neat little problems for my students. (They did pretty good on their tests).

Probably the best software I tried recently is “Notation Composer.” It’s ease of use was good but it does look computer-generated instead of the visually better engraved-appearance. LilyPond looks so readable but seems harder to learn. Any thoughts?

Stocked pantries and Piano Repertoire

Preparing for Opportunity

Before you can seize the opportunity, you must prepare for it.

Starlings outside the breakfast nook windows found the down from the ducks. They are stuffing their bills with as many as possible before flying to the nest site. Unfortunately, as they are plucking the feather up they drop one and they must stop and try to reload. It’s so comical seeing their bills crammed with feathers looking half their size.

At the same time the starlings were raiding the feathers my husband and I were trying to calculate the amount of beans to plant. Now I love beans. I don’t even mind canning them – but picking them! If you didn’t feel like you were 80 years old you did by the time you picked a few hundred feet of beans-especially knowing you couldn’t stop and relax. No. Snapping and canning them while fresh is imperative. So I wasn’t too enthusiastic about planting “miles” of beans. In fact, I am thinking about just turning pro by picking only once. In fact, instead of picking, I’ll pluck each plant, pick the beans and put the plant to good use in the compost pile. After at, many gardeners use succession planting, don’t they?

I must admit, a pantry full of my “Dilly Beans” (I’ll put up some tarragon infused Blue Lake beans for more refined meals), Romano Beans with garlic, onion and bits of tomato, canned tomatoes, homemade jellies and pickles sound great. I was looking through a vintage “The Ball Blue Book” for canning (1943) and found a charming recipe for Brunswick Stew that started with: 4 young squirrels or 4 frying size chickens. Along with the “Green Walnut Sauce recipe, I was beginning to think people during the Depression (we’re approaching that scenario) made use of everything.

We did come to some consensus on how much to plant so my hubby went to clean some fish he caught from the pond last night. It’s always nice when the pond is in your front yard – he left them in a cage in the water over night. Just three bass, two smaller ones and one a whopping 23” long and 5 lbs 2 oz. I’m sure glad it’s out of there before I swim this summer. I wonder if I should can some?

Choosing and Learning Repertoire for Preparedness

I have had a few students who started as or stayed with me as adults who wanted to “perform.” Now few students will ever earn a living as concert pianists so definitions of performance are moderated to fit different abilities and lifestyles. When students are asked to play for family – well, anything goes. Formal recitals usually require a variety of repertoire in either when the piece was composed or the different forms (types) of music.

My experience playing as a church musician for twenty -two years is quite different in musical scope than the hodge-podge events such as playing for school events, weddings, birthday parties and fashion shows. I do favor the role of background musician and my choice and treatment of repertoire is different than celebratory events where people expect more interaction with the music.

So the teacher and student must discuss choice of song and performance of song. Amazing Grace is played differently at a funeral than as a rousing anthem for a church’s postlude. Also, playing 3-5 songs for a church service is not the same as playing 30-45 minutes of easy listening music for a fashion show.

Make the student practice various skills, then when opportunity knocks, they can seize it!

Culinary Snobbery & Teaching Flexibility

Confessions of a Culinary Snob
I like to cook. If an ingredient is missing – no worry-improvise! My daughter does me proud by following in my footsteps. We may improvise but we would never, I repeat, NEVER use put cottage cheese in a lasagna, use anything but real butter and avoid Cheese whiz like the plague. My daughter-in-law made the mistake of asking me how to cook “burnt carrots” – a name that does NOT do this vegetable justice. I had to tell her the “real” way. FYI:

1.Peel (or wash) 1 lb carrots (for 2-4 people) and cut length-wise thick roots
2.Cook in a little water 8-10 minutes until tender-crisp. I do this in my pressure cooker and it only takes 1 min under
pressure.
3.Drain. Pour into an oven-proof dish and toss with 1½ Tbsp butter to coat.
4.Bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes (or whatever temp you may be roasting at for something else). Carrots are done
when edges are turning brown. The darker the brown, the sweeter the carrot. Serve warm.

This is such a simple recipe with a big WOW but like my dad would say, “No sugar.” Well, the memories of sage culinary wisdom flooded my mind. I would be sitting in a room while my dad and his brothers were visiting and their verbal parries of cooking comparisons would intensify. But none brought more ammo to the debate than how to cook  the humble yet signature dish of any respectable caterer to Polish weddings – the “Pork-Cabbage” recipe. “You add just a bit of brown sugar” was countered with “Never, it would ruin the balance and you would have to add vinegar!” That discussion once exploded into such deep convictions that my father picked up a loaf of bread (homemade by his mother no less) and threw it at his brother. They all hitched up their pants, and strutted out of the various exits from the dining room. As I grew older, I realized there was little hope for me, for I, too am a culinary snob.
So, garlic bread on my table bears no resemblance to the soggy, artificial loaf wrapped in foil from the store. My breath will bear witness to the authenticity of the garlic in my house!


Flexibility in the Studio

So I am not very flexible in the way I want to cook, but what about the way I teach?

Method Books

Every teacher has his/her pet method books. For some it may be the newest pedagogy backed by trials in teaching studios. Other may prefer the “tried and true” oldies. Some teachers still use the Thompson and Aaron courses of old. I use John W Schaum’s series of “A” book, “B” book, etc. for the majority of my students and lean towards Hal Leonard’s basic course when there are siblings learning in near enough time that learning-by-ear poses a threat to the beginning student’s progress. The Middle C approach seems to fit most students and they develop independence in learning skills and materials that I found lacking in Suzuki transfer students. I give myself credit for standing hours in the music store pouring over materials only to reject most of them for one reason or another. This is usually not because they are bad, but I know how and why I teach Middle C approach. Some progress too slowly and have more eye appeal than progress for me to imagine myself being excited about teaching 5 weeks of one element though it may be perfect for just a certain student needing reinforcement. It’s hard finding the perfect method but that’s why supplemental material abounds.

An aside: Why Middle C is so effective
1.   Most of my first grade students can start in the Primer (Beginning) book and learn staff reading after 2-4 weeks.
2.   It starts with one homing point. It doesn’t matter pupils are playing off of any “C” on the keyboard, they are all still “C”. I have my
students playing hand-over hand “C” arpeggios by the second or third lesson.
3.   Relationships between “C” and other notes are quickly established both visually and mechanically.
4.   The eye has a chance to gradually read an expanding Grand Staff.
5.   Many familiar songs can be introduced with this method.

It might be good to discuss my encounters with other approaches in future visits.

Ambiance

So, where I teach has been very flexible. Like many new piano teachers, I traveled to the student’s homes like Mr. Ernest St. Jacques taught my sister and myself. The advantages were I didn’t have to disrupt our family in our teeny tiny house and I got to see what my student were practicing on. This, at times, was very enlightening. There was one place, though, that few of my peers can say they taught. One of my students wanted to learn the organ but on the instrument she could practice on and would be called to play on. So off I went to teach her in a cemetery/crematorium. There we would be, reviewing her foot drills and one of the staff would roll another cardboard box up the chapel aisle in line to be cremated. I was hard put to assign her some of the music that normally came to my mind.

There were a few other times I was flexible in my approach in the studio but I’ll save it to another day. Until then, Be Flexible!

Do more with Chords, Time & What to practice

Using Chords Differently in Improvisation.

It’s the last day of February and I left my readers in Impro Limbo. So check out the next step in my Improvisation pages.

Time and responsibility

A dear friend of mine, Sandy, lost her husband. JD’s heart gave out and he went to be with his Savior Saturday. Though they are in their 80’s, there was no age barrier – no matter what the age of the person they spent time with. Time. We all have it. We all have a limited amount of it. The “trick” to making the most of it is to know when it runs out. The trouble is, you never really know when life stops here and we become accountable to our Creator. These are sobering thoughts, but we must have been bad enough for God to send His Son to pay our sin’s penalty on the cross. The only uplifting thought in all this is Christ arose! And because of that, we too can live for eternity with Him – or without Him. It’s our choice. The freedom of choice. Freedom always brings responsibility. So, how will you use your time and responsibility?

What to Practice
So as a piano teacher, one of the most important “jobs” I have is to teach each student how use use their time effectively when they practice. Students are different and learn in various ways, but I usually find the following formula to work for the majority of pianist:

Warm up with a favorite. You would think it would be scales and such, but
playing favorites improves pianistic expression and puts the player ion the mood.

Play drills, scales, etc. Play them 3 or more times each to improve dexterity (quickness and accuracy). Play them in various ways like loudly, staccato, crossed hands, octaves apart, with either a crescendo or diminuendo, ritardendo or accelerendo. Think of them as as foes to conquer or friends to enjoy, but play them!

Play the method book assignment. Learn the new skills in these books and the repertoire will be easier to learn.

Play other repertoire. If a song is really disliked, I would probably suggest you play it before the method books. Nothing like getting the spinach of the plate and ending with the brownie.

Play other keyboard assignments and more favorites. Explore interval sounds and chord progressions. Make up a tune. Have fun!

Do written work whenever possible. Theory and Harmony assignments help the student understand musical construction and read notation quicker.

Does your teacher assign from the four areas (drills, method, repertoire, written work) plus favorites? Do you as a teacher use these groups? Try it and let me know what you like to do.

When Do You Dump the Method Books?

Michael Peterson Going to State!

I lie in bed fighting off the bronchitis that followed my case of flu and suddenly the phone rang. It was Michael calling to tell me he placed a rating of #1 at the KSHAA District Competition at Winfield, KS. I wish I could have been there. He said he was rather nervous, but he pulled through with a fine performance of Chopin’s E flat Nocturne. It may be a bit overdone, the piece, but he wanted to do it and he learned it well, so I figured experience is sometimes more valuable than running with the strategy for trophies. So Michael encountered his first judge. I await to read the comments. We both prepare for the next level.

Love vs Tradition (and Method books)

Michael came to me two years ago. The shy, soft-spoken young man whose mannerisms try to hide a good intellect and the uncommon sensitivity rarely seen today almost hid his love for music. It took me a few months to see the awe and joy on his face created by the mystical sound of a deceptive cadence. As a beginning piano student, I was determined to get him to read and play the grand staff notation and grow in hands-together coördination, but his love for music and the drive to move on made me finally abandon the method books. When is it wise to set aside the “normal” curriculum?

The more experienced teacher will be sensitive to cues of boredom and frustration and quickly adjust materials to keep interest up. This is common and I did as much when I showed my grandson some level 3 jazz to bribe him to continue lessons. (We should probably explore teachers’ motives in the future). Michael, however, was wanting to play classical and specifically Mozart’s Alla Turka with less than just one year of lessons. So I decided to only use original versions and went with the following:

Hanon                  selected exercises, arpeggios and interval runs

Chopin                 A minor waltz

Joplin                   Maple Leaf Rag

Clementi              Sonatina in G major

Mozart                 Alla Turka Rondo

Burgmueller       Ballade

Bach                       Musette in D major

Beethoven           C sharp min (Moonlight) Sonata, 1st mov.

Bach                        Invention in F major

Rachmaninoff     Op 3. No 2 (C sharp min Prelude)

Chopin                   Op 9 No 2 (E flat Nocturne)

So after he did one movement of Clementi, I let him play the original Mozart and he did it well. He played it with the Maple Leaf Rag for the studio recital and did just fantastic. He is a senior this year, so you see we were up against the clock, so to speak, and he wanted to try at least one competition. So in addition to some lessons in improvisation, drills in sight-reading a lot of technique and theory, and a couple of fun songs (Super Mario’s soundtrack music), I’d say he’s building a well-rounded repertoire and still maintaining his love and interest in music in spite of the lessons in Common Chords and Harmonizing a Melody. If I had more time, maybe some Schubert or Debussy and more Baroque…..

I am interested to hear from other teachers who had to throw out the method books very early and really customize the lesson plan.

How Do You Open A Closed Mind?

Art Supplies

I’m getting excited about painting. I used all my Christmas and B-day gifts to buy some materials. Since I’m usually house bound, I shop online. It’s hard finding what I need in the Wichita area anyway, so I pulled out my Dick Blick catalogs, made my list and after some online comparative shopping, stuck with my original order. With all the lesson openings in my piano studio schedule and the upcoming summer slow down, I figured it’s about time to paint.

Now, I’m pretty good at graphite drawings but it’s been a long time since I just painted for fun. Some one who saw my murals for church-use said they saw my artwork and that put me off a bit. Large scale murals painted for illustration purposes does not at all represent the nuances of fine art. I didn’t bother trying to sway a mind closed to the idea of discussion.

Closed Minds VS Ambitions

So, that brings up an interesting point – How do you open a closed mind? How can a piano teacher convince students they can do it? There are many reasons for a closed mind.

Now, I’ve engineered decks, wired an entire house, sewn suits, and trisected an angle with only a straight-edge and compass before the other student did it and made the papers – so I can safely say I’m a person willing to try most anything (I will not jump out of planes and ride backwards on a rollercoaster – so don’t even go there). But when it’s been a long time since I’ve done something, I admit to being afraid of failure.

Now nothing closes a mind from opportunities like fear. Fear from failing to get that scholarship is often pure fear. There are the fears of making a wrong decision that make adversely impact others and the fear of injury and such. These are legitimate fears but still they are often overcome with the reward of great satisfaction.

More commonly encountered, though is the fear of being laughed at or fear of not delivering on an expectation and maybe the fear of disappointing my own image of myself. I suspect the person who didn’t want to talk about my art was afraid she would have found I was as good an artist as her grand daughter. There is always someone better than you. Some will learn faster, play faster, paint better, throw farther, etc. The question is, “Can I live with the fact there are others better than myself?” This reasoning reveals more than Fear. Pride is often the underlying cause of our fears. Acknowledging that there will be someone better than you and that’s okay really frees you up to try new adventures. You’re not doing it to be the proven best. You are doing it to better yourself and to experience life more fully. So, sorry students, you do have to improvise! So go out and try!