I love to try new things. Over the years I have dabbled in writing and art, cake decorating and yoga, jewelry making and sewing, scrapbooking and soap making, knitting and crocheting, mandolin and tin whistle playing. Although few of these activities have put money in my pocket – in fact, most of them have required at least a minimal financial investment on my part – I don’t consider any to have been a waste of time. In face, most of these dabblings have really resonated with my soul in some way and become important parts of my life, at least for a season.
Also, putting myself in the position of being a beginner at a task makes me a better teacher. I have been playing the piano for more than fifty years; it is easy for me to take for granted the skills have been acquired through long hours of practice and unyielding persistence. It is not so for my piano students, especially those just starting out. Every week, their reward for mastering previous work is being assigned new and more challenging tasks. In order to make progress, they must keep putting themselves out there and deal with the frustration that accompanies making the inevitable mistakes. They have no choice but to trust me as I encourage them to keep trying, helping them to understand that the only way they will fail is if they give up.
When faced with similar challenges as a beginner myself, I am reminded how it feels to be inexpert and vulnerable. It affirms that my most important job as a teacher is a simple one.
To be kind.
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A short week ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Threadmill Complex in Austell, Georgia,
|Pinky Flamingo strikes a pose.|
where I strode purposefully into the Uke Republic
and bought myself a ukulele.
|Ohana CK 70, concert size, spruce and maple.|
I also picked up a beginner method book and am attempting to teach myself how to play, although at this point I can’t manage more than five or ten minutes at a time because the fingers on my left hand have grown so sore from pressing down on the strings along the fretboard. Eventually, though, I will develop callouses and my endurance will increase. In the meantime, I have taught myself how to play a C major scale, a few simple tunes, four chords, and Bach’s Minuet in G (transposed into the key of C). Not bad for five days’ work! Yes, it all feels very awkward; nothing sounds the way I want it to and my chord changes are hesitant at best.
But, like my piano students, I will not fail so long as I persevere.
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Have you had any new beginnings in this new year? Leave a message in the comments to share your experiences with other readers!