Monday Mailbag – Advancing Students Too Quickly

What dangers are there, if any, in advancing a student too soon?

This is one of those lessons that I learned the hard way. There are a lot of disadvantages to advancing students too quickly. Here are some of them:

  • they often struggle with complex rhythms in the harder pieces
  • technique skills don’t match the level of repertoire
  • harder pieces take much longer to master than if they were approached systematically
  • the student has trouble fully mastering the pieces
  • the student may have an inflated sense of how good they are because their level is higher than their true ability
  • details in the music are overlooked or the student struggles to incorporate them appropriately

My philosophy now is that I would rather move quickly through books and make sure that we cover all the necessary material systematically without gaps than to advance a student past material that they haven’t studied. I usually tell it to the student and parent just like that. We can move through books as fast as they’d like as long as they learn all their pieces well. Maybe in the meantime they can be working on a harder piece that presents more of a challenge, but it’s just not worth it to jump ahead and realize later that they missed an important concept.

When I was a beginning teacher, I was afraid that my students wouldn’t like me if I was too hard on them or told them what they were doing wrong. I’m past that now. Now I want my students to be afraid of me. 🙂 haha! Not quite, but I do want them to know that I have a high standard for their playing and that I will teach them as well as I can so that they can be excellent musicians. I’m not doing them any favors to move them along when they are still struggling with a piece or a concept. Far better to be up front with them and work together to overcome, understand, and work through difficulties than advance them on with glaring gaps in their musical education.

I’m sure plenty of others could add to my list of disadvantages above! Feel free to share your thoughts. How do you feel about advancing students? Is there ever an advantage to advancing a student “too” quickly?

Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!

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