A mother of a perspective student called me the other day asking about my availability for lessons for her 10-year-old son. During the conversation, she gave me the impression that she was concerned about him “sticking with it”. That is always a concern for parents. After 15 years of teaching privately, I have learned a few things about the psychology of learning. As a person in private enterprise, it is my job to make sure that a parent gets their money’s worth in the private lesson situation. I want my students to get a return on their time and money investment in my business as well. That being said, there are some things that people need to know about learning a new task.
First of all, the average person quits any new task between 30 and 60 days. That is a proven statistic. When someone starts a new project the excitement of it being new lasts for 30 days. The “honeymoon” is now over. After 30 days, the struggle begins and usually lasts between 30 and 60 days. If I have someone who has passed through the struggle, I will have them forever. . So it is my responsibility to make sure that they have the right information to make this happen. I feel pretty lucky in that my average student has been with me for about 4 years.
The first thing that I tell everybody is that they should make a 1-year commitment to this project. I tell them in advance about the “honeymoon” being over in 30 days. When they get to that point they aren’t surprised. I also tell them the story of my son and his projects:
When our son was 5 he came to me and asked to take violin lessons. I told him that I was happy to invest my time and money into his project on one condition. The condition was that he had to play the violin for at least a year. My goal has never been to make my kids musicians. My goal was to make them accomplished in something by the time they graduated from high school. With this program, we got a year of violin, 3 years of saxophone, 5 years of karate and 2 years of voice lessons from our son. When he graduated he was a 2nd degree black belt and the student soloist at the Senior Recognition ceremony. He went on to major in Music Education and today teaches in a New Jersey public school and is a successful entrepreneur as well.
It’s not enough for you to drive your kids back and forth to lessons. They need to feel an obligation to do their part of the project. Whether we’re talking about kids or adults, the part that needs to happen is this: make a 1-year commitment to the project. Practice everyday even if it’s for no longer than 15 minutes. As you learn and have more music to practice. the practice time will automatically get longer. By 13, I was addicted to piano and practiced 2 hours per day, and by 15, when I discovered the pipes, I added another hour of practicing to accommodate that. I still had time for homework and other things. I was hungry and wanted it now.
The goal is to be accomplished at something. This goes for any project that you choose to take on. If you want to be successful at something, find a mentor, make a 1-year commitment and do something about your project on a daily basis. If you do that, the project will be completed sooner and you will have a longer period of your life to enjoy its benefits.
Gary Guth is a professional bagpiper with over 45 years of playing experience and has been teaching bagpipes full time for the last 20 years. He has written "Bagpipes For Beginners", "the Bagpipe Hymnal", and " A Piper's Christmas".