I tell my students that they need to practice every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. The purpose of that statement is to simply get them to practice every day. As they become more experienced, they will have more to practice and the time will automatically expand...or so I thought.
I have a student that I teach remotely on Skype. I have been trying to figure out what his problem might be. He is more than 1,000 miles away from me so I haven’t met him in person, nor have I seen his house. The truth is that I have only been to a few of my student’s homes. I have been working with him since June and feel like the lessons are like, as they say, pulling teeth...for both of us. This kid is 18, very cynical, and on what I refer to as the 50-year plan (that’s how long it’ll take him to learn the pipes if he continues to proceed at the current rate). As I am a teacher who gets paid to teach, I have been trying everything possible to motivate him. I even sent him my Christmas Book, thinking that would light a fire under him.
Earlier this month, on a Saturday night, I received an email. This email was from his Scout Master. Apparently, this kid is a candidate for an Eagle Scout Award. Who would have thought? I believe that the statistics in the Boy Scout world are that Eagle Scouts only make up 2% of their population. I have played for many Eagle Scout ceremonies in my bagpipe career. I have to tell you that I was unhappy to learn that he obviously has what it takes to achieve but wasn’t applying it to learning the pipes. When I met with him for his lesson, after putting up with 15 minutes of bad playing, I told him about the email. The Scout Master wanted me to write a recommendation. I felt that he had taken advantage of the fact that I couldn’t see his many awards as his webcam faces his fireplace. I told him that now that his real identity was out of the bag, that I expected more from him on this project. Learning to play the bagpipes is a lot easier than becoming an Eagle Scout! This should be a piece of cake.
This leads me back to the 15 minutes. He told me that I only said that he had to practice for 15 minutes per day, which is what he had been doing. Ok, I learned something more about communication in that lesson. That being the case, I told him that he then needed to learn 2 Christmas Carols this week and extend his practice time to an hour per day. I think the lesson learned is that if I had asked him to practice for an hour per day at the beginning, we might be a lot further down the road.
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".