Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Race for the Finish

Back in the fall, Lauren's piano teacher started a class to study for the Royal American Conservatory Exam, a demonstration of proficiency at a certain level of playing if you pass. Lauren was skeptical about joining because of the amount of work involved, yet agreed to do it. She enjoyed the weekly classes and a goal was set for the exam in the Spring, which seemed ages away. Well, the exam is in one and one half weeks, and the pressure is on.

"Cramming" is a word that my dh and I learned well though our schooling years. Lauren is learning the meaning of it now. She'd like to be released of this monumental task, but we've persisted in asking her to work hard toward her goal. Some of the lessons we've learned are about not waiting until the last few weeks, how to break down a seemingly impossible task into small chunks, and how to focus and prioritize under pressure. Very valuable lessons for a young girl.

Lauren talked about not enjoying piano anymore, since she began this study for RACE. Several good lessons came from this. One is that we discussed her feelings that she disliked the stress of preparing for the exam, and that she still enjoyed piano, just not how she is playing. Her teacher discussed that now commited to doing the exam, she might in the future decide to not do it again.

The exam brought up an interesting point about Perfectionism. Suzuki Piano epitomizes perfectionism. You play one or two songs at a time, and work to perfect the way you play the song. Yet, this RACE expects the pianist to play seven songs, plus technique and reading for proficiency, not perfection. This is a big difference for both Lauren and her teacher, both perfectionists. The hardest thing for Lauren to prepare for the exam is to let go of not playing each piece perfectly, but just getting to a place where she can play each piece. She can even use the music, if necessary. She grumbled that that would be points off her score. Like the first born that she is, and I know because I am one, too, it is hard for her to imagine just trying to take the test without getting a grand score. It has been a great learning experience.

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