An Opportunity for Engagement

Years ago, I heard an interview with Audrey Hepburn, who credited her discovery to meeting a director who was able to put her at ease at the audition.  It really caught my attention, as I had been yearning to meet someone like that myself.  Why should Hepburn’s experience be so rare in our field?  Well, yesterday at a lesson, I was able to be that someone for somebody else.

A new student’s parent began to “apologize” for her son being ill prepared and ignorant of so many fundamental things.  Surprised at her feeling of judgment, I talked about how I want to meet them where they are.  She admitted that she was feeling intimidated and had brought some apprehensions with her, and then we proceeded to have a great time getting acquainted.

I was so grateful that she trusted me enough to reveal her emotion, and thereby give me the crucial opportunity for engagement.  What struck me about this scenario is how quickly we forged greater trust by taking a moment to address the emotion, but also how easily her fear could have remained hidden from my view.  Had this parent not spoken up, she would have walked out of the lesson with an unnecessary guilt over her child’s skill level and a sense of distance and “otherness” for me.  How detrimental that would have been!

Do you have your stories of “engagement” with your students or their families?  I’d love to hear them!  Pedagogy has come along way since my own student days, when a Juilliard professor once commanded me to “stop playing like a dead duck!” and I was stunned into silence.  Hmmm, what would I say if I had a re-do?

Ms. Hsu appears next week at the International Keyboard Odyssiad Festival in Fort Collins, on the campus of CSU.  MON 7/25 Solo Recital; THU 7/28 seminar “A Communications Make-Over for Young Professionals”

©Hsing-ay Hsu 2016


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I was driving home with a CU colleague after playing a concert, when the conversation touched on the issue of discomfort.  Nowadays, whenever someone feels slightly uncomfortable or bored, the smart phone is at the ready to distract and relieve.  But when we give into a habit of withdrawing into our own mental gated community, we lose touch with how we fit in.   Those moments of discomfort hold a wealth of information about what is missing, and that realization motivates us to act.  When students stand at the doorway of that lunchroom, having to decide which table to join, they become more aware of their relationships.  Musically speaking, it is the pregnant pauses and the prolonged dissonances that establish the great arrival points and clarifies the structure.   In teaching, perhaps the awkward moments of waiting, for a student to suggest their own hypothesis before we jump in, are crucial for building their curiosity and ownership.  As mentors and artists, we can appreciate all kinds of experiences, not just the happy ones.

Do you have stories or tips on dealing with college teaching?  I would love to hear them!  Consider writing a blog around 200 words- I can post it for you.

©Hsing-ay Hsu 2016