Field Notes on Music Teaching & Learning
May 17, 2023
060 - How Do We Approach Mistakes in Music Teaching & Learning?
"What just happened?" I asked a 4th-grade student one Friday afternoon.
"I made a mistake," she said, looking down at her hands still resting on the keys.
"What is a mistake?" I posed, curious as to how she might answer.
She thought for a moment, then said, "It's when you do something wrong."
We talked about that for a minute—how sometimes mistakes happen innocently. Sometimes, a mistake is a way of getting our attention, a way for the body to say to the brain, "Wait! I don't really know this yet."
We listened for mistakes and inherent learning opportunities for the rest of the lesson. We talked about insecure fingers, uncertain rhythms, and risky leaps. We talked about how to practice and prepare these things, develop confidence, and be an observer while practicing at home.
This is the work of actively reframing how we see and respond to mistakes.
Earlier this year, I read The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self by prize-winning pianist and pedagogue William Westney. (I mentioned it back in Ep. 055 as I was reading it.)
I enjoyed it so much that I made it our Musician & Co. Book Club pick for this quarter. I just published a book review on the Musician & Co. blog, sharing four practical insights for musicians and teachers and a few of my favorite quotes.
As I read this book, I found myself bringing some of these concepts into my studio to study and evaluate them in practice. Every few days, I had a new question I wanted to pose, a new response I wanted to incorporate into my language, or a new strategy I wanted to experiment with.
In this episode, I want to share some of these practical takeaways: how I'm integrating some of the ideas from Westney's book into my teaching, the questions I'm asking my students these days, and a reflection on how we approach mistakes in the music teaching and learning process.
For show notes, click here.
*Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
The Perfect Wrong Note: Learning to Trust Your Musical Self (William Westney)
Ep. 055 - Begin Again: The Case for Experimentation in Your Music Teaching
Are We Learning From Our Mistakes? Insights From William Westney's, "The Perfect Wrong Note"
Piano Pedagogy Research Laboratory at The University of Ottawa
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