One Chance Charlie



Here at the New School, we’re preparing our students for our yearly festival called “Piano Progressions.” Students prepare two contrasting pieces, work on ear-training, sight-playing, and a challenging array of keyboard theory skills.


One of my strongest students has been preparing diligently for the keyboard skills portion of the assessment. Unfortunately, she is among the many students who tend to “play first, think later.”  As a result, her first performance is not always accurate, and does not reflect her actual skill level.  Yesterday, her initial scale playing was a bit untidy.


In a silly mood, I held up two fingers and wiggled them.  “I have someone I want you to meet.”


My 12-year old student’s eyes reflected a variety of thoughts:  “Has Mrs. Glennon finally lost it?” mingled with “What the heck, I’m up for anything!”


I continued:  “My name  is One Chance Charlie.  I have one chance to get it right, and only one chance.  Nice to meet you, Mary!” (while wiggling fingers.)


She replied:  “Nice to meet you too!” while wiggling her own fingers.  She proceeded to play another key perfectly the first time.  I held up my two fingers again:  “Good job!”  She replied while wiggling her own fingers:  “Thanks!”


One Chance Charlie made another appearance this morning with a younger student, and he was actually quite a helpful fellow.


The moral of the story is that children are never too old to be silly and, apparently, I am not too old either.






5 thoughts on “One Chance Charlie

  1. Amy, I love the story of One Chance Charlie. I know a few students who might like to meet him too! Silly moments are sometimes more effective than serious ones!

  2. I love the idea of One Chance Charlie! I’ll be using that with my younger students.
    Regarding Plugging Away, I remember reading somewhere (I think it was a post written by Diane Hidy) to teach ideas laterally. Incorporating this has helped tremendously! I have a 7 year old student who struggles with playing eighth notes. If she has the rest of the piece, we’ll move on to the next piece and focus first on the eighths. Once she has that in the context of the whole piece, we’ll go back and play the previous piece. She usually gets it.

    1. Thanks, Christina. I agree that, particularly in the case of rhythm, it is best to provide plenty of experience with a variety of repertoire, rather than endeavoring to undo an established habit. It is nice to hear from you!

  3. “If we constantly spend time bolstering weaknesses but do not allow students to shine in what comes easily, we run the risk of the student’s self-worth and enjoyment being compromised. ” this is so true!

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