The view from the peanut gallery, or, the gremlin speaks…

As I was practicing a jazzy offertory solo intended to be played in church, I heard the dulcet tones of my loving family: “Put some soul into that!” and “You play that like a classical pianist!”


Yes, comments from my personal peanut gallery. I absolutely don’t mind at all. This kind of teasing reminds me of my brothers, whom I adore. I tell myself it’s my husband and daughter’s little way of telling me they love me (and, truth be told, I was playing like a classical pianist).

But there’s another peanut gallery, and that one is owned and managed by… me. Do you have one too? These little guys are ready to criticize, goad, provoke, and depress. Another way of thinking about it is that there are internal “gremlins” that can get in our way. There is a little book that I read years ago called Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simply Method of Getting Out of Your Own Way – Carlson. I lent out the book, but I still remember that the reader is encouraged to draw his or her personal gremlins as a way of making them less powerful.

One of my latest gremlins is wearing a tee-shirt that says: “You’ve never played a concerto with an orchestra!”  I won’t bore you with the other ones. The point is… it has recently occurred to me that if the gremlin could speak, it might defend itself, saying  that maybe it isn’t really such an enemy after all. Any period of intense self-doubt can be followed by action, followed by a renewed energy and direction. After wallowing in some self-doubt this summer, I have made some “new year’s resolutions.” Obviously, the list is incomplete, but this is what seems important right now:

  • PRACTICE! – And don’t just practice when a deadline is looming
  • PRACTICE! Part 2: Practice my students’ repertoire and explore other intermediate to advanced literature.
  • Watch you tube videos of master teachers, such as Nelita True
  • LISTEN! – Listen to the great masters performing great repertoire. These days, there is no excuse not to do so. Compare different recordings of the same piece.
  • READ – Read excellent books on piano teaching, and check out the excellent web sites that are available
  • Go to WORKSHOPS, locally and also look into webinars.
  • Follow through on projects, such as composing.

What are your resolutions for the upcoming academic year? I’d love to hear about them!




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