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December 2, 2013

“We need to have a vision of our student as an accomplished learner. Great performance begins with clear vision.  Teaching is just the same. We have to have the same vision of our students.”

– Sam Holland


Ah, the pressure!  It is  daunting enough to deconstruct quotes by the great  Frances Clark… but the also great, living, breathing, Sam Holland will see what I write about his ideas.  I hope that I get it right.  If I do not, I hope that Sam will clarify his quote  in the “comments” section.


As I look back on Sam’s lecture at the New School for Music Study, I recall my immediate reaction:  I was struck by the concern that we can too easily develop a very different sort of vision of our students.  For example, the student who is “always” late for the lesson, the student who “can’t” shape phrases the way that we would want, the student who “always” rushes, the student who “never” practices in a productive way, the student who “always” forgets to bring the music books.  All of these unchecked assumptions must be tossed aside in dramatic fashion.  Imagine these unspoken words about our students come to life, floating in the air we breathe.  We gather them up in a bundle, place them in a sturdy bag, and throw them in the trash.  We start fresh, develop a new vocabulary for the vision of our students, and most important, a new vision.


As I examine the quote today, another thought comes to mind:  Sam uses the phrase “accomplished learner.” He does not say “contest-winning pianist.”  What does he mean by this term:  “accomplished learner?”  To me, it implies independence and competence. The accomplished learner understands the music being studied, has a clear “vision” for how the piece will sound, and knows how to bring this vision to fruition.


For teachers, the word “vision” can tend to imply a future goal.  Future goals are essential for any teacher of any subject.  But, what is happening now?”  There is likely a differential between where the student is and where we would like the student to be. If there is a big difference between our vision for the student and the reality of the where the student is, the only thing that we can control is what we do.  We cannot “change” the student. We can only change our approach.  Self-evaluation is critical to our success.  Andy Hisey recently spoke to our faculty about this very topic.  After each lesson, it is essential to evaluate what went well, and what could have gone better.  An ongoing record of students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as our own strengths and weaknesses, will help us to shape our thinking.


This article will continue tomorrow.  In the meantime, there is a “homework” assignment that I must do.  I hope you’ll join me by downloading the attached form.  Please do not yet complete the bottom of the form (vision statements).

Evaluation Form

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This site is created by the faculty of the New School for Music Study, a division of the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy.

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