Last night I dreamed I was railing at my piano teacher. Then I dreamed I went to my old piano teacher--the one I had in junior high, the one I did not get along with--and told her how much better she was than Deborah.
Why did I do that? A student's attitude and motivation (and lack thereof) has a lot to do with how "good" or "bad" a teacher is. I had a bad attitude when I was 13. I like to think I have a much-improved attitude now, 25 years later.
Strange how times long past can pop up in dreams, and bring all the emotions and intensity with them.
So I had a lesson Saturday and had several moments when I just wanted to cry.
I hadn't had a lesson in a month. More than a month. For that time, I practiced 4-6 days a week, averaging approximately 50 minutes per lesson. Not as much practicing as I'd like, but it's what I was able to manage, so I was OK with it. Practice sessions were focused mostly on scales, arps, Schumann, and Bach. I didn't want to lose "The Elf" or my C# Prelude & Fugue, so I was playing all of it through, at least twice a day, and having a blast doing so. After all those months (OK, more than 20 months) of learning the notes, working out the fingering, and drilling, drilling, drilling, I was so happy just to be playing the blasted fugue, start to finish, at a nice tempo. It felt good, and it sounded good.
So at my lesson we focused mainly on things I hadn't focused on in practice sessions. I hadn't worked much on the Shostakovich because because I had many questions about the fingering and hadn't wanted to learn everything with the "wrong" fingering. I hadn't worked much on the Beethoven because I wanted to make sure Deborah was OK with me working on it. I hadn't worked much on the B-flat fugue because ... well, I spent more time on the prelude.
Her first comment upon seeing the C-major bagatelle: "That was the one I was least interested in having you learn." Hmph. I asked why, and she said it was because it had more of a late Beethoven and she wanted me to start with something that had more of an early Beethoven sound.
I said, "Well, I really liked A-minor, too. We could do that one."
"No, C-major is fine."
I'd finally decided against the A-minor because it reminded me of "The Elf," and I wanted something with a different "feel" to it.
My assignment for next time: Write in all the fingering.
Then onward to Shostakovich. I had written in the fingering as assigned, but I'd been very confused about it. She said I'd given it a good effort ... then proceeded to erase everything and work out new fingering (with my input) and write it in. Yes, I felt like kind of an ignorant, even though she said that Shostakovich is like a foreign language to me (since I've never played anything by him), which makes sense ... but still.
The low point of the lesson came before we started working on the P&F in B-flat. I asked if I could go ahead and play the C# P&F, since I'd practiced it and wanted to play it for the group class in February. "Sure," she said.
I made it about a page into the prelude before I finally gave up in frustration. Nothing was working. My hands were running over themselves. It sounded like I hadn't practiced for a month, when in reality I'd been playing it--and playing it well every day.
So I decided to play the fugue instead. Same thing. A page in, I stopped. Was this the same piece I'd been playing every day for a month?
"I don't know why I can't play these today," I said.
"Well, you haven't had a chance to practice them."
How many students have looked into their piano teachers' eyes and told this bald-faced lie: "But I did practice!"
I felt like I looked the very picture of the lying student when I said that on Saturday: "But I did practice!" Only I was telling the truth.
She finally said that I shouldn't "perform" it every day, then gave me the one nugget that I'm going to carry away from that lesson: "Performing loosens screws. Drilling tightens them."
So I need to focus more on drilling and less on playing the piece through. OK.
I'm just so tired of drilling. I want, at least once in this life, to play that P&F for someone besides myself, and play it well.
Needless to say, I've been in a funk ever since that lesson. And I'm wondering why I ever thought I could be good at piano, or could quality for the Cliburn Amateur's Competition, or anything like that. It seems like I am stuck in "advanced intermediate" and will never get beyond that.