The Importance of the Life Coach in Supporting Students’ Success with Piano Lessons

Potluck Creative Arts Lesson LineSimply Music

The Lesson Line tends to be written as if talking directly to the student. It’s made clear in the very first lesson, though — the Foundation Session — that there are three roles involved in undertaking piano lessons. The student is one of those roles, the other two are the student’s coaches, and all must play their part for the student to succeed. Whatever role(s) you may play, all these pieces try to provide value for you, and this piece in particular may prove crucial for you.

Students, of course, are what it’s all about — learning to play the piano and eventually becoming their own musicians. It takes time and effort to get there, to be sure, but the student’s role can be defined pretty easily. Learn. That’s really it. That’s what students do — they learn. And with piano, they learn through practicing.

To succeed, though, that practice must be done effectively. That’s what these writings have been about so far. It’s important, then, to recognize that making sure the practice gets done, and done well, is not really the role of the student. That may sound odd, but it’s true. It’s the job of the coaches — the method coach and, especially, the life coach.

The method coach is the teacher, bringing a worthwhile curriculum and presenting it as well as he or she can in the short amount of lesson time available each week, helping make sure that students are clear about what to do between lessons.

It is there between lessons that the magic, the learning, really happens. And it is the life coach who is there for the student during those other 6 days, 23 hours and however many extra minutes that are left in the week. The life coach is therefore in a position to help make sure that the magic happens — and so the student’s success relies to a great extent on the participation and contributions of the life coach.

For children, a parent or guardian usually fills the life coach role. For adults, it is usually the students themselves who serve as their own life coaches. Either way, the role is an important one, and very distinct from the student role. Any students who cannot yet serve in the life coach role for themselves need someone else available to support them in maintaining their relationship with music — and to teach them, over time, how to self-coach. Students capable of being their own life coach benefit greatly from seeing themselves as taking on two separate roles and knowing when to put each hat on, since they will be better students as a result of coaching themselves well.

If you are the student reading these pieces, get as much as you can out of them. If you are also your own life coach, wear that hat as much as possible when you read here. And if you are someone else’s life coach, even though the writings may often seem to be directed at students, know that, until they can see themselves through, these pieces are far more for you than anyone else. The students in your charge still need you to help ensure that everything talked about here actually happens.

Here, then, are a number of questions. They are written, just as the Lesson Line usually is, from the perspective of the student. They are designed, though, to spark conversation between student and life coach — whether those roles are held by separate people or just one. Answering them provides an opportunity to evaluate how well the student’s learning process is being supported. Ask these questions regularly, always looking for both successes to celebrate and improvements to make. When there are areas to work on, don’t be daunted by however many there may be or however big they may seem. Break things down, working a little bit at a time, just as in learning a song or building a repertoire. Decades from now, whenever students play music, it will be the life coaches they have to thank for their success.

Questions for Practice

  • What is my weekly practice schedule?
  • Do I practice at the same time each day?
  • Do I practice every day?
  • Where do I practice and what is the set-up?
  • Do I practice new assignments the same day they are assigned?
  • Do I watch the DVD within 24 hours of my lesson?
  • Do I use all of the Student Home Materials (SHM) and all of the learning strategies when I practice?
  • Do I manage my practice routine daily by referring to my Notes book and marking my Playlist?
  • Am I “working the piano” most days of the week?
  • Do I take time with my repertoire songs to “play the piano” for pure enjoyment?
  • Do I keep my repertoire alive?
  • Does my life coach monitor and support my practice?
  • Do I play for others?
  • Do I sing when I play?
  • Do others sing or play when I play?
  • Do I improvise and compose my own songs regularly?

Questions for Lessons

  • Do I have all my materials ready for lesson?
  • Is my Playlist updated and opened to the current page, ready to be reviewed?
  • Am I ready to learn?
  • Am I supportive to my fellow classmate(s)?
  • Am I focused and actively observing when I am not at the piano?
  • Is my life coach actively observing and supporting my learning process at lesson time?

Questions for Life

  • What are the benefits of playing the piano?
  • How has playing the piano affected me?
  • How can I use my piano skills in the future?
  • How has being an active Simply Music student helped me in other areas of my life?
  • Am I learning mastery and self-discipline in general?
  • Do I enjoy playing the piano?
  • Do others enjoy my playing?
  • What’s the best part of learning Simply Music as a student?
  • What is my role as a student?
  • Do I understand the “long-term relationship”? Can I explain it?
  • What pays more, working at McDonald’s or teaching piano lessons?
  • Do I realize how many people want the opportunity I have?
  • Am I willing to put in the hours on the piano bench to be an accomplished pianist?

Next week, the ninth Lesson Line piece. These first nine pieces form a sort of primer for success with Simply Music piano lessons, and so I’ve put them out weekly to make them useful quickly. After the next piece, I’m going to switch to monthly Lesson Line updates. Hopefully that will give you some time to catch up on any of the primer pieces you may still need to read, and then it will make it easier for you to keep up in the future.

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