An Inspiring Chinese Student

For the last couple of weeks I have been giving intensive lessons to a fourteen year old Chinese girl. She and her younger brother came over to Oxford from Taiwan to take part in a language school whilst their parents had their annual holiday! And this year, the parents decided that their eldest daughter should have piano lessons to prepare for a competition in August.

A part of me felt a bit concerned about what I could teach in that period of time. It is so tempting to see what doesn’t work and then want to undo everything, to rectify a technique that may not be serving them. But in two weeks it is not so easy, along with the fact that there was a competition looming. The parents had looked at my youtube videos and had decided that their daughter need what I call ‘core sound’ (see video 3 and 4.) Certainly she was physically very small and was struggling to make a big sound without feeling tired or achy in her hands and arms.So the first issue we tackled was sound.

She was desperately trying to get power through her hands (she was playing ‘Un sospiro’ by Liszt) but without harnessing the whole of her body, she was struggling. Along with this, she was stretching her hands a lot, in a way that meant she was dissipating power. We spent the whole lesson discussing the issues of making a good sound, getting power from the instrument even if you are small physically, and she understood! It was a total delight for me to have a student who not only has the phenomenal work ethic that the Chinese often seem to have, but also has such an openness and responsiveness to learning. She really got it!

The following day she came back having diligently practised in we had looked at the day before and it was there, integrated and fully understood. It meant that we could move so much further than I had expected. My reservations about teaching her for such a short period of time were unfounded. Her parents were happy with their daughters progress and in true Chinese style, wanted more lessons, even having one of them at 7am (no problem for her, but never again at that time for me!) The presents came flooding in – Chinese tea pots, Chinese mushrooms, a Chinese wallet, bag and more! They were so grateful and it meant so much to them. But it takes two to tango, and really she was wonderfully responsive.

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