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Pauline Lerner

March 2, 2005 at 8:00 AM

Oh, boy, I'm still sick, although the antibiotic is starting to work. I spent most of the day today hunched over my keyboard, trying desperately to avoid doing anything because I felt so bad. I briefly considered cancelling the two lessons I had scheduled for this afternoon. I decided not to because I'm superstitious. The only time I've cancelled lessons at the last minute was several years ago. It was Thursday and I had two students scheduled. The following Saturday, I was admitted to the hospital after a visit to the emergency room. No, it wasn't the flu.

Actually, I had an additional and more positive reason for not cancelling my lessons today. I knew I'd feel better after teaching. I always do, and I did today. My first lesson went well largely because of a new beginner book I just bought, "Fiddle Magic. 180 Technical Exercises for the Violin," by Sally O'Reilly. It's a fun book, and my students react to the exercises as if they're playing games. Each exercise is only one or two lines long, and they can each be repeated on different strings. A lot of them teach coordination or independence of different movements, something like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Most of my students have a hard time when they first encounter slurs, but they love to play the slur exercises. You start with a simple pattern of notes (wannabe scales), like A-B-C#-D-D-C#-B-A on the A string. First you play each note with a separate bow stroke, then slur two notes, and then four notes. Another one for practicing bowing is played with open strings only, but with a single string, then a double stop, then a single string, etc. One little girl thought this was very funny because, when she first started to play, she'd often play two strings at once by mistake. For string crossings, you simply play the four open strings in sequence (G-D-A-E-E-A-D-G), first with separate bows, then with four notes slurred. One exercise is called "shivering," and consists mainly of the pattern A-B-A-B-A-B-A played quickly. This one has the advantage that it looks complicated in writing, with so many tails on the notes. This book is one small step on the long and winding road to the Kreutzer etudes, Galamian scales, and others.

My second student made me happy in a different way. Suddenly, he's got it! It's like the time at which a bunch of motor skills work and you can finally ride a bicycle. Suddenly, things he had struggled to do were just working. He sounded really good. I wish I could say that this happened because he practiced hard. On the contrary, he was sick with a fever and didn't practice for almost a week. I hope he retains his new found skills. I've started gathering more difficult pieces for him to learn. I'll be so happy when he learns to play some of the little pieces from Anna Magdalena Book. Playing those was one of the joys of my own childhood.

Maybe good experiences like these will help me recover from my illness more quickly.

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