New Students and Specific Goals

I have always been blessed with excited, dedicated and bright music students. This year is no exception. There are three new students meeting with me weekly, and they are each launching into the year with high energy and creative spirit.

GoalImageThinking back on first lessons with teachers from my early years, they listened to something I had prepared, then asked me to sight-read a piece and maybe improvise a bit, then prescribed the next week’s work.  I don’t remember ever discussing long-term goals – until my second year at Berklee when I started studying with Joe Viola. Before I played my first note he asked, “What do you want to do with this music stuff? Where do you want all this work to take you?”

WOW! That was an eye-opener. I did have goals, but had never thought to discuss them with a mentor. Considering goals led to a critical look at strengths and challenges, how time would be best used in each practice session, a list of people I should be familiar with, listen to and/or meet in person. It gave me a meaningful way to keep track of my progress.

Maybe the most important result of sharing my goals is that they became real. Just a nod of the head from Joe and what had been vague dreams instantly became tightly focused objectives.

It is always a joy to learn what motivates a student. Measuring progress against their passion helps propel their learning and deepen their artistry. One student has her eyes on district and state honors band contests. Another has college auditions on his mind. Another seeks fluency recognizing chord progressions and improvising confidently, eventually leading to a recording career. Recognizing, validating and supporting these goals is, to me, one of the greatest joys of teaching.



  1. You are so right Scott. It wasn’t until I was an the NC School of the Arts that I got asked that question. My teacher asked me where I was going with this. I had to decide. Musicians rarely set a goal down the road. We focus on the short term improvements. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years? I often ask students, “What do you wish you could do?”

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