As I look forward to teaching private violin, viola, and guitar lessons through On Q Educational Consulting, I’ve thought about the many string students I taught in elementary, middle, high school, and college. I’ve developed many long-term relationships with these students, and I’m always delighted to hear how they are using music now. But I also remember the challenges (most of which were related to practicing). My students had good intentions, but life events often derailed their home practice schedule, and the excuses they gave made me want to pull my hair out or bust-up laughing. Here are 11 of my favorites in a format suitable for framing (if you can stomach it):

Yes, These are Real!

  1. My strings were really out-of-tune.
  2. I locked my instrument case and lost the key.
  3. My mother is pregnant and when she hears me practicing she gets nauseated. 
  4. My back hurts.
  5. I lost my cello.
  6. My cat threw-up on my etude book.
  7. I left my instrument at school and when I returned the building was demolished.
  8. I’m talented and don’t need to practice.
  9. I placed my music in the trunk of the car; then my dad sold the car with my music in it.
  10. My friend threw my violin over the schoolyard fence.
  11. Practice? Was I supposed to practice?

Despite their excuses, many of these students later saw the value of lessons and embraced the discipline of practicing! Here are three notable examples:

Excuse No. 4—given by a nine-year-old in a beginning string class. I thought she did have a back problem and pampered her until I saw her jumping up and down when she wanted to play games. She studied violin with me through high school and is now a professional violinist. She holds leadership positions in several orchestras, performs in a chamber group, and is a phenomenal violin and viola pedagogue. 

Excuse No. 6—given by a middle school student studying private violin lessons. When I heard this excuse, I didn’t believe him because it sounded like a musician’s version of, “the dog ate my homework.” However, when he placed his etude book on the stand, I saw the evidence of the “cat-splat” (dried-up of course) on the front cover, and from that point on I refused to touch any of his music. This former student is currently working on a master’s degree in music education and teaches choir, strings, and musical theater. I always call him for advice when I compose and work on musicals.  

Excuse No. 11—given by various students. (I hate to admit it, but I used this excuse myself when studying piano). One delightful student who gave me this excuse is now a successful businesswoman, plays music as a hobby, and is supporting her daughter through violin lessons. Of course, her daughter is giving her violin teacher the same excuses her mother gave me. So, “the fruit does not fall far from the tree” or better yet, “the horsehair does not travel far from the bridge.” (I had to throw in a little string humor for fun!)

Many other students now sing in church choirs, “jam” in a small instrumental groups, attend special concerts and musical events, console   themselves and others with music, and support their children in musical activities.  Excuses fall away with maturity but the value of music remains for a lifetime.

In future blogs, we’ll explore more on these concepts. Until then . . .

For parents, guardians, and caregivers who are thinking of buying an instrument and paying for lessons—do it! You will all benefit from the joy of learning and loving music.

For parents, guardians, and caregivers who are already supporting children through music lessons—you are the music teachers’ heroes! Thank you for your investment, and please keep involved with your children’s musical experiences.

For my fellow music educators and pedagogues—always teach with hope and see the potential in students, regardless of their creative excuses. Some will far exceed your expectations and others will find musical joy in their unique way. 

And for music students—music teachers love your creativity (and we do remember), practice the way your teacher asks of you. Most importantly: 

Enjoy and Love the Musical Journey, and You Will Find Your Musical Destination! 

P. S. I know others have creative excuses to share as well. What are they?

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