Breaking Down Emotional Walls of My Music Student

He Walked Into My Piano Lab And Into My Heart

He walked in to my piano class one beautiful spring morning, took a seat at the most isolated area of the room and carefully looked at the keyboard placed in front of him. The class was full except for the three empty, lonely looking benches and the accompanying piano keyboards in the rear of the room. His extra-long legs and dangling arms made him appear uncomfortable in the student - size seat. The brightness of the sun beaming against the window bounced off of his long, straight mane falling below his broad shoulders and jealous of the competing brightness of his deep blue eyes.

I glanced down at my attendance list, wondering which student held his name. I soon learned that his name was Jay. He looked more like a Richard, or David - a strong biblical name. Little did I know that through his weakness I would learn a lesson about breaking down emotional walls of my music student.

Evaluating Piano Performance

With my class in progress the first hour passed quickly. Now it was time for me to evaluate and rate students according to their piano performance. This is always something I look forward to. What piano piece will the pianist select? What is the level of technique? How confident is the student? Am I moved by the expressive interpretation? Which composer appeals to the student?

One by one each member of my class took turns demonstrating their musical ability at the piano. Jay was the last one to step up to the large grand piano. He sat down on the artists bench, moving it back to give his long legs and arms room to explore the full width of the piano keyboard. He paused, took a deep breath and leaning into the piano began to play.

The room became absolutely still. Not a sound could be heard as the young artist easily and automatically ran his long sturdy fingers over the keys, unlocking the mysteries of the great composer, Franz Liszt. Passages, so difficult and at such a speed one could not keep up with the flying fingers scanning the most impossible arrangement of notes ever composed. His fingers grew wings and eagerly conquered each phrase, mastering the acrobatic challenges then finally coming to rest as the final notes were played.

Complete silence followed. Jay sat still for a moment to allow himself to "come back to earth" and join humanity. Then he stood up with his eyes looking at the floor as if he had done something wrong. As he began to return to his place, the class slowly stood up one-by-one clapping their hands in unity at what they had just witnessed. Tears filled my eyes as well as those of others in the room who recognized that what was just heard was something they would never hear again. Jay remained unaffected by it all. But I, his teacher, had a problem with his stunning performance.

My Grand Piano

Jay gave life to each key he played - he and the piano were one in the same.
Jay gave life to each key he played - he and the piano were one in the same. | Source

The Boy With No Emotion and Franz Liszt Hands - Blocking His Feelings

" When music transports us to the threshold of ecstacy, we behave almost like drug addicts as we listen again and again. What's happening in music that drives us right out of our skins? Why is some music "emotional", and some music "intellectual"? And how is it that sound can give us pleasure we seem to feel in our bodies? " ~ Robert Jourdain, Author of Music, the Brain, and Ecstacy.

Jay played the piano brilliantly, flawlessly. but void of all emotion, robbing the listener of his own emotional experience. Where was the passion? Was it possible that the same young man who dazzled me with his dexterity and perfection of some of the most difficult piano passages ever written was completely void of all emotion? No, I told myself . . . it's there somewhere and I aim to do whatever it takes to tap into his feelings. And when I do, I will teach him to free every emotion and like a great painter, use the piano keys as his pallate of colors.

As my class came to a close I approached Jay and asked to meet with him in one of the small music practice rooms. I gathered up four bench cushions, a few small books and a box of tissues. We entered the small room and I commanded Jay to sit at the piano and play a short excerpt from his former performance.

Again, his playing was perfect. I instructed him to repeat the same parts but this time play the passages as 'tho he were angry. His music became louder. "And how would it sound if you were sad"? He dutifully played softer. He wasn't getting it. He just could not feel it. Then I chose a much easier passage to play to demonstrate how to play with feeling. "Can you hear the difference" ? , I asked him. He said he could. "Are you able to imitate what I just did "? " No", he softly replied. "Can you meet me here again tomorrow"? "Yes" his soft voice replied.

Breaking Down Emotional Walls to Free Feelings of Truth
Breaking Down Emotional Walls to Free Feelings of Truth | Source

Breaking The Barrier To Emotions

Individuals block feelings for different reasons. Some emotions are buried deep beneath a surface of well-being. Other feelings are intentionally hidden - reserved and safe. I am not a Doctor nor am I an authority on this subject. I share, only what I observe, learn, study and experience. Sometimes, when I give all my love and energy to a student, I know that I receive inspiration from a higher power because the results are so amazing.

This is exactly what happened with Jay. I took him through a series of exercises to help him discover his feelings. The progress was slow starting. I asked him a few questions such as:

  • Do you ever cry? "No".
  • Do you every get angry? "No".
  • What makes you happy? "Music...playing the piano and listening to Classical music". "Liszt is my favorite composer. I listen to "Un Sospiro" to go to sleep at night".
  • Are you ever afraid? "Yes".
  • Are you afraid now? "A little".

Breaking through the barriers -

I continued with spontaneous exercises, leading him to talk about himself. Finally, I learned that he had a dog. He loved his dog. That gave me an opening. "How do you know you love your dog..." ? "How would you feel if someone hurt your dog"? "Angry", Jay didn't hesitate. I told him to show me how angry he would be. I handed him a small book and told him to throw it across the room. He heaved it hard. He felt anger. Now all I had to do was get him to play the right passage of music, feeling that exact same anger. It worked.

I then, took him through a list of feelings using similar techniques. He responded and was able to color his music with a variety of emotions. All, but one.

Caress the keys -

I teach my students to "caress" the piano keys to induce a beautiful lingering sound. This was the one very important touch he lacked when playing. It involves weight distribution and extreme relaxation in every finger as the pad connect one note to the next. After 20 minutes of trying everything I could think of and failing at the attempt - an idea sprang to my mind.

I wanted the room as dark as possible, but still with just a bit of light. I lit a candle, turned out the light and began my experiment. I placed two cushions on the floor, facing each other and directed him to sit on one and I sat on the other. Sitting indian-style and facing each other with the knees almost touching, I told him to breathe deeply and to close his eyes.

I proceeded to take his right hand and began to gently but warmly hold it in mine. Then I commanded him, in a soothing and safe voice, to "let go of all memories of pain, hurt, fear and loneliness". I encouraged him to empty his mind and conentrate on only the touching. He was to take as much time as he needed. I would not leave him and would stay as long as it took.

After holding his right hand for a while, I switched to the left hand. His body began to shiver...I continued to hold his hand. I took some deep breathes and he followed my lead. The shivering ceased. I told him he could open his eyes when he was ready. It wasn't long before his large blue eyes were open and looking downward.

After a few minutes, I told him to look at me. He hesitated and I thought that I had failed him again. Then it happened. He slowly lifted his chin and looked right into my eyes. "Jay - let it go sweet boy". Tears began to well-up in his eyes. I smiled with approval at him. The tears began to roll down his cheeks. I handed him a tissue. He began to bite his lower lip to control what was happening inside of him.

The discovering of emotions -

The tears continued and with it came whimpering. Something admonished me to change my position on the floor and I found myself cradeling him in my arms and stroking his hair. Now his whimpering turned into deep sobs of release. I rocked him back and forth, like a baby being cuddled by it's mother. When he finished discovering his emotions the room was quiet and a sense of peace was powerfully felt.

I told him to go to the piano and touch the keys with all the sensitivity and passion he was still feeling. He began playing. It was as if the "angel of music" had entered his body. What deliberat and magnificent interpretation came from this young man. I was astonished. Now it was my turn to experience my own wonderful emotions.

Jay had never experienced a gentle, warm and loving touch until he felt my touch. Imagine!It takes so little to help someone feel so much. Jay received a full scholarship to " The Eastman School of Music".

Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York
Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York | Source

Composer, Pianist, Virtuoso, Franz Lizst

Franz Liszt became renowned throughout Europe during the 19th century for his great skill as a performer. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. He was also an important and influential composer, a notable piano teacher, a conductor who contributed significantly to the modern development of the art, and a benefactor to other composers. For further information on Liszt, visit Wikipedia

Franz Liszt

A markerRaiding, Hungary -
Raiding, Austria
[get directions]

Birthplace of Franz Liszt - Composer of enormous influence and originality during the 'Romantic Movement.' October 27 1811 - July 31, 1886

Jay's Favorite Classical Piece

Owning Your Own Feelings

There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion ~ Carl Gustav Jung(1875-1961) Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist

Feelings must not be judged. . .they just are. I learned this profound and insightful lesson in a therapy session. Doctor Mary was in a class all her own. She taught me the fultility of blame and the freedom that comes with taking responsibility. I learned that feelings are healthy - that they are neither good or bad.

All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own.~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe(1749-1832) Learn to own your own feelings. Don't be afraid to feel. If the feeling of anger comes up, thank it for visiting then give it permission to leave. When I have a feeling of peace, I thank it, ask it to stay awhile and come back often. It is not necessary to question your feelings and emotions. Your feelings are not you. They do not identify who you are.

The Story of Two Wolves

The following old parable illustrates the importance of staying in the "solution" rather than focusing to strongly on the problem.

An older Cherokee man is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he says to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.


One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, selfishness, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.


The other is good. He is love, joy, peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.


This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person." The grandson thinks about it for a minute and then asks his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"


The old Cherokee replies, "The one you feed."

~ courtesy of http://www.addictionz.com/feelings_and_emotions.htm

Source

© 2011 Audrey Hunt

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Comments 29 comments

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Your story offers grace and beauty and wonder. Your gifts are many.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Very touching. I'm happy for Jay.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

mckbirdbks - Your comments have touched my heart and lifts my spirit. Thank you deeply.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Robwrite - Yes, I am happy for him too. We had several sessions together. I did whatever I felt would work to teach him to release his passion. Thanks. :)


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Audrey, you were much more that a piano coach that day with Jay. You were his saviour. Your description of the 'good wolf' - love, joy, peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith' - that is you, my dear. God bless.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

drbj - My heart is so full and my eyes filled with tears. I so much want to be all that you feel that I am. You give me a platform for achievement with the inspiring "paths to righteousness" you so kindly leave with me. Thank you for being an instrument in my life...for your support, generosity and love. I am humbled...


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

HP has once again neglected me to send an e-mail with a list of hubs by my favorites authors (another glitch), so I have to go prospecting yet again.

You are a marvel! My mother was a musician, but also a music teacher as well. Your technique, caring, perception, grace and professionalism remind me of her. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.


Irenebonjour profile image

Irenebonjour 5 years ago from MA, USA

I LOVE FRANZ LISZT!!! i especially like "la leggerezza"!! :)

great hub!! check out mine, too :)


michaelarnuco profile image

michaelarnuco 5 years ago from 239 kilometer 5 Pasonanca Zamboanga City, Philippines 7000

i do get, that some kids with these age are in terms battle within their self esteem. Its a part of the growth of a human. And its a psychosocial pattern which we might look upon ourselves. thirsty no more http://hubpages.com/health/Tired-of-Exercising-Don...


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Irene - OK. We are friends forever, connected by Liszt!

Now, I'm visiting your hubs. Thanks. :)vocalcoach


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

I played that exquisite selection as I read the article and both are simply divine. You are gifted, Vocalcoach and we are so blessed as was your student to be able to learn from and share your talent.

voted up/useful, awesome and beautiful.


erinb62 profile image

erinb62 5 years ago from Laconia, NH

This is just amazing. I myself play piano, and my inspiration has come from great pianists like Jay. Thank you for visiting my hubs, I am going to try to read more and more of yours!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

This Hub is a testimony to the bondage of isolation and hiding (even within our own mind and emotions)and the power of love. Freedom and love open doors to areas formerly unknown and unimagined. You are a brave and blessed woman and I will look for Jay to be a world renowned success.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you, vocalcoach, for sharing such a wonderful part of your life. You are so gifted.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

Isn't it amazing how we don't allow ourselves to acknowledge and cherish our feelings? When we do it is so liberating. You clearly did a wonderful thing for Jay. Now I just wish that I could have had a piano teacher like you - maybe I would have gotten a bit further than I did.

Still I am grateful every day for the wonder of music. And it is people like you who understand its deep human meaning and are able to share that understanding with others who will keep the joy of it alive for us all. Thank you.

Love and peace

Tony


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

tonymac - Your heart-felt, supportive comments have touched me so deeply. When I think of music, I often think of you. I was recently watching the DVD "Finding Beethoven" - at least I think that is the title - and found myself thinking how much you would appreciate this fine work.

I find it exhilarating to share the masters of music, such as Beethoven with those who are passionate about these geniuses. All my life, I have searched for people like you, tony. Thank you for being here on wonderful hubpages. Thank you for your kind and very meaningful remarks. My heart is filled!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

hello, hello - I always appreciate your nice comments and thank you so much.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Hyphenbird - Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my hub. You continually add excellent thoughts that complete hubs. You are a remarkable, wonderful, supportive person which is clearly revealed in your excellent and very well written articles. You just amaze me!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

erinb62 - I appreciate your wonderful comments so very much. Thank you for your visit.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

michaelarnuco - Thanks for the link. Appreciate that as well as you comments.


Mekenzie profile image

Mekenzie 4 years ago from Michigan

Dear Lady, This is one of the most beautiful hubs I have ever read. You have many gifts and insights. I know God has used you to touch many lives. Your writing is exquisite -I reveled in the passion of the words which came from your heart.

God Bless you!

Mekenzie


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

What an amazing story Audrey - very moving and Jay was fortunate to find you in his life.


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

As a pianist myself, I cannot imagine playing any piece without any emotion at all.

This was a very moving, emotional Hub. I enjoyed the videos very much. I admire you for all the work you have done to bring music to people. How could we live with no music?

I voted this Hub UP, etc.etc and will share.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Thanks Jools ~ Jay was absolutely a magnificent pianist! I learned much from him on how to bring out emotional feelings.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 3 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

Dear Mary - Oh, how I agree with you. To play the piano without feeling is to kill the very heart of music. And I too can't imagine a life without music. I would just love to play a piano duet with you Mary!

Thank you for voting up and more and for sharing.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

This is a beautiful story and so heart warming. If we just take the time, we can help people to break the emotional barriers.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

teaches12345 - You, as a teacher I admire more than anyone, practices this regularly. Thank you so much. Happy days to you.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

What a beautiful story! Truly moving and emotional. That' s the job of a teacher--to transform lives with tender care, concern and commitment.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful hub!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 2 years ago from Nashville Tn. Author

ChitrangadaSharan - I'm glad you read this my friend. I was hoping you would. I respect you both as a person and a writer. Sending beautiful thoughts your way. Audrey

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