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  • Writer's picturerhapsodydmb


Updated: Jun 4, 2023

I wonder if pianists of top calibur like Yuja Wang (pictured here at a March 2023 symphony where I heard her play Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto) when they were students, were ever told that they "needed to develop more self-confidence?" Or that it was their job to go develop it themselves, no matter what their teacher contributed to the diagnosis?

I've written about a former piano teacher who, in no uncertain words diagnosed my occasional from mild to severe frustration during lessons in part as "lack of self-confidence" and told me that confidence was my job to develop.

I felt sheepish -- me, a mature septgenarian of certain life accomplishments as I imagined it to be! Worse, early on in lessons with this teacher, after successful progress for a year with two other teachers, I occasionally wondered if I was a lost cause as a piano student and entertained the thought that maybe I couldn't learn how to improve my pianism.

This teacher offered other diagnoses as well, but none of them now seem true. I'm convinced it was unfair to jump to diagnosing me or my "problems" before asking me what was going on or realizing how they could trigger or contribute to such a perceived "lack."

Worse, the lack of self-confidence diagnosis

was apparently irrelevant.

A few months ago I first ran across the concept that self-confidence is not a good predictor of resilience, persistence, and learning, via the research of Stanford professor Carol Dweck. You can get a quick flavor of her remarkable results in her TED talks.

Another professor of psychology at the U. of Va seems to agree. Daniel T. Wllingham in the Sunday April 23, 2023 New York Times conducted research that showed "how misplaced student confidence was." He was studying memory, and those subjects who had the highest confidence level about their memory actually did worse in remembering! It's counterintuitive, but I am now convinced of it by these reputable researchers and their results.

Finding this research has led me to simply ignore the prior diagnosis and ignore my confidence level. I'm more into Dweck's "not yet" mentality, meaning I'm not yet there learning this or that technique, but I'll get there with diligent work, time, and the right options to try that might work!

Meantime I wonder how many other students are discouraged by ready diagnoses of their "problems" by misinformed or misguided piano teachers?

At least I won't be influenced by them from this teacher, because I've moved on.


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