One of my students came back this week with her little Christmas piece she’d been ‘practising’ littered with note errors. I asked her how she thought it went afterwards before pointing any of them out and she immediately said “great!”. Pause. “Well, actually some parts didn’t sound right to me at all, but my family just kept telling me how Absolutely Amazing it sounded”. Longer pause while she frowned. “Doesn’t say a lot about the musical ability of my family does it?”
The above is reposted from the teachers' forum. When I first read it, I laughed out loud and thought it was so good that I was about to post it in the "My favourite post of the day" thread.
Then I got to thinking about it, and remembered how my family react when I play something to them. The general advice is to play in front of people as much as possible to get confidence. I don't have any confidence playing to people, and actually my family are no help at all and so I don't play for them any more. One relative (a non-musician) pointed out that I'd played a wrong note and suggested how I could improve it (yes, thank you, I already have a teacher and no-one knows better than me that it wasn't perfect). Another didn't comment at all - there was just silence after I'd finished so I guess it didn't go down very well. I've blotted the other instances out of my mind but the result is that I don't play for my family any more because they do the opposite to building up my confidence. None of them are musicians, I might add.
So what IS the role of family when listening to a learner play - and does it make a difference whether it's a child or an adult?