How do I handle transitions to group when things don’t click for the student, they move slowly, and they tend to be more insecure/needy?

Some kids will thrive in group lessons right away. For others, you’ll see their progress slow down when they transition from individual lessons to group lessons.

More often than not, it’s because of the change in independence level. They’re used to the attention and get a little lost when given a sense of independence in group.

For these students, you need to help them transition not only to the new lesson structure, but to a new level of independence until they’re able to thrive on their own.


Client: I think I’m feeling a little bit guilty. I’ve been doing … because I started some of my groups last spring.

And some of those kids … I mean, it clicked. They are doing so much better. But not everybody’s progressing faster. Some of them, in the transition over to group, they’re progressing way slower. Some of them I’ve bumped back a book. Probably I need to do that another time with a few more people, but … Yeah, some of those people where it’s just not quite clicking for them, they’re just not making progress. We’ve been on the same piece for too long and at what point do you just … ? I mean, at this point, I don’t have private openings anymore, so- Because everything’s taken.

Daniel: Tell me why they’re taking so long on the piece. Do you have a sense of what it is?

Client: Some of them are completely insecure. Like, I literally … I’m pointing … I’m like, “Do you need me to point to this finger number over this note? You just got it”. “Oh, I just wanted to be sure”. And they’re just so insecure, but I’m going to them time and again, because they put their card up and they’re either not ready to play, or they’re just second guessing themselves and just needy. So, it’s taking forever to pass things.

Daniel: Do you get the sense that they would have passed them faster in one-on-one lessons, honestly? Or were they moving that slow before?

Client: They’re moving slower than they were in one-on-one.

Daniel: They’re moving slower. Okay. But, I cannot remember if this is in the core training or if I just have told this story enough times that I’m getting self-conscious now, thinking that I’ve already said this, but there’s a story I think that’s really helpful.

There was a girl named Christy who used to take from me. She started with me, primer level, first page. For the first year, every time we had a new song, it’s like she had completely forgotten what a hand position was. Every time a new song, “How do I find the position for this?” “Uh, you see where it says, ‘one on blank’? You fill that in”. She was like Dory. What is going on? And I just kept riding her and just kept on her case. And I’ll admit, I maybe got a little too sharp with her sometimes. And I would look her right in the face, this eight- or nine-year-old, and say something like, “Watch my finger”. And I would go down to the page. I’d say, “What number is that?” “One”. “Okay. What letter is that?” “C”. After she spent 10 seconds thinking about what Middle C was. And I’d say, “Put your one on C” and she did it. It’s like, “Did you need me to point to figure all that out? I didn’t give you any answers. I just asked you what they were”.

I did that same thing with her for probably three straight months, literally saying the same thing. I was like, “I want you to remember this, because the next time you have a song that has this, you don’t need me. You are smart enough to get this on your own”. One week she comes in, and she didn’t ask me. Just whole hour, she got all the new songs. Next week she came. For a solid year we did that and then finally it clicked. I don’t know. She was old enough at that point … Because again, she came in and she was seven or eight. That’s usually older than a child that needs that kind of hand-holding. She was really good at sports. It wasn’t like she was this whiny, needy kid in other domains. It was so interesting, but then it just finally clicked for her.

So, some kids just need that. And, like I said, I probably got a little too sharp with her sometimes. That’s on me, but I never got the sense that she … I think what was so infuriating about it was that she would finish it and she would just be so happy-go-lucky like, “Okay, thank you”. Like that. I’m tearing my hair out. It takes a lot for a kid to get through my patience like that, but man, she did it. So, I don’t know if that’s helpful or not, but sometimes those kids just happen and what I would say to you …

And Eric, to answer your question about transfers … Or maybe Anna, it was you about the transfers. I can’t remember which of you mentioned that, but I have found that the kids that have the most trouble are transfers from other studios, or kids that are transferring over internally from private to group. It’s just so rare to find kids who were started in the group way to have trouble with this, because you can build the foundation right from the very beginning where they understand that they’re going to have large amounts of unstructured time inside the lesson for them to get it. And it’s just like, when they grow up in that environment, it makes them more independent. And I just think … Kids are just so cod … Oh, boy. Man, if this isn’t the epitome of “You darn kids!” I must be getting older, but kids are just so coddled nowadays. Helicopter parenting, all this stuff. I think kids just aren’t used to adults giving them freedom. And when they’re given that freedom, kids just react in really strange ways and it’s just …

Our job is to hold that space for them, provide structure according to what the child needs, and then let them thrive inside that structure in the group lesson. And for some kids, that means just letting them go for 45 minutes. And then I finally come over and bother them and they’ve just done incredible work in that 45 minutes. And I get the sense that if I come over too often, they’re a little bit flustered. They may be a little bit more shy, or introverted, and they don’t want that attention. And then there’s the other kids. And you need to be something different for each one of those.

I love seeing kids thrive at taking ownership in small doses, from the beginning, and then increasingly larger doses over time, inside the group lesson of getting the music on their own and having that pride of accomplishment that, “Mom didn’t do it for me. Dad didn’t do it for me. The teacher didn’t do it. I got this line”. And over time, I just gave them a longer and longer leash for them to explore on their own and they could get it. There’s just something really special and unique about that. Giving that child that opportunity. And then, the cool thing being that they still get through their books faster, because they’re with us longer. So, anyway, maybe I went a little bit overboard there, but that’s how I would handle that aspect as well.

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