Growing pains

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Violinist and Ohio State University professor of music education Bob Gillespie has taught countless teenage string players. Here he explores adolescent character traits, and shares with teachers his valuable guide to dealing with adolescent moods and logic

I was at a loss to know how to motivate Jeremy. Yes, he was a very nice young teenager. He readily accepted instruction in his viola lessons. However, the progress in his playing was minimal from one week to the next. He said that he enjoyed playing the viola – he just did not like to practise. I tried to motivate him in all the ways I knew, but was not successful. Exasperated, I finally asked him one day if there was anything that would spur him to practise. He thought for a minute, as his mother (present) and I waited for a response. After a moment, he looked at me and said that he very much liked the cream puffs made by a well-known local bakery. He explained that having a cream puff as a weekly reward for practising would be ‘great’. His mother and I looked at each other. Could this possibly work? From here began the journey of successful practice – cream puff – successful practice – cream puff…

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