Forget Your Flute Music? GOOD!

I’m not really one to judge and I empathize to a fault. I make an effort daily to keep my own biases and opinions out of my lessons because as a teacher, it’s important that I am able to evaluate every student as if it’s the first time I’ve seen them.

Flute Players
Without this outlook, every lesson becomes an exercise in predetermination. The teacher expects an outcome and the student fulfills the teacher’s preconception whether or not the teacher is right. During private flute lessons in home, it is important, that the teacher remain open. This is why the phrase, “I forgot my flute music,” is so disturbing to a teacher who has resolved to maintain this understanding and patient attitude.

Now, what kind of response is appropriate for a teacher when their student has forgotten their music? I haven’t found the answer, but there are a lot of factors in play which will
affect the teacher’s response. Has the student forgotten their flute music before? Have they forgotten their music multiple times? Is the forgotten music the least of the teacher’s worries for this particular student? These are all things that the teacher will surely take into account. I’m sure we all think the same thing: wow is it annoying when a student forgets all their music, especially if it is a repeat offense.
My teacherly response is sometimes: “Now Luke, what happens in math class if you forget your book which incidentally had your homework in it?” Not much they can say to that huh? For some reason, students somehow think of music lessons as a totally different learning experience than their school classes. In private flute lessons in home in Houston, I know my most common response to my students and their lost music, is: “Why?” as if I’m going to get a response that satisfies me.
There is an Upside

As much as it may irritate the teacher, a student losing, or misplacing, or forgetting their music, is a blessing in disguise. “Oh, you forgot your region etudes did you? Guess we’ll just have to play through my long tone exercises that I’ve been trying to get you to practice for the last six months.” Yes! There is an upside. When a student forgets her music, suddenly there is an opening for the teacher. Aside from the band, orchestra, region, recital, UIL, and TMEA music a student may insist needs urgent attention, the teacher longs to work on the material which she knows is more important.
So when a student comes into a lesson with those electric words, with that look of adolescent shame, a teacher shouldn’t fret, for that student has done something which could lead to a productive lesson. The teacher needs only to get past that knee-jerk reaction of irritation to see that a student forgetting their music is an opportunity, not a black hole of musical learning. During private flute lessons in home, as long as the
flute is there, everything will be relatively all right.
Making the best of It
As with most things, it seems to me that it’s all about making the best of a given situation. The student just had braces put in, sure that’s going to be rough. The student forgot the head joint to the flute, not going to work. The student broke their arm skateboarding, maybe flute isn’t the best right now. But a student forgetting their music- not so bad now that I think about it. We should all change our tunes about forgotten music. If I were to say “You did? Awesome! Let’s get to work on the good stuff” next time in response to the 4 dreaded words, what could potentially happen?
Optimistically, I’m thinking that the student could learn from my positive reaction that forgetting music totally fine, which could lead to more and more forgotten music, which could lead to a lot of uninterrupted scales and long tone practice, which could lead to a
really solid young musician. Actually, that sounds pretty good to me. Please forget your music!

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