They Can Do It

by Dr. Mike Zachary

Recently, I was teaching a piano lesson to a young student who is just eight years old. I had just seen him successfully (a) conduct a 4/4 pattern with his right hand while, (b) tapping a given rhythm with his left hand while, (c) counting out loud, but, (d) only counting when there were notes to play, i.e., counting in his head, but not aloud, during rests, and (e) precisely lifting his left hand off the table when there was a rest to demonstrate that nothing was to be played at that moment.

Of course, this didn’t happen instantly. I had worked with him several weeks just to nail down a good ability for him to hold a steady pattern while he conducted. And we had been counting and clapping rhythms for quite awhile.

Nonetheless, this is a complex musical task for a child to pull off, but he did just fine. Sometimes, during a tricky passage that he was doing well, a little smile formed on his face. He was experiencing the joy of doing something well, something that was tough.

If you walked up to me and said, “Mike Zachary, what do you have to say about teaching children?” I would say, “Never underestimate what they can do.”


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