The Practice Police


Anne Sullivan taught music theory and ear training at the Curtis Institute of Music from 1982–2002. She teaches harp at the University of Delaware and helps harpists find harp happiness at

How to handle students who don’t practice enough

Student Scenario #1: My student came for her lesson this week and she hadn’t practiced again. This has been happening more often lately. She always has a reason—the school play, exams, homework, sports—but why should her harp always get the short end of the stick? How can I impress upon her that she won’t make progress if she doesn’t practice?

Student Scenario #2: I have a student who has had exactly the same lesson three weeks in a row. We are working on exactly the same things and fixing the same mistakes in the same places. He seems really interested during the lesson and eager to learn. He seems to like playing the harp. He tells me that he is practicing, but it’s obvious that whatever he’s doing, he’s not getting the right results. I write down precise instructions of what and how to practice in his lesson book, but it doesn’t seem to help. I feel like I’m totally wasting my time and his parents’ money. What should I do?

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