The Playground

The Simply Music blog

Simply Music Student – Anna Hawkins

Found in: Simply Music Community

She was just like so many other young beginners in 2003 – shy, not sure of why she was there, not sure she wanted to be there but LOVED music and wanted to make some of it! She was a part of a new, non-traditional Australian piano method that promised immediate results and certain achievement in exchange for consistent practice and use of the materials. Her teacher was beginning her Simply Music experience as well and believed that Simply Music offered innovative ways to make music with the piano but didn’t have the experience to understand why and how it would happen. In many ways, the relationship between the “student” and “teacher” aligned with their relationship with Simply Music.

Anna Hawkins was accustomed to “non-traditional” thinking. Her mom and dad, both professionals in the medical field in Lexington, NC, home-schooled their children. She was expected to think independently and be responsible for the demands of home and school. At six years of age, she was the oldest of three siblings and mom was expecting the fourth. Her experience in a group Simply Music class was very similar to her home learning environment and she flourished. She came into class ready to “outshine” her classmates and loved the feeling of accomplishment that preparedness brought.

As the years passed, Anna’s parents could see her love of music being nurtured. However, her mom admitted that as a traditionally trained pianist, she secretly harbored concerns about the “playing vs. reading” question. And working with me, as a new teacher, we were all walking through the reading processes together in faith. Then, as Anna explains, “I don’t remember exactly when it (reading her music) “clicked” but it happened almost overnight!” Needless to say, we have been excited to watch this transformation as she has become an excellent reader and sight-reader.

Remember that shy, young lady? She was still shy about playing in front of a group, other than family or classmates, until she was twelve. Six years of playing the piano and still, she wouldn’t play in public! Then it happened. She and I were put together in a small church setting. I was the organist/pianist. Wouldn’t it be great if we played preludes/offertories together? Sure, she could do it…at least I thought so!   I (with a little persuasion from mom) convinced her to try and the rest is history. Today, we are together at a very large church and she regularly plays for funerals, weddings, special events, etc. and substitutes for ME! One day, the tables will turn and I will be HER substitute!

You know the old adage, if you love someone enough, sometimes you have to set them free? Two years ago, Anna’s mom and I had a tough conversation. I knew that I had taken my sweet, gifted young lady as far as my abilities allowed. I knew that if Anna was to get into college with a chance at scholarships to pursue her dream of working with advanced piano students, she needed someone with more background and credentials. We took a proposition to Anna. If she would consider moving to another teacher that would meet these needs, we would continue to get together and just PLAY! Tearfully, but with no regrets, the decision was made for her to begin lessons with Eugenia Carter, a highly respected teacher in Winston-Salem, NC. But not before Anna “auditioned” her!

Her mom recalled their first meeting with a twinkle in her eye. She said I would have loved the expression on Ms. Carter’s face when she was told about the Simply Music experience and Anna’s relatively short experience with reading versus her obvious level of ability. She was amazed at her ease at reading leger lines and depth of understanding rhythm and has since told me that she wanted to know more about the way Anna learned to play through SM.

Ms. Carter says that Anna came to her extremely well-prepared and exuded a love of music in her playing and attitude. That is for sure. But enough cannot be said about her work ethic. Her mom told me this week that Anna announced that she was “bored” and needed some new challenges – maybe some new competitions. She already, as the youngest in the most advanced category, won a very prestigious regional competition in Winston-Salem this spring and has attended two summer piano programs in Pensacola, FL and at Furman University. If given a choice, she will choose to play classical music as she loves the challenge of learning it and relishes in the beauty of the pieces. She considers the challenge of difficulty a “stress buster” and in a family which now consists of seven siblings, that can be a real benefit!

Anna believes that learning to play the piano could benefit families in so many ways, especially if it would become a substitute for television and computers! She believes that it is a great way to connect and can provide cohesiveness between family members. Just look at the evidence in this picture with sister, Sarah.

“My” Anna has a story that already has a happy ending – but there is more good to come of it, I am sure. At the very least, however, it is a story that validates so much of what we, as teachers and “life coaches” of Simply Music do. She is evidence that our efforts together are enriching and worthwhile and that Simply Music, as a method, is viable. Most of all, she validates all that is good about our relationships between our students and families. She continues to be a blessing in my life and will be a blessing to many yet unknown. For all of this, I am very grateful.