Young violinists who grow into successful adult players do so because they have intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something because it is enjoyable and fun. Most violin students do not develop intrinsic motivation and, because of that, the vast majority end up quitting.
It takes a special environment to cultivate intrinsic motivation in young violinists. That environment is a team of 3 people -- the parent, teacher and community -- working together to meet 3 internal needs of the student over 5 stages of development. Today we’ll discuss the 3 internal needs.
Students need to feel Capable. That is, they need to feel competent, smart and effective. Teachers and parents can allow students to feel capable by letting them know that musical skills are due to time and effort and not innate ability. We allow students to feel capable by steering clear of perfectionism and by embracing our propensity to make mistakes as we learn. We can allow students to feel capable if we avoid comparing them to their peers or using competition as an indication of success.
Students need to feel Connected. They want a sense of belonging, a feeling that they matter. Teachers make students feel connected when they develop a trusting relationship with them that is not dependent on how they sound. Students feel connected when they develop friendships with other students. These friendships develop when they have shared experiences together, such as jams, performances, trips, rehearsals, camps, busking, or any number of activities that bring students together.
Finally, students need to feel that they have a Choice. They want to feel autonomous and to do things that they agree with and endorse. Students feel autonomy when they have a choice of songs or styles of music to learn. Students feel a sense of choice and autonomy when they are given permission to depart from an ‘exact’ way of playing something.
When these 3 needs are met by parents, teachers and the community over the 5 stages of development, a student is much more likely to enjoy playing music with others in all stages of their life.