They say that the North American natives were taken by surprise, even though the towering masts of the Spaniards were on the horizon for nearly two days before they landed. It is thought they didn’t see the Spanish explorers’ ships because they had no concept of such a thing and that their brains literally did not process the input. This may be completely false: but it is designed to illustrate a cognitive phenomenon referred to as perceptual blindness.

As an instructor and ex-terrible student, I sometimes wonder how other teachers who were perhaps less recalcitrant as developing artists manage to craft approaches for struggling students. Not quite a rhetorical question, but I have noticed among several of my peers a kind of binary classification with their students: there are those who are going to do well, and those who should do something else. Is it like the anecdotal natives? Is it possible they can’t see the talent through the problem because they have no experience with it?

It’s a big question, but I ruminate about it from time to time. I should hope that it continues, though: many of my students are ejected from more prominent studios and come slum with me, only to discover that they are meant to be cellists, after all. I am surely not a finer cello teacher and am definitely a lesser cellist than the previous instructors: but perhaps the anecdotal approach is what sustains these students. If someone as hindered by obduracy, injury, and general jackassery as I am can stagger through the Bach Suites or Popper, there must be a way for them to, too.