I need your advice.

I have a teenage student who has not responded positively to any approach, though he is progressing as well as anyone who has a pulse and thrashes away at the instrument a few times a week. Part of the problem is attitude: he thinks he’s too cool. I ask him to listen to Shostakovich and he gives me, “Yeah, I kind of stopped listening because I got it already.” I suggest transcribing a rock song and his eyes roll back in his head. I cannot imagine ever doing anything like that to an instructor, though I did have moments of youthful arrogance that were perhaps more covert in expression but just as cringe-worthy in their ugliness.

The Emily of Olde with 40 students and a waiting list would have already sent him down to the minor leagues to study with an instructor who just needs experience. He’s not on a path that has music at the end of it, and certainly no cello. Maybe in time he’ll find the humility to bow his head and open his ears, but for now, I’m wondering what I can do to invest in him while I have him under my wing. His mother (an insightful, compelling and cosmopolitan woman) says he doesn’t get this kind of attention from any other teacher.

The facts:

1. He’s smart.

So he does things like memorize quickly and carelessly while remaining a little weak on academics and does not like bumping into things that do not come naturally. He’s quick with excuses and has yet to ask a question.

2. He’s impatient.

We can only attack an issue so many times before it becomes intractable. His mother says he has ADD. If so, it’s pretty mild. It could be an inner struggle that he is good at muting.

3. He is disengaged.

This is the tough one for me. He doesn’t seem to care whether he trainwrecks his way through a piece or hits each note. It’s all a big blah for him and the only emotion he has ever shown is slight discomfort when I called him on ignoring the assignments and requiring me to spoon feed him passages like a student of lesser aptitude in order to get through the lesson.

4. He doesn’t seem to like the cello or cello music.

I didn’t always like the cello, either. But by the time I had enough experience to breed contempt, it was a part of my life that was difficult to detach from. Quitting was not a viable option without making a serious mess of things. I gave him the option to stop lessons without penalty or personal offense and he punted. I’m just going to assume that our lessons are a vehicle for something else constructive. The question is what.


So I turn to you. I’ve tried a whole lot of approaches, activities and pep talks. Any suggestions to bolster the experience would be appreciated. I’m giving it until the summer. I do not have unlimited time or energy to dump into the void, so keep the suggestions to things that can be applied in the lessons or during his own practice during the week.

Let’s see if we can make things better for this guy, even if the cello is only the façade for the process. Thank you for your input.





Unimpressed rainbow-cloud from undisclosedstudio.