Joseph, the student who could easily see the cello fingerboard in his head after hardly any practice, came to my studio when he was a high school junior. With only two years in which to influence him, I always felt like I was observing his talent more than I was teaching him.
I quickly learned that he had no idea how to practice. This is fairly normal, but when high school-aged students don’t know how to practice, it’s usually because they lack experience, coming to private cello lessons somewhat late in the game.
Joseph’s problem was different. He had no practice skills because he had no work or study habits of any kind. He clearly had a high IQ, and his teachers, fellow students, and parents knew it. He’d probably been ready for college-level work by his early teens, but had never skipped a grade. Once, when we were talking about his school experiences, he told me, “I can’t remember the last time I had to study for a test.”
That was when I saw a likely reason that he couldn’t buckle down and practice. More than eleven years of academic coasting had robbed him of his birthright to be challenged, and to struggle to master worthwhile concepts and skills.