Connecticut Shoreline Studio for Music Lessons
in Voice, Piano, Guitar & the Fundamentals of Music

All Skill Levels Welcome, Ages 4 -104

Connecticut Shoreline Studio for Music Lessons
in Voice, Piano, Guitar & the Fundamentals of Music

Clef Notes

How to Be A More Effective Student

Expectation | LET IT GO

Expectation is where everything starts to go wrong. Expectation is the death of acceptance. When we were tiny, our brains were ready to accept lots of new information, AND we didn’t expect to know anything, so we were able to accept what was coming to us.

I would even say that the more competent and intelligent we feel, the more difficult learning becomes. Once we start to get a little knowledge under our belts, we think we should be in possession of certain facts or abilities. And when we’re in a class, and we’re trying something new, instead of the relaxed, alert, happy learning state of a small child, we’re afraid of looking stupid. We’re afraid to ask questions — which are the formalized classroom version of baby & toddler exploration. The fear of looking stupid, to ourselves — but especially in front of others, is scary, which brings me to…

Amygdala | SCIENCE

The amygdala is a part of the brain involved in fear — our fight or flight response. When we’re trying to learn and we encounter something unfamiliar — for me when I see ties in a score I feel like I’m going to pass out — that’s amygdala! If you go there, you are NOT learning nor are you capable of absorbing anything. Although it may seem ridiculous that you’re freaking out about clapping a rhythm with ties, the amygdala will prevent you from learning until you can get back to a feeling of safety. So, why are ties scary? Will they bite me or turn my brain to mush or stab me in the ear? No! But when I don’t know how to do something — or I even think I don’t know — and I’m supposed to do it, it feels as if I’m in front of a roaring bear, and the task has to be DONE DONE DONE DONE!!!! If I’m in front of a group, even more so — Amygdala!!! Don’t try to learn while it’s on fire — you won’t.

Relax & Engage | BABIES & TODDLERS

If we could simply relax in our learning environments — Zooms, classrooms, lecture halls, practicums — we would absorb so much more. For those of you who like to go to class from your bed, that’s not what I mean.

You can be engaged in what you are doing and still be relaxed — watch babies or toddlers as they approach new tasks and objects — which is everything in their world! They are relaxed in their attitude (not anxious), and they are absorbed in their tasks (fully-engaged and exploring).


You don’t need to take Yoga to be a better student. But after studying Yoga for many years in various forms, I’ve learned a few things — specifically that we are all students forever — even the masters. This means waking up every day curious and open — never shut off and without the need to be an expert! How cool is that? There is endless learning available, and no one person retains all knowledge or experience, so exploration and curiosity are necessary.

The same applies to music, folks — it is a limitless universe for you to explore. In our pursuit of music as a performance art, sometimes we forget the exploration and learning because we’re trying to be experts. When we try to be experts, we stop learning!


The Music Loft is set up for you to learn in a fun, productive, interactive environment. You’re doing this because you like or love music and want to learn more. So, if you find yourself gnashing your teeth when it’s time to practice or study, see if you can remember what it is you love about music, remove any fear, Lighten your heart, and THEN get to studying, singing and playing!

9 thoughts on “How to Be A More Effective Student”

  1. I’ve been teaching for 35 years and all of what Kirsten wrote is so relevant … to all students no matter what we’re trying to learn. The amygdala is my special speed bump. Thanks for the insights Kirsten.

    • Thank you, Brian! I continue to struggle with this every day. By the way, you were the first person to tell me about the over-relaxation of “going to class from bed,” which other people have since told me me is very common.


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