"Point your scroll at the music stand."
"No more peekaboo thumb!"
"It starts down bow."
"Do you hear a ringtone yet?"
"Wait for my signal!"
"What's the first thing you do after you finish your song in the recital?"
These are just some of the things I say until I'm blue in the face as a Suzuki violin teacher, week after week, lesson after lesson. But once in a while, you get a student who has a refreshing sense of work ethic and drive, and as a teacher it allows you to share the more interesting things about your craft, demonstrate how to think critically about the music, and in general enjoy this 30 minute stint of intellectual fresh air.
Such was the case with Sarah. I loved when it was time for her lesson, so I could turn off my broken record list of catch-phrases. She was a painfully shy ten year old who was polite to a fault, and exceptionally mature for her age. But she couldn't seem to let herself get excited or joyful about anything -- try as I might. She came from a beautiful family with two very supportive parents who were a pleasure to work with, and each week she came in with every goal accomplished that I'd listed in her homework book. We always made progress, and I loved that she had the mental capacity to appreciate the subtleties that most students couldn't handle me mentioning.
On that day, Sarah walked in looking as sharp as can be in her new romper. I'm sure I looked frazzled and burnt out from the lessons of lazy students that came before her. It was so good to see her.
We began her lesson with a bow, as per Suzuki tradition, and dove into the trio of Bach minuets towards the end of Suzuki Book 1. Learning to play in G major is a tricky transition for beginner violinists, as the standard first position fingering is slightly altered for the two highest strings. Most people already have an ear for it, as they instinctively know how a major scale should sound, and can correct mistakes even if they don't fully understand the mechanics yet.
We were deep in conversation about where in the minuets the altered fingering applied, and where it didn't, and why. I bent over the music stand to mark a reminder of where I needed her to use a low 2 finger, and when I turned back around to face her, Sarah was standing in a puddle on the floor.
"Oh! Was it raining...?" my voice trailed off as I scanned the room for an explanation. "Did you have water lodged in your shoes..."
Then I noticed droplets on her legs, and saw fluid seeping through the fabric between her thighs.
Sarah was just as surprised as me apparently, and was looking around on the floor in terror. She seemed to notice her legs were wet at the same instant as me, and she began to tremble.
"Would you like to use the bathroom?" I asked softly.
She nodded, blinking back tears, put her instrument down, then ran to the restroom.
I'd seen a lot of craziness in my day, but certainly didn't see this coming -- and definitely not from this particular student, who was so poised and mature for just being ten years old. I overcame my surprise when I realized I had a puddle of urine to deal with in the middle of my studio.
I notified the retail staff discreetly, and they set about cleaning it up, while I called her mom. Fortunately they were shopping just around the corner, and came to rescue Sarah from the bathroom in an instant.
At least 15 minutes passed before Sarah's mother convinced her mortified daughter to make a break for the car.
"I guess her jumpsuit was too difficult to take off so she avoided going to the bathroom all day..." her mother whispered as they shuffled past. "I think we'll just go home now." She was shielding Sarah's face.
"No worries, we'll see you next week!" I offered.
But I never saw Sarah again. Her mom communicated to me that she was still too embarrassed to attend her lesson the following week, but she never came around. Eventually her mother quietly discontinued her lessons.