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Laurie Trlak

Moving Forward

May 5, 2010 at 10:18 AM

Comes a time when we have to decide to end old associations, or as Thomas Jefferson wrote In the Declaration of Independence, "...dissolve the (political) bands that have connected them with another..."

In my case, I had to make the decision to leave a teacher with whom I had spent several years, for whom I had a great deal of respect, and to whom I felt I owed a great deal. But as I was no longer learning from him, whether his fault or mine, the relationship was no longer productive, and so after a great deal of soul-searching, a particularly bad lesson, and more than a few tears, I made the decision to find a new teacher.

I admit that I have not always been the best student. I am, at times, lazy.  Practice takes a back seat to other concerns in my life - not just the ordinary concerns of a wife, mother and grandmother,  but also a woman with MS who is determined to live life and do more than spend it closeted with her violin!

Therein, I think, lay the problem. I tried a number of times to explain to my teacher the limitations imposed on me by MS - the lack of balance, the impaired ability to judge distances accurately which is so important for shifting, the difficulty coordinating and controlling my hand movements. He seemed to lose patience with me, not willing or able to accept that some things take me longer to be able to do because of these problems. I'll grant that perhaps I used them as an excuse not to try as hard as I might have otherwise - but my inability to execute them as perfectly as he demanded was no less real.

After accusing me of fighting him every step of the way, of challenging him, of disrespecting him, and telling me what a horrible student I am ( I left in tears) I decided that our student-teacher relationship was no longer beneficial for either of us.

It's been a huge relief. I had grown to dread my Wednesday lessons, where I had always looked forward to them. Practice had become a grind,as I always wondered if I was covering the right material to suit him for the coming week; was I focusing on the right thing? Repertoire? Scales? Etudes? What would he want to cover the most next week? I could never be sure. If I guessed wrong...the lessons themselves were torture as he would stop me every few notes with a new criticism, coming so rapid-fire that I couldn't keep up with all that he was telling me, and he wouldn't let me write it down. He was frustrated that I wasn't making the progress he expected of me, but I was never very clear just what he did expect.

I have a new teacher now (I didn't think I'd find one so quickly). And I will be playing in two weeks for my local chapter of the National Federation of Music Clubs with my old teacher, my first teacher. She hadn't heard me play in years, and at our rehearsal last weekend, she was really impressed. We're playing the first movement of the Bach Double. I was really glad to hear her say that, because she is a really good violinist - did her undergrad at Rutgers, her Master's at Ball State under Neil Weintrob (formerly of the American Piano Trio, who has recorded for the Musical Heritage Society).

My new teacher is wonderful and I am very comfortable with her. She is a graduate of CCM and is very positive, very good. My confidence is coming back, and I feel I can move forward at last. Spring is here!

 


From Tom Holzman
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Good luck with the new teacher!  With your particular limitations and needs, you need a special teacher.  Hope this one works out.


From Joyce Lin
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Good luck, Laurie! Hope your new teacher is a right fit for you.

With regard to keeping up with all the things your teacher tells you (if it's still a problem with the new teacher) -- you might want to try recording the lessons.   I record every lesson with both an audio recorder and a video camera. It takes longer to get ready for the lesson, and I have to spend time after lessons to view/listen to them, but being able to playback what my teacher demonstrated and what she said, and watch my posture and listen to myself has really helped me.  The advantages of having two media are: 1)  fail-proof by redundancy. 2)  sometimes I just want to listen to the recording, and an mp3 file is more portable than a video file (although I could have ripped the audio from the video file, I'm just too lazy).  These recordings also serve as journals of my violin journey - it would be interesting to listen to/watch the old recordings a few years down the road...


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Laurie, speaking as a teacher and a human being, I think that the insults your teacher threw at you were horrible.  I believe that those insults alone are reason, if not an imperative, to leave him.  It is quite possible that he wanted to get rid of you.  I'm so glad that you have a new teacher who treats you with the kindness and respect due to every human being.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 7:24 PM

Laurie, speaking as a teacher and a human being, I think that the insults your teacher threw at you were horrible.  I believe that those insults alone are reason, if not an imperative, to leave him.  It is quite possible that he wanted to get rid of you.  I'm so glad that you have a new teacher who treats you with the kindness and respect due to every human being.


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on May 5, 2010 at 8:25 PM

"After accusing me of fighting him every step of the way, of challenging him, of disrespecting him, and telling me what a horrible student I am ( I left in tears) I decided that our student-teacher relationship was no longer beneficial for either of us."

No one is perfect but to tell this to a student who has MS and just also wants to have a live (not a slave of the violin) and him not seeing the difference between what is the ilness and what is not is very very rude and demonstrate that he's possibly just interested in "young rockets" ???

I agree with Pauline that he possibly could (but how to know?) have done this to get rid of you... 

Really wach... it's not because someone is a good musician/pedagogue that he/she necesserely has a great heart...  

Good luck with your new teacher!  Hope a wonderful journey to you!

Anne-Marie 


From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 3:27 AM

Greetings,
i agree with Pauline too.  The kind of person who gives the teaching profession a bad name.  Hopefully will read this and go and do soemthing else that may require a little bullying.

Space shuttle toilet cleaner was my first thought....

Hope you have bette r luck fidning a -real- teacher.

Buri


From Mendy Smith
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 5:51 AM

Laurie,

Music should be a joy, not something that is dreaded.   It can be a challenge to find a teacher that understands an adult's life commitments (family,work) let alone any other limitations (MS, arthritis, poor eye-sight, damaged hearing, old injuries, etc...). 

I hope you found a teacher than can encourage and inspire you to push your limits while still having fun.  It is the recognition of the effort and small victories that means the most.


From Laurie Trlak
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Thanks to all who replied. It had occurred to me that he was wanting to let me go as a student; however, the tirade to which I was subjected was unnecessary. All he had to do was say that he felt the time had come for the both of us to move on, which was what I told him when I informed him I would no longer be studying with him. I am not sure what I had done or not done to get on his bad side; we had always gotten on well in the past, but it doesn't matter now. I'm happier, and I hope he is too. I also hope he will do some introspection and consider that perhaps he went a little too far, although knowing him, he won't; he is quite sure of his own right-ness, and I am not the first student to leave a lesson with him in tears.

My new teacher is very different, and I think this is going to work out very well. Thanks for all your encouragement and good wishes!!


From Ann Marie Cordial
Posted on May 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Laurie -

I have been diagnosed with moderate arthritis.  Reaching some of the positions on my viola is just impossible for me.  Last week, I watched with envy as my instructor bent down effortlessly to her violin case which was on the floor.  I have not been able to bend my knees without severe pain for almost a year now.

I constantly question whether or not I'm an "idiot on strings".  I have a lot of self-doubts when it comes to my progress.  So, if my instructor would, at any time, have told me that I was a horrible student, that would have been enough for me to quit right there.  I admire the fact that you moved on and were able to find someone right for you.

---Ann Marie


From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on May 7, 2010 at 6:05 PM

 I agree with Pauline.  I'm so glad you've found someone who can nurture you as a musician and keep you moving forward.  

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