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The Weekend Vote

V.com weekend vote: Have you ever had two teachers at the same time?

July 27, 2013 at 2:35 AM

Sometimes you just need a different perspective, when it comes to learning the violin, and for that, you might need a different teacher.

Even if your violin teacher is quite good, you might need to hear things described a different way for you to understand them. Or it could be that things are not working out with your teacher. Or your, teacher doesn't have time to give weekly lessons, and you need to study with an assistant.

But it can be quite delicate, taking violin lessons from more than one teacher.

One context in which this can work well are things like summer institutes and programs, in which you can leave your home teacher for a while and go study for a nice chunk of time with another good teacher. You might have a revelation, or you might find that you suddenly understand something your teacher had been trying to convey to you.

A bit more dicey is the idea of taking lessons simultaneously with two different teachers -- not that this isn't appropriate in certain situations. It can be difficult, if you are trying to follow two separate programs and the teachers are unaware of each other. In other situations, sometimes one teacher (perhaps an assistant) can help prepare you for another teacher. Sometimes teachers actually work together extremely effectively, one famous case being the teachers Roland and Almita Vamos.

Have you ever had two teachers at the same time? Did it work out well? What were the circumstances?


From Patrick Tinney
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 2:41 AM
This was difficult to answer as I did, yes, and it wasn't with the violin.

When I studied the recorder my teacher could see that I was having difficulty with with breath control. Before recorder she had been a singer. He husband on the other hand had been a trumpet player.

So for three or four lessons I study breathing with her husband. So this was a case where the teacher knew I needed someone else for a period of time.

BTW, it worked. On several occasions I had other recorder players compliment me on my breath control.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:00 AM
For many years now I have had "summer teachers". Once it was a "while I'm gone, why don't you study with XYZ to work on your bow hand". Now it is "while you are at Interlochen, see if there is someone that can give you another perspective on vibrato".

I've never had two simultaneously during "regular" lesson season.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:23 AM
Similar to Mendy's, I had a summer teacher the year of my senior college recital--which was in September!!!--and I had to change one of my main pieces three months--so took lessons with someone at home for a few months, and then went back early to cram with my regular teacher. It really was a nice time of perspective, especially as with my (fabulous)regular teacher we had had to focus SOOOO much on my technique which was a mess when I came in, it was a good perspective to work with someone for a few months who did not have that history and looked at the rep and my challenges with different eyes.

I think the challenge is when two teachers have opposing perspectives and both want their own way. that's happened to me with ym students a couple times.

From elise stanley
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 8:54 AM
My regular teacher was an excellent career orchestra violinist but with limited pedagogic skills. I felt there were some fundamentals that that teacher could not help me with so I went to a university prof for three lessons (which were terrific). I was very excited with this - but when I told regular teacher the response was grumpiness. Our teaching relationship was already showing strains but this was the final nail - and changed regular teachers soon after.

I think the teacher was churlish - how different it would have worked out if they had been excited to hear what I had learned rather than threatened. One might think that this would have worked out better if I had cleared the second teacher with the first beforehand. But in this case I don't think it would have been any different because I got the feeling that I was jeopardizing his income more than his teaching. Besides, I'm an adult and not a beginner and need the freedom to take lessons where I choose.

It worked out for the best because I'm now with an amazing teacher who I feel really cares about my progress (I'm back on Suzuki 3!). Would I do the same with this one? I don't think there is any need because she is both what I aspire to be and I am convinced that she has the teaching skills to get me there.

From Rosita Hopper
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 12:10 PM
I hope we get some teachers remarking on this paradigm, i.e. students studying simultaneously (on a regular basis) with two different teachers as their primary instructors. I myself have often felt a slightly disruptive dynamic created by bringing back to my year-round teacher ideas obtained from my summer camp teachers. I can’t call it resentment exactly. My year-round teacher is too dedicated for that but still, after the initial expose of the new ideas, I find myself making a conscious effort not to wag on and on to my regular teacher about the other teacher’s input. Is the student/teacher relationship a type of marriage in which evidence of loyalty plays a role? But of course the student shares the teacher with other students. Let’s try another question: do you as a student ever feel threatened by your primary teacher’s other students, i.e. does he/she love him/her more than me?
From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM
I had two teachers at once for a period when I was trying to deal with an issue involving my right shoulder. Eventually, it became too much, so I limited myself to the teacher dealing with the technique problem.
From Cheyne Winterthieme
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 1:38 PM
My two teachers were for classical violin and one for fiddle.
From J Ray
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 2:25 PM
I once counted the number of music teachers my son had at the same time, and came up with seven:

His school music teacher,
his violin teacher,
his piano teacher,
me,
(indirectly) my piano teacher,
(indirectly) my violin teacher,
and last, but not least, himself.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:01 PM
J. Ray -- what a truth, "yourself" better be an important teacher in all of this! Of course the vote is about teachers other than you, but it is very important that any violinist is always striving to teach himself or herself more!
From marjory lange
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 3:49 PM
Teacher & coach simultaneously, yes
Teacher & teacher's grad student while teacher was on tour, yes

but never two simultaneously, independently, with same mental 'title' of teacher.

There were occasional disagreements in what was suggested but I was always clearly expected to use my own judgement--of course, none of these situations happened till I was of college age.

From Nathan Cole
Posted on July 27, 2013 at 4:44 PM
At Curtis, I had two teachers for my first 2 years, and another two for my second two years! This makes it sound like I was a real problem student...

It wasn't always smooth sailing, and not because the teachers didn't get along or had real disagreements about how to play the violin. It was just hard to know what to focus on, on a daily basis. Eventually I figured out that they wanted to act more as musical coaches, not violin teachers per se. And I was old enough to deal with that. But had I been younger, I don't think this would have worked out.

As for the relationship being like a marriage, I suppose that's true! I have never minded my students playing for other teachers as long as they've asked in advance. I consider that basic courtesy. OK, when I put it this way, that doesn't necessarily sound like a great marriage. But it's honest!

From Kim Vawter
Posted on July 28, 2013 at 5:31 PM
Violin and beginning drum lessons because my rhythm was so bad.
Two teachers--two lessons running at the same time.

From Emma Otto
Posted on July 28, 2013 at 5:38 PM
I did not find it particularly difficult to study with different teachers at the same time. It was nice to have the two different opinions of two different people on the same pieces.

Last year, my youth symphony conductor had many things he was doing and wasn't able to make it to all of our rehearsals. So he asked the conductor of the professional symphony to fill in for him several times. Of course, there were a few confusions where the professional conductor would tell us to play something one way, and our conductor would come the next week and tell us to play it the opposite way, but I think I learned a lot from working with the two of them.

From Aaron Krosnick
Posted on July 28, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I studied with Joseph Fuchs for eight years, but after the first four years I had a summer with Ivan Galamian at Meadowmount. Mr. Fuchs was shorter than I was and had a short, thick arm, and I basically needed a tall teacher who could teach me how to use a longer arm. Mr. Galamian was over six feet tall and had a long arm. He taught me, first, how to use my wrist to compensate for the longer arm. Second, he taught me how to practice systematically and how to use rhythm practice in practicing technical passages. These things were indispensable to my development. They helped me to get more out of my final four years with Mr. Fuchs, one subsequent year with Arthur Grumiaux, and helped me in all my further development as a professional violinist and teacher. At the risk of making this too long, I was also influenced by my brother's 'cello study with Luigi Silva, who put an emphasis on maintaining the shape of the left hand, especially in thumb position. This helped me in stabilizing my intonation and using the shape of my hand to best advantage. This has become absolutely essential in maintaining my ability to play in tune in retirement, since I have had to fight for my violinistic life in the face of an essential tremor which has developed in my middle seventies. I am determined to use every means at my disposal to stay alive as a musician. I have become my own teacher in every sense of the word.
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on August 1, 2013 at 1:42 AM
I have for a while and it was not that cool since one disagreed totally with the other and I was in between this sandwich! They were from two very different schools. I had to part with one in order to stay with the teacher who was the best for my futur skills/opportunities (I made the most logical choice as many students have to do). Both were lovely persons and it was very difficult for me. Really difficult since one totally disliked the other and I didn't know who to beleive and which side to join (and as a teen, you do not have ennough strengh to make your own opinion and think for yourself... teachers are still a bit like parents and any fight or conflicting idea disturbs you) Over the years and with more maturity + experience I come to relaize that I've learned different things but nice things at both places (the little town school vs the concervatory...) It made the player but most of all the person I am and every experience can only enrich the music and make more perspectives/options about it. So that's how I see it. There's no waste of time, of opportunities etc. as long as you get along well with your teacher and think you progress ok. As you will gain experience, you'll know if you want to try different, if it's a school that matches your needs etc. I was a late starter, for a children, maybe the parent has to be a bit of that 6th sense :) Nice blog!
Anne-Marie

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