Irregular lessons with a good teacher or find someone else

July 21, 2017, 12:51 PM · I have a teacher that I've been with for a few years and that I really like. The one problem is that this teacher is not as available as I would like. I would like to have regular lessons once a week. If it can't be done one week or the other then fine, but this teacher takes a lot of time off, like pretty much the whole summer and even in non-summer time it is rare when I have 4 lessons in a month. From what I can tell teaching is not their main source of income and they don't mind if they don't teach at all for a month or two.

I've been trying to step up my practice and work harder, but it is hard, specially as a beginner, to spend weeks without having anyone who to ask questions to or to point you in the right direction if you are going the wrong way. Frequently I don't even know when my next lessons is going to be (whether next week or in a month).

I've started to think that it might be time for me to move on and find someone else, but then I think:
- I really like this teacher and it might be hard to find someone else with a similar method and that I get along with and feel comfortable.
- Should I just suck it up and take whatever time they can give me?
- Should I find someone else as a backup and then maybe keep both teachers at the same time? Is that doable?
- How do I tell my current teacher if I want to move on? I think we have a good relationship and I don't want to hurt any feelings.

Has anybody been in a similar situation? I imagine getting lessons from someone that is a very active performer and goes on tour or travels a lot for gigs is probably similar.

Replies (10)

July 21, 2017, 1:27 PM · Sarah,

Have you raised this issue with the teacher? If not, then do so. The reason for intermittent lessons may not be what you assume. Each student-teacher relationship is different. Find out the real reason and see if you can both live with the situation.

July 21, 2017, 1:49 PM · I have raised the issue with my teacher about me wanting more lessons or at least lessons on a more regular schedule (every 2 weeks) and from the replies I get I can tell you I'm very confident what I'm telling you is accurate. They don't need the money and choose to work less to have time to do other things (family, travel, hobbies, etc). It is a valid life choice and I would probably do the same if I could afford to do it.

What I have not mentioned when bringing this up with my teacher is that the situation is making me think of finding another teacher, since I don't want it to seem like I'm giving them an ultimatum.

July 21, 2017, 2:29 PM · Does this teacher have an assistant? Many teachers with this kind of schedule do.

At the very least you should study with someone else during the summers. Many of my previous teachers have taken summers off, and recommended other teachers to their students for the summer. I've benefited from that variety.

July 21, 2017, 4:00 PM · I was in a similar situation. My teacher was about to move away. I found a new one. My former teacher is once in a while in my area and can give lessons. Now I feel very privileged to have a regular teacher and sometimes an extra lesson. Everybody knows about eachother and is fine with it. I have quite some business traveling and my regular teacher has performances. Therefore not each and every regular lesson works out.
For me it is a very good learning situation.
Edited: July 21, 2017, 6:02 PM · I see no harm if the OP gets a trial lesson or two from other teachers in her area. Two teachers at once does not really work though.
July 21, 2017, 6:04 PM · Are you still growing and are you happy with your progress?

I don't really know how I'd feel about having two teachers at once for the same thing. You say they have a method of teaching you like but have been unable to replace. Maybe you can ask them to recommend someone compatible to their teaching style you can study with weekly, and continue the sporadic (maybe once a month?) with the current teacher.

July 30, 2017, 1:27 PM · While a weekend or summer worshop with a very different teacher can be very stimulating, but for a regular alternation, you need a similar approach,. May be one of his or her more advanced students?
Edited: July 30, 2017, 8:04 PM · Sarah, as a beginner, regular lessons will be most beneficial. I think the best thing is to address your concern directly to your teacher and ask if he/she can recommend a solution, or if he/she can recommend someone else to step in when your teacher is not available to teach you. It is very hard for a professional to perform and teach at the same time and we need to be prepared to be flexible, as you've been doing. However, teachers usually want to see you success and if you communicate your concern clearly to them, they'll likely to find a solution for you. I don't recommend looking for a different teacher or worse, having two teachers, without talking to your current teacher first. No need to risk hurting your current teacher and do talk to him/her to give them a chance to fix the problem before making any change.
Edited: July 31, 2017, 9:47 AM · Sarah, I would look around and check out some other teachers - You may find someone that is just as good or even better that can teach you regularly, or at least someone that can keep you on track in between lessons. This could also get messy if your teachers really disagree on their approach.

I'm sure there are many very good violinists that teach infrequently, but are still good teachers, but my feeling is that teaching is sort of a specific calling, and that you will probably get a better result from some who has the skills and the passion. The skill of teaching is not necessarily the same as the skill of playing.

This ends up being a decision that you will make when you are ready. I at some point knew I had to change teachers (for different reasons), but I still waited like 6 months to do it.

Edited: July 31, 2017, 10:03 AM · Do you think your current teacher would be open to helping you find another teacher? Or, perhaps helping you find someone whom you could go to on those weeks when your teacher is not in town?

This is not an uncommon situation, in many ways. For example, in a university situation, a popular teacher may be traveling or unavailable for many weeks of the year, but that teacher has assistants who teach students on those weeks when the main teacher is gone. Maybe you could bring up this model with your teacher, as a way of seeing if your teacher can help you find someone to teach you on those "off" weeks. That way, you might be able to find someone with a similar approach, or even someone who could coordinate with your current teacher.

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