What qualities make for a delightful student?
There are a lot of discussions about teachings lately. Violin teachers, what makes one an excellent young or adult violin student? Why?
This is a tricky question. I think it will mean very different things to different people, and depends on the motivation and biases of the teacher. I think that most teachers appreciate it when at least one party, be that the student, or the parent on the student's behalf in some cases, shows consistent discipline, reliably shows up to lessons on time, pays in a timely manner ( or explains why they can't), and is respectful to the teacher.
Here's a list of qualities I think delightful students possess:
Leaving aside chemistry, I like students who practice and ask questions - especially ones relating to something a little deeper. 'what chord is this? (Remember: Guitar chords are frequently partials)' 'why is that a Gb and not a F#', etc. It shows they're engaged and they actually care about what they're playing instead of just playing dots on a page.
I may add a couple of more traits of a delightful student
Students who seem to give me back more than I give them.
1. willingness to learn
Simon,wow! Very insightful and a lot to think about what you wrote. Can you elaborate on this:
A delightful student? Mine are all delightful in different ways and at different moments! But since you asked, here are some things that help this relationship to work, and most of these things work both ways!
Generally, young students are delightful when they haven't been utterly crushed/exhausted by school before coming to their lesson. There's just no way to reverse that bad mood in the course of 30 minutes and still get in a good quality lesson.
Erik, I think one of the things that parents hope to gain from violin lessons is that some of the positive energy from violin study (and concentration / focusing skills) might be channeled back the other way into school work. On the days when a student is "crushed/exhausted" perhaps sight-reading some duets might be appropriate?
For me the student must want to play the instrument, really want to play. Not the parents, or somebody placing pressure on the young musician because they are told that learning to play is: "good for your development."
George I appreciate what you are saying but having been both a violin student (in childhood and again in adulthood) and a parent of a violin student, and having observed other kids in the studio, I can tell you that many students (if not most) suffer periods where they get pushed or dragged through to the other side by their parents. To the parents out there who are tut-tutting and thinking, "I would just let them quit," I say, "Fine, you go ahead and let yours quit." I'm going to protect my investment.
To some of us, our relationship with violin teacher is more of a
Yixi, it is a rare teacher that isn't overly concerned with money ( It's rough out there isn't it?), and it is certainly nice when a genuine mentor relationship develops, which doesn't depend solely on paying the lesson fee. I was lucky to have a few of teachers who were still willing to work with me even though my parents didn't always have the means to afford the fee every single week, or even two or three times a week.
Qualities I don't have. Poor teachers!
@Lieschen, I'm sorry that I didn't make it clear. I'm talking about the student, not the teacher, who considers the relationship is beyond contractual and monetary matters.
He / she brings
Rocky, indeed! With coffee, snacks, and all kind of
Yixi I understand what you mean ... the violin teacher is a kind of guru. Partly that's because if you study with the same teacher for a few years, it's someone you get to know much better than your school teachers, almost like family. You care about them and you expect that they care about you as well.
Right, Paul. So tell us what you are looking for in your doctoral students?
Actually I think Laurie pretty much nailed it.
I too like Laurie's list because it covers all the basics, the reason for not firing the student, but surely that's not enough to make one delightful. I'm hoping to hear some stories of great violin students one has or had. Come on guys!
Good faith effort is kind of a combination of trust and trying things. Making progress necessarily means trying things you have not done before, which usually means getting out of your comfort zone. When someone else (a teacher) is guiding you in this process, it's likely they will ask you to try things you haven't done, things you might feel resistant to because they are unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unlikely to flatter your strengths. It takes good faith effort to trust that your teacher knows you are ready, to risk the embarrassment of doing something "wrong" initially, then to persist until the new skill is mastered. Also both parties have to be willing to persist with the conversation and effort until things are fully conveyed and understood. There has to be that "good faith" and trust on both sides!
I'm looking ideally, for a student with a certain degree of intelligence, talent, who does a certain amount of practicing, patient, has a good and respectful attitude, etc. I also encourage students to ask me questions and let me know if anything is bothering them, physically or otherwise. There is an old Hebrew expression to the effect that a very shy student doesn't learn well and a very impatient teacher doesn't teach well. Both parties need to be patient and the basic frustration for me is that, as the old saying goes, "you can lead the horse to water but you can't make him drink."
My teacher really seems to like it when I've solved some kind of problem on my own. I'm working on the Mozart Rondo from "Haffner" (it's in the big red Kreisler book) and there was one passage that was really frustrating me until I changed one shift from an "obvious" 2-2 to a "non-intuitive" 3-3 and suddenly it was totally fine.
I'm not a teacher so I can't speak of what qualities make for a delightful student :P Judging myself though, I'd say patience and interest are my top two. Regular practice and learning abilities are my worst two (I have different hobbies and I'm a very slow learner).
- Shows up on time
Paul said: "Is it also fair to say that teachers like students who can take a scolding and channel that into determination?"
Yixi, at first I was just thinking of one who is true to oneself. Honestly assessing and accepting, and acting on the situation one finds upon reflection, the cards dealt so to speak (kind of a Sartrean facticity I suppose.) It's only then the student can know what must be done to achieve goals and dreams. I've always thought one of the teacher's main functions is to be a kind of mirror, "this is what you think you're doing, professing, sound like, but actually it's like
'Can you elaborate on this:
Thank you, Simon, for explaining. Humor, especially being able to treat bumps and take harsh criticism with humor is a very desirable quality.
Simon nailed it.
I would like to add a few more qualities and would love to hear what others think:
I actually think many students, especially more advanced ones, could switch teachers more often, and that there is a point of diminishing returns with pretty much every teacher. Certainly no student belongs with one teacher for 10, or 12 years, like I have witnessed on some occasions. A responsible teacher will tell a student when it's time for someone else. I feel that my personal upper limit has been around 4 years with one instructor. After so many years with one teacher it is easy to stagnate. One of the things I loved about the composition program at my university was that you got to pick a new private teacher every year from their faculty, and had several other teachers for other group composition classes, I wish the strings program had done that, instead of expecting lengthy monogamy.
I disagree with the conflation of delightful with good. i think good, bad or excellent being based on the degree of the student's performance during class (as evidence of practice, attentiveness, intellectual curiosity, respect of time, etc) should not be conflated with qualities that resonate subjectively with the teacher.
I pretty much agree with this (i had Wagner in mind):
Some of my "best" students are "delightful", and some of the "worst" as well!!
There are other reasons to try to keep a promising student besides money. Another reason is ego. There are lots of teachers who would like to believe that they're still the best teacher available for a particular student even though they've been that student's teacher for several years and sometimes even though the student's progress may be faltering. I don't necessarily condemn that attitude though. Regardless what you do in your professional career, you've got to have confidence in your ability -- you've got to believe that you belong there -- or you'll surely fail.
Paul, of course. People have mixed motives and false confidence, but I believe that the discovery job is best to be left to the court, psychologists or fiction writers. Student's job is to make sure they are learning as much as they can. If not, then move on.
I like Laurie's list. There is also chemistry.
"I actually think many students, especially more advanced ones, could switch teachers more often, and that there is a point of diminishing returns with pretty much every teacher. "
"Or maybe they will respond to being browbeaten or yelled at in a foreign accent. " sounds like my 2nd teacher!
Modesty precludes me from answering the OP's question ;)
Trevor, you do realise that the OP asks not whether you are a delightful student but what makes one?
"I actually think many students, especially more advanced ones, could switch teachers more often, and that there is a point of diminishing returns with pretty much every teacher."
When it doesn't work out or when the progress is stagnated, it's time to look for the causes, some of which could be suitability of the current teacher. I changed teachers a few times in such situation. Ideally, the student should discuss with the teacher to see if teacher can help with the transition. It can be awkward for sure. Some teachers won't tolerate this and get deeply hurt. I remember a story told by Pamela Frank that her former teacher wouldn't speak to her since her switched, after 16 years with the former one. It's true as Laurie suggested that, to be a delightful student, it works both ways.
I think it can be enormously useful to take masterclasses, coachings, or a handful of lessons from someone who's not your usual teacher. As a kid, my teachers usually went away every summer, and sent me to someone different each summer -- from my beginner years on. Every teacher tends to have something that is a "pet peeve" of sorts, that they are very good at teaching/correcting, and it's a great way to pick up a tidbit that will forever be useful.
I second Lydia's advice. I went to a three-week summer string camp last July and had the chance to have private lessons as well as masterclasses with a few different teachers who are well known in the violin community here. While I did pick up a couple of useful tips,I find trying other reputable teachers can also solidify the loyalty to one's own teacher.
This discussion taught and made me realize a lot of things, but now I'm stressing out whether I want to continue with my current teacher. He has a very respectable background, but I've been questioning if we are a good match. Though I am also starting to have doubts about myself and perhaps maybe I'm just one of those "difficult" students :(
Why so John?
I'm curious too. John wrote earlier:
@Ahmed and Yixi
Your head must be buzzing.
John C :) , my teacher was like #1 until i showed him i knew a lot so he became cool and layed off the small bit of pride because i knew as much as him maybe more because im into composition .
John, based on what you've described, it sounds to me you are still testing the water to see whether violin is for you. It takes time to figure this out. I recall Laurie had a survey a few years ago asking whether one started violin on their own wish or on the wish of their parent. I recall vast majority responded that they wanted to play as a child. This is very telling.
Yixi a question if i may.
Ahmed, you must have confused me with someone else. Sorry, I'm not a composer.
Three 45 minute lessons per day over the course of two weeks is a ton of lessons. For me, as an intermediate level player, that would be insanely overwhelming. You need time between lessons to absorb, practice, and get a feel/integrate what was discussed/instructed in your lessons.
Nice informative post!
I've heard of career students, but John takes the cake.
Ahmed - You compose?
Ahmed, that's funny! Part of my repertoire will soon include Sibelius ;) Too busy to compose.
It's a complicated piece of software but worth the investment in time to learn.
well too much practice leads to injury , max 4 hrs a day .
my theory is top notch ;) 2years of reading before playing because i dropped my first violin ....
Initial immersion for a beginner is a very interesting concept. So much of the initial stage probably benefits from constant and immediate correction while habits are formed. Problematically the player needs time to build up some stamina to avoid injury, though.
A lesson everyday or every other day can be very beneficial to students at all levels, I believe. During the summer music academy I went last July, each student had a 45 min lesson every other day. You can see that the changes in each student's playing was almost day and night. Seven years ago, the first time I went to the same summer programme, it was 1 hr lesson everyday! Students were thriving but I thought some teachers were tired.
@ John C
I'm not sure how long I could hold up under daily lessons, but there's definitely something appealing. I am amazed at how quickly I can develop bad habits - much quicker than good ones, it seems :-)
Lydia, this is a thing now out here: teachers are basically telling parents to hire "practice coaches" (often conservatory students) to sit with kids and monitor/help their practice. (Kids are also getting $3K+ violins when they graduate to full-size, even if they're only playing at a Suzuki Book 4 level. Maybe this is the norm now? Maybe today's $3K instrument was the $800 violin of my childhood? But I digress.)
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