Does a teacher "have" to have or "have had" the skill level at which they are teaching or higher?
I tend to say yes...but I also know of exceptions in other areas...boxing, baseball, football...and I'm sure many other areas which have those individuals that never "made it" or never even competed at all that become excellent teachers at very high level.
If a teacher becomes great at teaching at a high level without being at that level themselves how do they do that? Or is that in fact ubiquitous?
I thought this would make an interesting discussion and I am interested in everyone's thoughts on this!
Many teachers know how to do something (e.g. the right technique that it takes), they just haven't practiced enough/regressed to the point where they can't physically do it.
In my day it was mandatory in the highly technical sport of Olympic weightlifting that a coach should be able to demonstrate a competitive level technique as and when required. I don't know whether that is still the rule.
Neither Dorothy Delay nor Ivan Galamian could play anywher near the level of Michael Rabin, Perlman, Midori, Sarah Chang, etc. They rarely demonstrated.
Yes, but those teachers were getting mostly already-highly-accomplished students. They were "apple-polishers." And they probably did have the technique at one point, even if they realized they didn't wish to be on stage.
Delay and Galamian had students with much more raw talent than they themselves had; however, those students still needed to be taught musical conventions, technique, etc. Once past the beginner/intermediate phase, it's a transfer of knowledge.
It's also important to recognize the distinction between teaching a skill and the ability to execute a skill.
I was thinking what Bruce said.
Often one hears "teaching" and "coaching" described as different skills. To teach you need the "hard skill" you are teaching, and to be able to break it down in a way that can be digested by the student. There is a "right answer" or at least a narrow range of acceptable answers.
Chris, I'm a teacher and wouldn't say that's an accurate description of what I do. There are some things that are entirely a transfer of knowledge- notes on the staff, definitions of musical terms, etc. and others that are what you described as 'coaching.' Good teachers incorporate both, even at the very beginning stages. For example, instead of telling my beginner kids to play closer to the bridge, I have them test different sounding points and determine for themselves which sounds best.
Yes, definitely - most teachers of any skill (whether their principal role is teaching or not) use both "teaching" and "coaching" styles but the balance is particularly different at different levels.
Could most people learn chemistry from a teacher who knows little of it? No unless you count self taught. There's a reason for teaching degrees and performance certificates.
"Yes, definitely - most teachers of any skill (whether their principal role is teaching or not) use both "teaching" and "coaching" styles but the balance is particularly different at different levels."
What a coincidence, Julie! That is my pet peeve as well!
Julie - I don't follow.
"how many famous violinisrs do you know who were taught by an 'unknown'? In their biographies they almost always write who they studied under and most likely their teachers were themselves great players."
Well said, Ingrid! As a teacher and former professional performer, I feel I owe recognition of my first teachers a mention on my resumé, out of respect for their valuable work. Although I believe my own innate musical intelligence and later experience also had, and has, a role in the quality of my teaching skills, I use their knoweledge daily in my current teaching. I wouldn't be who I am as a musician today, if it weren't for them,even though most of them are unknown today.
"apple-polisher" I like that. Quotes from Leopold Auer's book. p. 6 :
"I have often thought that the true heroes in this profession are the unknown beginning and intermediate level teachers that teach the fundamental techniques. "
"My respect goes to teachers who teach the technical solid stuff 24/7 and not letting anything else but 100% quality pass their ears, before they let the student advance in the repertoire."
I don't see how someone could teach something without having done it themselves. It's like a high school history teacher who never went to high school, only worse, because violin can't be read out of a book.
I know what point you are coming from Eric. But I said that from my personal perspective as a violinist. I have been with lots of teachers and the thing I disliked in some was, that they always adjust their expectations based on the students abilities. When you want to be a professional and learn the violin as best as possible, there is nothing more worthy than a teacher, that can give you high quality listening to details and listening to you, like you are a professional violinist already. Of course that is nothing for amateurs or children, who just want to have fun with music. But I still respect those teachers, because also in university they encounter the problem that some people are just not serious about music or cannot jump their ego and except some elemental corrections.
If you wait until a six-year-old student can play "Minuet No. 2" just as well as Vengerov or Hahn, you're going to wait an awfully long time. So I guess it really depends on how you define "100% quality." It's when students reach a certain point -- 90%? 95%? -- and go and work on more challenging things, that they build the skill that will enable them to come back to their earlier pieces and move the "percentage" to a higher value.
Of course that strict type of teaching and wanting quality is only for a small percentage of students who are serious. My old teacher knew that and kicked out students who had other priorities on a regular basis. I don't say everyone should teach like that. I myself are totally different. But as soon as a student is serious, this is the best teacher you can get.
At the end of the day, ones students are the best credentials for a teacher. There will be outliers, of course- a bad teacher with one or two good students, or a good teacher with one or two bad ones- but generally, good teachers at whatever level they teach have successful students.
The OP asked a very question that I always wonder too:
I think it's possible to study at a high level even if one never attains the ability to perform at a high level. I don't know of a teacher who can teach advanced students without having themselves studied at that level, even if they themselves never played as well as their own students.
I do believe that a teacher can, at best, bring a student to only 90% of their own skill level. "Skill," in this context, meaning the ability to understand precisely how to do something (which usually requires having done it themselves).
I have never heard of a teacher who never surpassed intermediate level themselves being able to teach advanced students. I don't believe it is possible.
Thanks Mary Ellen, Jeewon and Erik for answering my burning question. The consensus from you is reassuring in some sense. During one of the summer music camps that I went in Western Canada a few years ago, I met a violin teacher who was playing at beginner's level, yet some of her students there were playing at a higher level than she was. The teacher brought students to the camp each year so I guess she must be trusted and loved by her students and their parents. Nevertheless I've got this nagging feeling how she did all that, and whether it is ethical for her to keep doing this, given the fact she really couldn't make a decent sound like a beginner. The only hope I had was that I might be wrong and that it is possible that one doesn't need to be a player to teach kids to play the violin, as some campers had argued.
I wonder if some of those students were getting significant extra coaching from someone else. For instance, in a Suzuki program, there are often frequent group lessons that might come from another teacher, and that teacher might be addressing some deficiencies that the student's primary teacher isn't. Or the student might also be getting lessons in a public-school strings program, or the like, in addition to their private instruction.
It is possible but that is under special circumstances and the exception rather than the rule.
Wow...some very interesting ideas here. One question that has not been addressed much is some up in what Mary Ellen said "Galamian may not have been able to produce the sound, but he had all the knowledge". How did he get the knowledge to teach at that high level without having been there himself?
Getting a good sound out of an instrument is an ongoing process and if you don't practice it it will fade away. That is what probably happened to Galamian after he turned to full time teaching. Same with many other teachers, who have a tight teaching schedule.
I had a teacher/professor in college who wasn't proficient with the subject she was attempting to teach. It was a miserable class.
Lydia, it's possible her students might also be getting lessons elsewhere. Or some students are capable of self-teaching and progress beyond their teacher even at an earlier stage. I actually know a couple of very talented kids in Canada and now they are both international concertizing soloists, one in her late teens and the other early 20s.
In order to teach a particular technique, one must be proficient at that technique. At a high enough level, though, a teacher is conveying artistry, not technique. Also remember that Dorothy Delay, for instance, had teaching assistants whose job it was to teach students technique.
If I were sending a hypothetical child for music lessons, I would probably need to know that the teacher could play well. I bet a really good player takes a longer-term view and may insist on technique that won't have to be continuously remodeled at different stages when the kid faces new challenges.
With some kids, it is a bit of mystery how they learn to play so well. One is my friend Alice Lee, who is now studying with Vengerov and doing solo performances around the world at the age of 17. When I first met her, she was about 9 and between teachers. She played Charles de Beriot's "Scene de Ballet" with unbelievable musical and technical maturity for her age,
Jessy, people say Galamian was a soloist when he was young. I don't know if any recordings exist, though, to prove it.
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