Printer-friendly version
Danielle Gomez

Understanding the Student's Goals

October 2, 2011 at 1:47 AM

The goals of a music student are something that are easily looked over and often a source of frustration for teachers.  Something to keep in mind is that the music teacher is someone already invested in music.  He or she obviously values their instrument enough to not only have kept playing over the years but also to now be teaching others how to play.  Even if teaching isn't a dream job, they wouldn't be doing it at all if they thought it was a complete waste of time.

This kind of passion is something that every teacher wants to pass on to their students.  The "perfect student" is the one that regularly practices exactly what you told them to practice and is excited to learn more.  No muss, no fuss.

But the "perfect student" is few and far between.  I think this is where the teacher must take a step back in order to figure out what the student wants to accomplish.  Are the parents putting their child through music lessons to score scholarships and create the next Joshua Bell?  Or are they just wanting their child to have an activity?  Is that adult student fulfilling a lifelong dream?  Or are they just doing something to keep their brain active?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with any of these reasons.  But you have to acknowledge that the student may be there for different reasons than you are.  This really takes a lot of stress out of the lesson.  So what if the adult student didn't practice that week?  They may not be there to become a fluent violinist in six months or less.  They may be there just to get out of the house.

Understanding the goals of a students allows the student to completely enjoy their music experience.  In turn, the teacher then knows where to start from in order to slowly push the student toward becoming a better musician.

From al ku
Posted on October 2, 2011 at 11:28 PM

 great blog!  considerate and wise!

I wonder if the teacher should bring this up with the students/families periodically or just guesstimate...better communication between the 2 parties will certainly make the learning experience more fun and interesting.

Our current teacher is a passionate music lover but not a pushy one, which works out well with my kid who is getting busier as other activities pile on.  school bus is coming about an hour earlier now, leaving us with about 15 mins! of practice everyday since afternoons, evenings and weekends are often booked with other stuffs (last week total practice about 2 hours). Not an enviable lifestyle, but thankfully the teacher is accommodating and my kid does not feel dreadful going into the class not fully prepared.  just have to hang in there and make the most--not perfect-- of every situation!  an understanding teacher will be able to assess if the lack of practice is due to a reasonable excuse or not and may help the student/family to multitask better.

in a way, i am kinda happy that my kid got a chance to start the violin early when there was so much time to squander:)  how do kids keep up violin study in high school???  mind boggling!

From Danielle Gomez
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 6:55 AM

 It's true.  It's just "workin' with what ya got."

I do think that it IS the job of the teacher to try and push the student.  But how much pushing and what kind of pushing varies greatly.

In answer to your question, I do think that it's something a teacher should bring up when a student first starts.  I think it kind of goes hand in hand with knowing their musical background.  There's really no telling what will change down the road, but how they're going into the lessons can indicate a lot.

From al ku
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 12:15 PM

perhaps it is particularly true that kids these days do not respond well to high pressure tactics since they are becoming good at seeking out paths of least resistance. but if the teacher is demanding but nice, more kids will give more effort.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 12:45 PM

I think your points are important ones to keep in mind as you go through your teaching career.   It is also important to find out what the students' aspirations are, whatever their ages.  Remember that even the ones who are very talented may not want to become the next Joshua Bell or Hilary Hahn.   They may want to become the next Regina Carter (Jazz) or Boyd Tinsley (Dave Mathews Band).  Or something else.  Being aware of their desires and needs is important.  Good luck!

From Diane Allen
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 1:48 PM

I always make it a point to compliment any student who walks through the door. It could range from "nice to see you" to "great bow pinky".

I know for a fact 2 girls I've taught came to the lessons for their "compliments". You could just feel them soaking it up like a dry dry dry sponge. They may not have been the best students - but I knew that they were there for a totally different reason!

The "unspoken" goal!

Smiles! Diane

From elise stanley
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 6:26 PM

I think the relationship changes a lot with age and experience too.  As we get older we become more independent in our learning - with my teacher I think I raise as many, if not more issues to work on than she does and she's never complained.  Thus, do you think 'letting go' a bit with an older/more experienced student should also be an integral part of the evolving best teacher-student relationship?


From Danielle Gomez
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 7:26 PM


I do think it's the teacher's job to help facilitate the transition to another teacher.  Ideally a teacher should want all of their students to surpass them in skill.  At that point they should help the student to find a different teacher that would allow them to grow more.

In your case, however, I would put yourself in the teachers shoes.  I've taught quite a few adult students and one thing I always notice is that they tend to be overly critical of themselves.  They tend to notice 20 things that need fixing right now.  But you really can't fix 20 things at once.  Our brains can only really focus on fixing one task at a time.  So there's a chance your teacher may not be pointing all these things out in an effort to focus on just one thing.

But those are just both sides of the coin right there.  I would definitely talk to the teacher and get everyone's goals out in the open air.  Maybe ask what the teacher's plan is for you and then mention how you feel your own progress is going.

From Danielle Gomez
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 7:35 PM

 @ Diane:

That's so cute! 


From Danielle Gomez
Posted on October 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM


Oh definitely.  Some of the most effective teachers I ever had in the practicing department were the ones that just got really disappointed when I didn't practice.

I would feel so guilty!  I just wanted to tell the teacher "Don't give me that look! Just scream at me! I can deal with yelling!"

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine