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Emily Grossman

Termination Dust

October 28, 2009 at 9:22 AM

Maybe I should have kids.  Maybe then I would stop pretending like my students are my children, thus relieving them from so many unexpected expectations upon entering my studio.  

"Hello there, and welcome to my studio!  Please note, there is an eighteen-year commitment; by signing my contract, you hereby surrender all rights and subject yourself completely to my authority.  Also, please be sure to wash your hands before you play.  Make sure you get your practicing done before you watch TV, not after.  --No complaining!  And remember, 'Because I said so' is the final word, so don't even think about talking back.  Finish your theory, or else no dessert.  ...Don't you give me that look!  Watch it, or I'll give you something to cry about!"

Funny as it sounds, I've become accustomed to my authoritative figure as a violin teacher.  It's quite enjoyable, really, to be in the position where it is not only acceptable, but expected, for me to criticize mistakes, correct wrong behavior, offer praises and stickers upon compliance, and make everyone wash their hands.  Yes, I admit some people would label me a control freak.  However, others in the same position are simply called... mothers. 

But there's something else besides control that comes along with my job description, some misplaced maternal attachment that I wish would make itself less noticeable when dealing with the termination of a student's lessons.  It's this feeling of ownership:  You are my student!  I brought you into this world; what makes you think you can leave this house without my permission! 

You see, I wasn't  through with you just yet.  I had so many plans for you.  The first few years were so much work, and I invested so much time in you so that when you were older, you could play along with me, and we could take off together, exploring the world of fine music.  I had so many cool things I wanted to show you, but now you'll never know.  You're gone even before the termination dust  sticks on the mountain tops, announcing the arrival of winter.

These are the thoughts I struggle to hide when my new student shows up on his seventh lesson to tell me he's moving--but don't worry, he brought along another student to take his place.  (Who are you, and what have you done with my son?  --I mean,)  "Hello, nice to meet you, what was your name again?" 

And  do you intend to stay for tea, or should we even bother removing our coats?  

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 11:41 AM

lol!    Well, I do not even consider that I am "owned" by my parents? But I can understand your view!  I prefer to see this relation (as a student) or if ever I would teach one day as a good friendship. When the student really is passionnated about music, thus has a musician's soul and originality of thinking, I like to see the student/teacher relation as two good musicians or friends where one has experience to materialize thoughs and the other learns this experience to materialize his/her own thoughs later on, hopfully. I like the idea that the two can express or suggest things but that each one recognize each other's strenghts.   For technical advice, the teacher is always right but for more personnal things such as SR vs non SR, strings prefered, sound type prefered etc, it is not always the case.  As long as the posture and sound is good, a teacher should respect the student choices for setup and such.   For repertoire, it is always fun when the teacher suggests a few things and explain the why he/she thinks it will be very benefical you.   I'm not sure if "because I said so" works with all students...   Well, I think you can see that it is a late starter who talks here. Had I start younger, I would surely have had more "mothery" and "fathery" teaching from my teachers...  

Good luck!


From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 12:48 PM

A very interesting post.  Your students are lucky to have a teacher as good and involved as you are.   Lots of luck, however,  trying to assert that sort of control over your own children.   You can have plenty of influence as a parent in different areas if you do it right, but you also quickly find out the limits of your control and influence. 

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 4:34 PM

 Have kids.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 5:22 PM

Tom, lol : )  My parents learned this too with me and my siblings!   I could say many funny things and stories about this but it's not the point of this thread.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 6:11 PM

I sometimes feel like a parent to my students, even the adults, in a different way.  I feel like a proud parent.  It's a great feeling.  ;-)

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