V.com weekend vote: What is the longest you've traveled for regular lessons?

September 20, 2019, 5:53 PM · Sometimes people have to travel in order to study with the music teacher they want - or to study with any music teacher at all.

travel violin

A student who lives in a city with a university music program and a symphony orchestra can usually find some qualified violin, viola and cello teachers in his or her area. And in a city with multiple university programs and orchestras, the chances are even better.

But for the student in a smaller city or in a city with few music programs, the best teacher might be 60 miles away or more. That can make for a long trip every week for lessons!

When the desire to learn is high, that is exactly what students (and their parents!) do. I can think of a number of violinists who traveled far for lessons back in their student days: Tessa Lark traveled halfway across Kentucky for weekly lessons with Kurt Sassmannshaus in Cincinnati; Melissa White drove five hours to Chicago for weekly lessons with the Vamoses; Anne Akiko Meyers drove three hours through the California desert to study with Alice Schoenfeld; and the list goes on.

Sometimes a student has access qualified teachers in his or her city or town, but they find a good match with a teacher elsewhere, and so they make the extra effort to travel for lessons. For example, many of the students that attend programs such as Juilliard's Pre-College program travel from distant cities, on a weekly basis, in order to take those lessons.

Using the example of Tai Murray: her family actually moved from a larger city to a smaller one -- from Chicago to Bloomington, Ind. -- so she could study with various teachers at Indiana University.

I was extremely lucky when I was a child living in Denver; the violin professor from the University of Denver actually lived in our neighborhood, not even two blocks away, and he kindly agreed to teach me. (Thanks Mr. Maurer!) I walked to my weekly lessons. Later on in life I would travel farther for lessons in the various places I lived, but I'm very grateful for that situation that made such a difference at a crucial time in my learning.

What is the longest you have traveled, to reach your regular teacher? And by that, I don't mean traveling for a summer program or for one lesson, but traveling on a regular basis in order to be part of someone's studio. Please choose the answer that best fits your situation, and then tell us all about it. Have you had the benefit of a nearby teacher? If you traveled, how far? And for what reasons did you decide to travel rather than to try to find a teacher nearby?

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Replies

September 20, 2019 at 11:09 PM · Mendy here. In Houston, everything is at least an hour away, sometimes more depending on traffic. I always plan for 1hr 15 minutes and cool my heels either on her porch or in my car and relax if happen to show up early.

September 20, 2019 at 11:29 PM · This weekend you probably need a boat, in Houston!

September 20, 2019 at 11:56 PM · I "travel" about 30-40 minutes for my lessons, but then I live in L.A. and that's what a lesson on the way home after work looks like for travel time. My daily commute is 35-45 min on average.

September 20, 2019 at 11:57 PM · Not a big fan of cars. I walk, take a city bus, walk a few blocks, and then I'm there - lessons are in a belly dance studio. When lessons are occasionally at her house, I bike for about 45 minutes. When she's in Australia we do FaceTime.

September 20, 2019 at 11:58 PM · My son's lessons are only about 30 minutes away by car. But I can't drive due to vision issues, so if one of our driving relatives isn't available, we either have to take a bus + Metra train (when it runs), or a long series of 2 buses and 3 L trains. The latter easily takes 2+ hours. It's not fun, and luckily we don't have to do it often.

There are kids in his program who are 3-4 hours away and drive in every weekend. There is one who flies in weekly from the East coast. Last year there was one from Canada who flew in.

September 20, 2019 at 11:59 PM · Sounds to me like sometimes just getting across town is as difficult, or maybe more difficult, as a long drive to another city!

September 21, 2019 at 04:11 AM · Yes, getting across a big city can be a chore. I used the inefficient Los Angeles bus system to travel from Van Nuys, in the valley, to near Long Beach.

September 21, 2019 at 05:59 AM · I've never had regular lessons, but the longest I've traveled for a lesson was about 20 minutes.

One thing I'm interested in is how far those of us without professional aspirations are willing to travel, because most of the examples of people who have traveled long distances for a particular teacher are top-tier pros.

I've become acquainted with one upper-intermediate adult amateur violinist in India who either flies or takes a 7-hour train ride (7 hours each way) to his monthly lesson -- and he goes to the nearest teacher who teaches Western violin above lower-intermediate level. I wonder how many amateurs in remote places or places without Western music traditions have that level of commitment.

It sort of resonates with me because, if I had somehow been able to start learning at a "typical" age (under 10) while living in Dubai, there would not have been any violin, viola, or cello teachers there at the time. I don't know where the nearest teacher would have been, but I did some research recently and found that the entire Arabian Peninsula had only one professional and one amateur orchestra at that time. The nearest orchestra to me was professional, but was in Muscat, almost 6 hours away by car and on the other side of a national border. I hadn't started to learn a string instrument, but I think it's highly doubtful that I would have traveled that far as a beginner.

September 21, 2019 at 12:15 PM · I'm wondering...after having traveled for hours, is the lesson 30min. or 60min or does the teacher spend as long as they think necessary, even several hours, to make the trip worthwhile?

September 21, 2019 at 01:15 PM · My longest drive was to Ann Arbor (from Trenton MI) when I was a teenager, for piano lessons. It was about 50 minutes. The teacher (Barton Polot) was amazing. He still teaches -- amazingly! It helped that, as a teenager, the concept of actually driving was still novel. The drive itself was rather boring suburban-interstate stuff. I wish I had spent more time on what Bart was teaching me and I wish I had met him sooner, although the piano teachers that I had leading up to him were interesting and thoughtful teachers too. I was a lot luckier with piano teachers than I was with my violin teacher.

I laughed when Mendy said that everything in Houston is an hour or more. I live in Blacksburg. Everything here is 15 minutes or less!

September 21, 2019 at 02:24 PM · Ack, why did you put "20 min. or less" in the middle? I put 20. min. to an hour because I didn't see it at first. My first teacher lived a block from me. My current teacher is under 15 min. We have an embarrassment of riches here in Berkeley, California.

September 21, 2019 at 03:22 PM · For every one of my violin lessons I have had to travel 300km+ in Tasmania, to the *closest* violin teacher. When a neurological condition cropped up forcing me to stop driving last July, a few months after I started learning, then I took the bus. The bus leaves town at 8am and gets back at 5:30pm. Last year it ran three times per week. This year, every day. So one hour-long fortnightly violin lesson actually takes up one whole day. Luckily, my violin teacher realises what my violin lesson costs me in time, effort and costs, so she reduces her fee and very generously gives more time. But since June, I have had to go interstate for health services, and haven't had any lessons, but I am still asking about for a local teacher.

September 21, 2019 at 03:40 PM · I voted "20 minutes to an hour" because from third grade through high school graduation, my lessons (first with one teacher and then the last two years with another) were about a half hour drive from our home in the Washington DC suburbs. But my very first teacher lived just a few blocks down the street from us in Ottawa, Kansas--and how fortunate I was that that first teacher was Alice Joy Lewis.

Later as a young professional I would drive to Dallas (three hours from Shreveport, five hours from San Antonio) for occasional lessons in preparation for auditions. But that wasn't what you were asking.

To answer Randy's question, as a teacher I have to schedule my time; a lesson is a lesson regardless of how far the student's commute is. I would guess the majority of my students are driving 30 - 40 minutes to get to my house, with the range being from 10 minutes to an hour.

September 21, 2019 at 07:29 PM · My senior year of high school my dad and I drove 2 to 2.5 hours every week for lessons with the teacher I studied with during my 1st year of college. He helped get me a scholarship so it was worth it. So it was a long trip (all afternoon essentially) in an un-air-conditioned minivan in Texas (southwest Fort Worth to Plano) every Saturday. And we listened to the Met Opera broadcast every week. Sadly, the operas and time with my dad was more memorable than the lessons. But that is a story for another day.

September 21, 2019 at 09:48 PM · Actually, it's a 20 minutes walk, as the conservatorium is just 2km from my house.

September 22, 2019 at 01:04 AM · For years, every Galamian violin student at Curtis made the trek from Philadelphia to his apartment on W 73rd St in NYC for their lessons.

September 23, 2019 at 01:09 AM · It used to take me approximately one hour to drive from my home north of Denver into the city itself (I planned an hour and 15 minutes). There is no decent public transportation so the time that there were two problems on I-25 it actually took me 2 hours - one hour of regular travel time and one hour of my lesson. Now the teacher lives closer and my time depends on which way I go but even if it 45 minutes (which is now long) I arrive with very little traffic to contend with - except for the continual road repairs and new construction - which in Colorado is ongoing all year along the Front Range. (And getting worse by the day!)

September 23, 2019 at 01:29 AM · When I was in mid/late elementary school, we would drive 2 hours each way for piano something like every other Saturday. There were 3 in the family taking lessons and that was also the day to go to the ethnic grocery store in the big city, visit family friends, special restaurant or excursion, etc.

September 23, 2019 at 02:26 AM · I met Helen Kwalwasser, one of Galamian's student's, some almost 50 years ago and stayed in her home. She reminisced of living in Galamian's apartment, where he could hear every note while you were practicing. I would guess that her commute was about 5 seconds, simply by opening her bedroom door. Here's an excerpt from David Nadien, who also lived in Galamian's apartment during his formative years: "'The apartment [the Galamian's permanent home on West 73rd Street in Manhattan] had great long hallways and a lot of rooms,' recalls Nadien. 'Galamian had his studio in the front, and we - Helen Kwalwasser, Yura Osmolovsy and I - had rooms in the back where we practised three or four hours a day. It was a relaxed atmosphere and all of us had fun. Galamian had two beautiful boxer dogs that he was devoted to, and they were a big part of the household. At one time it seemed that somebody was stealing food from the fridge. Galamian stayed up in the dark in the kitchen one night to catch the guilty party. One of the boxers had actually figured out how to manipulate the handle and open the fridge door!" How's THAT for a short commute.

September 23, 2019 at 01:52 PM · My previous teacher lived 50 miles away from me. At the time I started with him, he was the best teacher I found in my county (I have since found one in the next county over, but around 15 miles this time). We had a very good relationship, and during my trial lesson with him, he taught me a lot of fundamental things I was doing wrong and changed them. His teaching style is, individual, shall we say. He knew his stuff, but was very unconventional, which I liked. But the commute out there was killing me (as a non driver I had to rely on others to get me there). Whereas with my new teacher I get the train instead (easier for me). There are no teachers in my town or even 2-3 out that can teach to the level I want to get to so have looked elsewhere

September 25, 2019 at 10:03 AM · I don't remember driving or being driven in a car to my regular lessons. I either took 40 minutes to an hour (depending on where it was) by public transport, or some 40 minutes by bicycle (My father might have pioneered the concept of backpack-style transport of a stinged instrument in the later '50s, with me as the benefitting guinea-pig - A cushion was fitted to the back of the case to protect my back, bearing in mind I was under 15 when I first wore it. I remember one year sometimes pausing for breath on the hill leading up to my school, with the slow movement of the C├ęsar Franck {Symphony - The violin Sonata doesn't really have a slow movement} as earworm).

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