This week two of our regular contributors, Claire Allen and Paul Stein, shared their thoughts about dealing with conflicting advice from teachers. Claire analyzed the different advice offered by three equally-qualified teachers about shifting techniques. Paul looked back on how 30 teachers influenced him over a full career - and how much he embraced or rejected their advice.
In Claire’s post on shifting, she asked: Who is right when the experts disagree? She ultimately came to the conclusion that one should “find the method that is effective, consistent, musically meaningful, and healthy for your body to do.”
Paul describes being told to remove his shoulder rest and to keep the violin from touching his shoulder, even when shifting. It took him two years to realize that this was bad advice for him: he needed to put the shoulder rest back on.
These articles got me thinking about my own experiences with both sides of the teaching equation. As students, how do we know when to listen and learn, and when to move on? As teachers, how rigid are we in communicating a “right” way versus something that works on the individual level?
Here’s a personal recollection. For a long time I believed I simply couldn’t play some of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. That thinking largely stemmed from the fact that the Galamian fingerings did not fit my hand, yet I felt forced to use them because my teachers required them. Years later, as an adult, it was a revelation to me that I could come up with my own fingerings.
The only reason it took me so long to make this realization is because I wanted (and perhaps needed) to think that my teachers had all the answers. I trusted their expertise - more than I trusted my own judgment. While that is appropriate in the beginning, it's also important to grow into our own expertise after all those years of schooling.
I’m curious as to the experiences you’ve had dealing with conflicting advice and the realizations you came to over time. Please select the response that best corresponds to your thinking, and then share your thoughts in the comments.
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