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Karen Allendoerfer

Trials of being a Music Parent

January 7, 2007 at 1:10 PM

I haven't written about my 7-yo daughter's music study in a while. Probably because there hasn't been much to report. But I'm getting frustrated with her piano teacher, and, a little bit with her. I need to vent and think rationally before it spills over into my interactions with them.

Her piano teacher is a local conducting student; he's Eastern European but his English is excellent. He was recommended by a friend; one of my daughter's classmates takes lessons from him and loves him. He also comes to our home, which is convenient, and although I'm no pianist, he seems like a very good musician to me. Certainly more than good enough for our purposes, and he has a very gentle manner. He's nice, even charming, young and handsome, and I think my daughter usually responds well to him. Lessons were going pretty well, I thought. She is learning to play the Bach Minuet in G with two hands.

However, he's got some serious "young men and cars" issues. Before Christmas he was applying to PhD programs and said that he stayed up all night writing his applications for Juilliard, fell asleep at the wheel of his car while driving to the post office to mail them, flipped the car and totaled it. He was fortunately uninjured (while not even wearing his seatbelt). I don't know the fate of the Juilliard applications.

Then, he forgot about my daughter's lesson right after the holidays (we'd both been away and missed a couple of weeks and were out of the groove), just forgot about it, and when he came for the make-up lesson he asked her "you're not mad at me, are you?" and she said "no," but I think she was. She, in her turn, "couldn't concentrate." She proceeded to have a tearful tantrum worthy of last year's Suzuki violin experience. Her teacher was understanding about it and said he could come back again during the week and we'd try again. He didn't even charge us for his time.

But then, he reported that he's going to lose his drivers' license altogether for 2 months for "too many infractions in too short a period." Apparently in addition to the accident he's had a few too many speeding tickets. So, for lessons, he won't be able to come at all and we'll have to go to his apartment; he lives a good 30 minutes away and one of the reasons we liked this arrangement was the convenience of lessons in our own home.

It's only for 2 months. And actually my daughter will probably concentrate better in a different environment. But I'm having misgivings about this whole business now. Maybe this is a good opportunity to start again with a new teacher. What do others think?

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on January 7, 2007 at 2:25 PM
At a first glance, shouldn't the matter be decided on musical merits alone? If his life style doesn't interfere with his lessons, other than the short term inconvenience, probably his life style is his affair?

Your daughter may be quite different from mine and this may not apply to her. What I noticed in my daughter is that she tends to empathize with my feelings closely. If she notices that I am upset with something, she makes herself upset with the same thing at times without understanding if there's anything to be upset about. We had one or two lessons called off. I may be unhappy about it, but I'd say, "Oh, this is great, that Kreutzer wasn't quite ready for the lesson, was it?, etc." It works out most of the time, she would work at it extra hard and gets WOWed from her teacher next time and she's almost happy that she had the extra time to prepare. But people have different levels of tolerance on tardiness. Good luck to you.


From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on January 7, 2007 at 2:50 PM
If you like his teaching, and kid gets along with teacher, and it's only 2 months, so be it!

If you live in the boonies like I do, you just suck up 30 minute drives. Heck even in Manhattan it takes 30 minutes of real time to go anywhere meaningful.

From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on January 7, 2007 at 3:25 PM
To be honest, a half hour travel time to a lesson is not that bad. I know several people that travel an hour or more to get a lesson.
From Elizabeth Smith
Posted on January 7, 2007 at 3:37 PM
I'll chime in and say that if he's a good teacher, it makes sense to stick with him. He sounds as if he's under some stress right now, but that it is not affecting his teaching, except for the drive you must make. (Since I drive to all of my kids' lessons, at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours for one lesson, to me the inconvenience seems minor, but it's all relative.)

I also thought it seemed quite decent of him to reschedule the missed lesson and the not charge you for his time when your daughter had her meltdown. It shows he cares about both your daughter and her learning.

I've had a bit of experience with teachers coming to our house (versus going to the teacher's home studio or school studio) and found that it's harder for my kids to concentrate when the lesson is at home, especially the younger kids. There's something about the change in atmosphere and the border state of the journey over that helps them shift into a more focused mood.

From LisaJo Borchers
Posted on January 7, 2007 at 7:44 PM
This young man has some personal issues. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. If his teaching is good-- go to him.

I would imagine that he is quite embarrassed at you knowing so much about his personal trials. I know I would be embarrassed if my students knew about some of the personal problems I have had in my life.

30 minutes is not bad. I have students that drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to my studio.
Having taught in students homes I agree that I would rather have them on "my turf" and the drive time does offer a quiet-get-focused opportunity.

Very nice that you are so flexible and you seem to know your daughter so well.
Nice piece of parenting!!!!!!!!

bon chance

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 12:51 PM
I agree with Bilbo and everyone else. The teacher is a good teacher and has good rapport with your daughter. He was generous and sensitive about her tantrum. (I wouldn't do that with my students.) His driving record is not germane. My students drive to my home, and I think a 30 minute drive, for just two months, is not unreasonable.
From Donna Clegg
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 2:42 PM
Ditto to what everyone said about this guy's teaching abilities and your child. That being said, I've never heard of anyone losing their license for only 2 months. If driving infractions are at the point where a licesnse is revoked, it almost always involves a more extended period of time. In Georgia, 6 months to a year is standard.
From Karin Lin
Posted on January 8, 2007 at 9:02 PM
I'm not sure what the availability of good teachers is in your area, but to me the suitability of a given teacher does depend on things like the convenience of lessons, flexibility, professionalism, etc. It's one reason I'm reluctant to leave my current teacher even though I think I'm outgrowing her; the way she runs her teaching business very well suits my lifestyle. It sounds like you're pretty happy with this guy and the recent incident is an exception, in which case I'll join the others and say stick it out. But I don't think it's all about musical merit, or even teaching merit; it's the whole package that counts, and sadly many people have a lot of talent but don't know how to conduct a business.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 9, 2007 at 4:06 AM
Yes, music ability is not the only thing that goes into this decision, by a long shot. We've only had 2 months of lessons, actually closer to a month and a half, so it's hard to discern any particular pattern. And while the driving thing is new, he's been late to a lesson before and he also once thought we had a lesson when we didn't. And in part because I struggle with organizational and planning issues myself, it's just hard for me to balance and manage those issues when they're caused by someone else. My own issues are more than enough for me to handle! But I think I'm going to stick with him for now anyway for a couple reasons: his patience and grace with my daughter's meltdown, and the fact that she seems to be making more progress with and enjoying piano more than she does violin. I think she'd be sad if we changed teachers again, and I think she's actually less likely to be distracted and have a tantrum in his apartment than in our rec room. Who knows, maybe we'll keep going there even when he gets his license back.

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