do you pick your students to teach?

December 18, 2006 at 09:01 PM · had a get-together with a friend and her daughter, who started playing piano at 3 for about 2 years now. not your typical mozart, but cute and respectable. definitely youtube material for now.

they moved to PA and have been looking for a "good" piano teacher. apparently, after a long wait, they finally met up with a teacher in phile supposedly "very famous".

in a nutshell, the family was told, in their face...very musical but terrible techniques. here is a card of another teacher. study there for a year and then call me.

the family has been trembling ever since, not sure how much was due to their japanese upbringing.

are "famous" teachers prune to do that?:)

Replies (23)

December 18, 2006 at 09:17 PM · That's pretty common, and it sounds like it should be taken at face value. Many teachers aren't so honest, and will take a student (and her money) then give her less than their full effort because certain qualities are lacking.

December 19, 2006 at 04:28 AM · That's terrible!

A good teacher should know how to deal with "bad technique" - not just ignore it. Technique IS music. The two go together hand in hand. That being said, perhaps the teacher was hiding the fact that he/she didn't think the psychological student/teacher chemistry factor would work out? Even so, there are more diplomatic ways around this.


December 19, 2006 at 04:36 AM · I think it depends upon what the teacher's goal is. If the teacher's goal is to establish some sort of pedigree, it is understandable that he might reject students for their underqualification. That said, it is always nice to be a bit more diplomatic at the same getting ones point across.

December 19, 2006 at 05:17 AM · thanks people for the input,,,i tend to agree with vivian on both of her points.

may be the teacher (a she) has very high standard and high demand for her time.

meanwhile, my friend, herself a pianist and a visitor to the US for about 2 years now, is still in the recovering mode:(

probably in japan, communication will be more subtle:) and possibly confusing:)

personally, i would have preferred the teacher saying exactly what is on her mind, though, even if it is not easy on the ears. show me love, a little tough love:)

December 19, 2006 at 05:14 AM · We don't know who the teacher in question is... if the teacher is deservedly "famous" and only has time for a few very advanced students, should they be expected to accept everyone? Perhaps things were handled diplomatically or otherwise, but we don't have the exact wording. It's reasonable to expect that a teacher with limited time would advise a prospective student to seek technical help elsewhere. The answer to the original post is that some teachers can afford to choose their students whereas others cannot or choose not to. Every student may have something to teach his teacher, but teachers are free to decline that risk. This teacher is not the right teacher for this student at this time.

December 19, 2006 at 05:24 AM · yes, nathan, your points are well taken, very likely to be the case. IF next life i can play as well as you do and have students, i will pick and choose, too.

my friend's accent is thick but i got the impression the initials should be SS. no, i am not being koi:)

December 19, 2006 at 05:45 AM · There's a subtlety you and they both are missing - she wasn't turned down. The teacher complimented her and told them to come back in a year. An American wouldn't say that last thing to just be nice.

December 19, 2006 at 05:58 AM · Yes, I agree, Jim. One year is not really that much time. If the teacher had said, "come back in five years," that might have constituted a true dismissal, but I think the "come back in one year" sounds genuine. Perhaps the teacher focuses on aspects of playing that the student won't be able to deal with without having resolved some technical issues.

December 19, 2006 at 06:29 AM · 'Famous' teachers did pick and choose in the past. They had understudies who prepared students. I hope though that the teacher on the card has good communication with the 'famous' teacher so as to point out more clearly what was being seen.

Then there has been 'famous' teachers known to 'drag whatever a pupil has out of them' without much communication, but that was after they accepted the student. And there were those who got into micro-details.

I think---what I would do--would be to get with the suggested teacher as quickly as possible and have them try and communicate with the famous teacher for the child's sake.

December 19, 2006 at 06:39 AM · The teacher factor is so unpredictable that it's rarely worth losing too much sleep over. There are stories about soloists being rejected by this or that teacher, usually very humorous in hindsight. :) One such story hinges on the famous teacher giving driving directions.

Your friend will find someone who will be happy to lead her to the next several levels and at that time, she may or may not want to study with the famous one.

December 19, 2006 at 01:50 PM · yes guys, very true. i will try to relate to her your helpful comments, except now she is all worried that the next teacher may hand out yet another card to tell her to come back even later. hehe.

December 19, 2006 at 03:44 PM · A similar thing happened to my 7-yo daughter with violin over the summer. A teacher told us that if my daughter found the "level of dedication" represented by practicing every day including weekends and vacations "enjoyable" (currently, she doesn't find it enjoyable), she could come back in a year.

At first, I was a little annoyed, felt rejected, etc. largely because I thought that the reason my daughter didn't find that "level of dedication" enjoyable was because she wasn't getting along with her current teacher, was bored by Suzuki, and didn't enjoy her lessons. I thought that a change of venue (as in teacher, method, location, time) would help a lot. But then I was being denied that very change of venue when the alternative teacher said no. I felt stuck.

So, I did change venue--I started homeschooling my daughter myself, and it did help. Some. My daughter practices more frequently and enjoys herself more than she had done previously (And it's a lot cheaper). However, she still does not reach the level of regular practice and "dedication" that that particular teacher wants. She's got other interests: she's also taking piano and doing karate, and is a girl scout. I'm forced to conclude that my daughter doesn't have what's needed for study with that teacher. She may when she gets older, or she may never. That's up to her, I think I just have to see what develops. So, the teacher was right: it was a bad fit and probably wouldn't have worked out. She did us a favor by being clear up front about her criteria and her expectations.

Depending on how old this child is, I think it's quite possible that the teacher did her a favor, as well. Many young children are just not ready for everything that study with a "famous" teacher entails. And I think that as parents we need to realize that that's perfectly okay.

December 19, 2006 at 04:14 PM · thanks karen, i share many similar sentiments, especially the one that kids are bombarded with activites equally attractive to them. we have to bargain and compromise to try to balance time and effort, often against their true wishes. any kids that can manage to do 2 or more activities with great effort, in addition to being good in school, at that age range, are just marvellous every time i reflect on it.

karen, you mean you are teaching her yourself or she is out of school totally when you said homeschooling? thanks

December 19, 2006 at 04:43 PM · I think I'd be wary of both of them, and at least do an initial interview to ask well intended questions. Like mates, there's always other fish in the sea.

I only know a few 'famous' teachers.


December 19, 2006 at 05:22 PM · I've found this all very interesting. I was thinking about the whole "famous teacher" thing.

You know, what's more important-- having a "famous teacher"(I'd sorta like to know the definition of that one) or having a teacher that has a vision for the student?( matter where the student's ability is at that moment in time)

I think that finding a teacher with a passion for teaching...someone who'll have a vision for that student would be the ultimate best thing for that child. You know, a "famous teacher" doesn't make a 'famous student'. Anybody that teaches knows that there has to be a desire to learn. I teach piano, and I believe that it's my responsibility to make the learning process desireable. It's important. (especially for those poor children who have parents that instead of desiring them to have a love for music and making music....just want the next famous prodegy. I think it stinks)


December 19, 2006 at 05:23 PM · Kind of off topic here, but I think the teacher component is greatly overlooked and I can tell you from my own experience that finding the right one for you or your child can be extremely difficult. I say "can be" because it really boils down to how you view your teacher’s role in the whole journey. I get the feeling that many in the US and elsewhere take a "vending machine" view of the teacher. A good teacher in any field needs to be an expert in their trade *and* a good educator. Those two qualities in one person are hard to find. Also in my opinion a teacher has every right to be choosey about whom they accept. He or she has a right to have goals too.

December 19, 2006 at 05:48 PM · The kid must be quite musical since the teacher didn't turn down the kid in spite of technical problems. The teacher wanted to see the kid again after some "cleanup". I think the teacher is being very responsible. I would agree with Nathan and Jim to take it as it is. I am sure the parents had high expectations to take a five-year old to a famous teacher and greatly disappointed not to get accepted on the spot. But, as Jim pointed out, the kid isn't rejected, either. The other teacher recommended by the first may be just what the kid needs at the moment. S/he had seen the kid play and made the recommendation. Can you get a better informed opinion anywhere else?



December 19, 2006 at 07:40 PM · In my opinion, there are many great teachers who are not famous and can do a very fine job at teaching the violin!

Some “famous” violinists can play very good but cannot teach at all, they just don’t have the “gift” or just don’t enjoy teaching. When you find a violinist that knows and loves to teach, plus has made a name for himself, then you have found a “diamond in the rough”!

A “famous” violinist and good teacher can pass on great knowledge to the student and eventually even open some doors for him/her.

Now, let me give you my thoughts has a professional violinist and someone who as acquired some “fame”…

Just as soon as I started showing up in some publications and getting some good acclaim, including in the local newspaper, the phone started ringing! I went from having a few students to having to many and found myself overloaded and almost burned out. After awhile, I had to become more careful about my time and the caliber of students I took on. Now, instead of giving the first lesson for free, they come and play for me (audition) so I can evaluate them and decide if I am interested in taking them as students. That also gives them a chance to meet me and decide if they want to study with me.

Also, I think my experience is best put to use with students who can really benefit from it, so, a few years ago I stopped accepting beginners. I am a very demanding teacher and I do drop some students from time to time. One of my big things is practice and effort! This year, 2006, I dropped 3 students due to lack of practice and effort… If you want to work and learn, I am an “open book” as I was called once… But if a student doesn’t show motivation and doesn’t practice, I’ll give him a few chances and encouraging words and then if he/she continues to waist both our times I let them go. I recommend another teacher to them!! I teach because I LOVE TEACHING, the money is also great but not a priority. I teach 2 students for free because they come from a very low income foster family, but they also are very motivated and work very hard!

I get phone calls and emails every week from parents requesting information about private lessons, I have a few students on a waiting list, and so, I can have the ”luxury” of being picky. I must say that if a kid comes to me and I see that he/she is hard working and wants to learn, but has bad technique, I won’t turn them away… sometimes you get very good students who have a gift for music but they just did not get the proper training or good teachers! So this maybe a chance for them and me to accomplish something! I like a chalange!!!

My time is very limited for teaching. 90% of my income is from performing and freelance work, and I love it… my limited time doesn’t allow for me to have to many students and also I have made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would always have at least a minimum of 3 hours per day for practicing, time to do other things I love (performing, recording, scuba and much more), and above all, time for my family!

I don’t know about other musicians, but for me, it is very important to be surrounded by positive, rewarding things, specially in music! Life is hard enough sometimes!!! I get much more reward and joy preparing a student for an audition and accepted into a college music program then to teach a beginner… I think any decent violin teacher can teach a beginner, but not all violin teachers are capable or prepared to teach at college level.

I have seen many musicians who loved teaching, give it up totally because they felt like baby sitters! They say…

“ my students don’t practice and it gets boring going over the same thing week after week with little progress…”

“ kids don’t practice and the parents don’t motivate them…they go for errands while we baby-sit them”

“they don’t have time for practice because they are also in soccer and the scouts plus all the home work…”

I feel that I have burned to many of my brain cells and both I and my parents have spent to much money with private lessons and college to be wasted baby sitting, so I just became very demanding and picky! Sorry if I sound rude…

Regards and Happy Holidays,


December 19, 2006 at 07:39 PM · Al- I'm only "homeschooling" her in violin, not in everything. My daughter is in 2nd grade and she's doing well in school, but she has to spend some time at that as well outside of class. Next year they start string instrument instruction in her school, so I'm just hoping to tide her over until then. I think she will really get a kick out of playing in a group with her friends.

I agree with what people have said about "famous" teachers. I think it's much more important to find a teacher who has a good rapport with you or your child and who truly takes a personal interest in the students' success. Some temperaments will get a lot more out of a quiet, maybe not as well-known, but caring and compassionate teacher than they will out of the one everybody knows and recommends.

December 19, 2006 at 07:51 PM · In my own experience the "famous" very good teachers I was blessed to have like Erick Friedman and Isaac Stern where the ones I learned the most from and opened doors for me. Plus they can also be great inspirations!


December 19, 2006 at 08:08 PM · time for me to say, i agree, i agree, i agree,,,,

AnnMarie, agree with the vision and passion aspects very much. otherwise, what's the point?

Sanford, agree with the definition of a good teacher. you think a good spouse or a good teacher is tougher to come across?:)_

Ihnsouk, agree, right on.

Peter, agree, thanks for taking the time to give all the details, esp those in quotes, so true. you mean having a kid learning classical music is not the same as driving a new benz or having a nose job? how do you judge motivation actually? is whipping still illegal in CT?

Karen, agree (forgot to what). but, i bet your level of teaching is excellent, why would you put her for school instruction later also,,,for group play?


August 8, 2007 at 02:47 AM · Becuase I don't teach to make a living income, I personally hand-select each student to no more than 6 students. I accept all levels and all ages provided that they are committed and willing to do their best to work with me to achieve their goals. Not all students have goals to be a soloist or win competitions so that's ok. By commitment, I define it as regularly coming to lessons and regularly practicing 1-2 hrs/day minimum.

I do not take students whose parents "drop off their kids" for babysitting.

August 8, 2007 at 12:48 PM · I think that Jim made a good point earlier. Also Peter did. Not every teacher nor every student make the right match. There's an element of chemistry in any kind of relationship. Different teachers and students have different goals - and both have a right to be choosy. On my website I have an article on how to choose a teacher.

At this point in my life and career, I'm very choosy, indeed, about what students I will accept - and keep. They don't need to want to be professionals, but they do need to be serious, motivated, at least fairly talented, willing and able to do a fair amount of good and consistant work - and I need them to be at least at a high intermediate level or advanced. With such a student I will be interested, engaged, and I can help them to make a lot of improvement relatively quickly. As focused a teacher as I am for solid technical grounding, nothing makes me happier than to be able to get into musical matters in repertoire. Everyone has a different calling. I feel I've more than put in my dues with beginners in the past. It's not for me. Other teachers relish beginners. But nobody likes the kind of kid who is only there because his parents are forcing him , and acts like he's doing you the biggest favor. There is also the kind of adult who feels that since he's paying you, you're working for HIM. I adhere to the quaint notion of a special respect that a student must have for the teacher - a respect in turn, which should not be abused by the teacher. And I do expect a student to produce. Anybody can have some personal or work load problems from time to time. But if a student becomes increasingly irregular or flaky over some period of time even after some warnings, I will drop them. What I offer is serious training for serious students. there anyone left who hasn't run off screaming? ;-)

Actually I'm not quite an ogre! I do have some flexibility, and can be very supportive. I've never yelled at a student who had trouble getting something, and as with a number of my posts on, my sense of humor is often on hand as well, to help relieve any tension.

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