Trial lessons when visiting it a good idea?

January 28, 2008 at 12:30 AM · Hi, everyone!

I'm still looking at music schools! I visited one earlier this past November, and I'm visiting two more in February.

Anyway, I would like to take a trial lesson with one instructor at each school I am visiting. I will be e-mailing both professors soon to check their availability. I didn't take a lesson with an instructor at the school I visited in November, but if I ever visit again, I will be sure to do so.

In your past experiences, have you guys found it helpful to take trial lessons before applying? What is the general format for these lessons? I'm sure it varies from teacher to teacher, but is there anything specific you think I should prepare? Also, does the opinion the teacher makes of you directly affect whether you are accepted or not? If he or she does not like you, will that adversely affect your acceptance to the school?

I'm a junior in high school, so I'll be auditioning next year, but I think it's really important that I visit these schools now.

Thanks so much for any personal experiences/insight/general wisdom you can offer! :-)

Thanks again,


Replies (96)

January 28, 2008 at 12:42 AM · This is the ONLY way to find the right teacher for you. It's great if you have the opportunity to do that now, before you even start preparing for auditions. I tried to take lessons before every audition with the teacher I was hoping to study for. From most I did not get any responses to either email or snail mial, probably because they are overwhelmed by the amount of requests, I don't know. It is a good idea to send them your resume and bio with your request. One teacher can have a great deal of influence in your audition if they want you to be their student.

My trial lessons took place in the days around my auditions and I always played the music I prepared specifically for the audition. Good luck and good for you for thinking ahead. You must do everything you can to find a teacher who is the right fit for you and this is the best way.

January 28, 2008 at 05:11 AM · You'd be crazy not to.

January 28, 2008 at 09:38 PM · Thank you so much for your responses!

I'm trying to get in touch with a teacher from Cleveland and another from Oberlin. I already visited NEC, but didn't think to schedule a trial lesson with anyone there.

I just re-read my original post and realized I wrote "any affect" instead of "any effect" in the description...whoops! That'll teach me to always re-read everything I write/type before hitting the submit button! Sorry, I'm a grammar freak. :D

Again, thanks so much!

January 28, 2008 at 10:01 PM · Just a thought from "the other side"...

I enjoy getting to meet prospective students at CIM through these arrangements, but can you imagine what would happen if every violinist coming to audition requested an hour-long lesson from one (or more) of us? We would need to schedule an entire day or more around our already heavy teaching schedules, as well as the very heavy audition days themselves. We have eight violin audition days at CIM... I'm afraid to do the math! ;-)

If it can work, we all try to be accomodating... but it is really becoming quite an ordeal to juggle all the extra students when they are in town for only a day or two at most...

One very good way is to try to go to a summer festival where the teacher is teaching and work with them a bit under those conditions. You would come away knowing alot more than the "hit and run" style which is so prevalent.

Anyway... Try. I'm sure if you get a teacher on a good week, you might be successful.

January 29, 2008 at 04:46 PM · How funny David, for CIM was the school where no teacher responded to me all those years ago when I tried to schedule a lesson.

January 29, 2008 at 04:54 PM · Interesting question - all "business transaction maneuverings" aside, it is always wise to have a trial lesson with the person with whom you are considering for such an important part of your life. ...two to four years is a very long time.

January 29, 2008 at 05:39 PM · Hey, this thread just gave me a brilliant idea. Maybe I'll go around and audition at all these schools just to get some free lessons! Let's see... Do you think they'd notice that I was... um.... a little older than the average high school auditionee?

January 29, 2008 at 06:54 PM · I had this experience: I had a trial lesson at the conservatory I ended up attending with a teacher I really liked and wanted to study with. I took my college tour late in my junior year. I applied early to the school because I was so sure I wanted to study with this guy, and then found out the following year that he had stopped teaching to pursue a growing career as a soloist and that I'd have to study with someone else - who I liked well enough but wasn't the ideal teacher for me. I would recommend trying out a few teachers at the school even if you are sure about who you want to study with, just in case..

January 29, 2008 at 08:55 PM · Howard, trial lessons are not free. The teacher charges for that one lesson.

January 29, 2008 at 11:16 PM · My lesson prof offers a freebie, intro lesson to all up-and-comers.

January 30, 2008 at 12:13 AM · Marina,

I've taken quite a few lessons and not been charged once. They dont always take money.

January 30, 2008 at 01:33 AM · Ask in advance the fee for the lesson so you are able to have a check or cash ready. Some conservatory teachers will charge and others won't, but it's important to be prepared to pay and to offer to pay. In the long run, whether or not you pay for this lesson is less important than establishing a good relationship with the teacher. They have busy schedules and aren't necessarily able to give free lessons to all comers.

January 30, 2008 at 04:59 AM · Haha, Marina! You got ripped off...

I auditioned and had lessons at several schools, especially when I was auditioning for MM programs. Nobody ever charged me for those lessons- in fact, one teacher even put me and my fiancee up for a couple of days in his house. I ended up studying with him and have never forgotten how nice he was to us when we visited.

January 30, 2008 at 06:52 PM · Ripped off? That's when you pay a lot of money and get junk in return. I would not say that taking lessons (and paying for them) with some of the country's most influential violininsts as getting "ripped off." I consider myself lucky to be able to afford to take lessons, and to put myself up in a hotel when necessary.

January 30, 2008 at 11:25 PM · you go girl.

January 31, 2008 at 06:46 AM · Marina, sweetheart, that was many years ago that I stayed with my teacher instead of at a hotel and it was something offered to us by him and his wife, not requested by me. We still could have stayed in a hotel, but chose instead to take the teacher up on his generous offer. Would that more of "the country's most influential violinists" (as you put it) had that sort of old school warmth and hospitality.

Anyway, I was obviously just joking that you got ripped off, and I assumed you'd have the good sense to know that. I don't know, maybe you've spent too many hours in pit orchestras or something, and have lost your sense of humor. I was trying to make the point that at least some teachers, either out of hospitality or maybe just plain old good salesmanship, don't charge for trial lessons.

In any case, let me say for the record that I value and expect to pay for great teaching- I am a teacher myself (though perhaps not great...)and I expect to be paid. But there is also something more than just a service being exchanged for money here, and not charging for "trial lessons" is one way of taking violin teaching out of the realm of just merely a service, like the drycleaners or the maid, and placing it instead squarely within the paradigm of apprenticeship, in which the money is important, but not the central issue.

January 31, 2008 at 06:37 AM · Pieter,

Et tu, Brute...

January 31, 2008 at 07:55 AM · howard...

You should have read between the lines.

Once more, unto the breach,...

January 31, 2008 at 02:05 PM · Howard, how does one respond to

"Haha, Marina! You got ripped off...

I auditioned and had lessons at several schools, ... Nobody ever charged me for those lessons"


Good for you. You must've been a very coveted student.

It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. My advice of taking lessons with prospective teachers was to the original thread. It's understandable that your experience was different than mine but it did not warrant for me to be ridiculed.

I have played in my share of pits (or as I like to call them "the back end of of a horse costume") but I assure you my humor has only benefited from it.

January 31, 2008 at 04:14 PM · Yikes, Marina, you've got quite a little temper there... If you look at the entire thread, you'll see your little rebuke to me about trial lessons not being free. That comment warranted a little chiding from me in return, don't you think? Especially since you delivered it with such authority ("Howard, trial lessons are not free"). Ha. My "ripped off" comment was made in that context and, in any case, was not meant to be taken so seriously.

January 31, 2008 at 05:05 PM · Hell hath no fury....

January 31, 2008 at 11:48 PM · Yeah.. no kidding.

February 4, 2008 at 04:30 AM · Yup, some folks have no sense of humor...

February 4, 2008 at 05:30 AM · So anyway, back to the original question.

Since you're a junior in high school, it's important - especially if you like the teacher and think you might want to study with them "for real" - to take what they tell you very seriously.

I had a student who went somewhere, took a lesson from the teacher, LOVED her. But the teacher said "OK, playing the way you play now, you would not get in. You need to do a lot of work in the following areas if you want to have a chance next year." So my student worked on those things really hard, and here's the important thing: the next year, this teacher was so impressed with the progress she had made that she accepted her.

So yes, it's a good idea to take a lesson, and an even better idea to do what the teacher tells you, if you want to get into that school.

(Whether you are charged for it or not doesn't matter. In 10 years you won't care about the money.)

February 4, 2008 at 06:03 AM · You're a year away from audtioning, so you're really just getting a lesson, but it'll be known up front you're going to audition, which maximizes your chances for a freebie. Have about a hundred bucks in your wallet. At the end of the lesson, say "How much do I owe ya?" They'll probably say "Aw, shucks, nothin'." Send them a card a week later if you want. No gushing, just a simple "Thanks for the lesson, babe."

February 4, 2008 at 01:15 PM · The trial lesson could be as much as $150.00 or perhaps a bit more.

February 4, 2008 at 01:45 PM · We've paid $150 for trial lessons, and we've paid nothing for trial lessons. While we deeply appreciate the free trial lessons, it makes total sense to us that a busy teacher. someone who is often approached for trial lessons, would not give away time for free-- why should s/he? We're grateful that they are willing to make time in the schedule. Anyway, what you learn in terms of technique or musicality a that lesson is secondary to what you learn from an introduction to the teacher's style, the atmosphere of the school, all that stuff.

February 4, 2008 at 02:37 PM · Well, then, why should s/he? Maybe the answer can be found in why s/he did.

Anyway, if it costs that much, I'd say yes trial lessons are a bad idea. Instead, find somebody on campus who'll talk to you for free. Maybe a composition teacher.

I bet you could get a meeting with the head of any department on campus without paying no $150 bucks. When you do, let them know the violin teacher is charging prospective students $150 for a meeting. It might not sit well.

February 4, 2008 at 04:14 PM · "When you do, let them know the violin teacher is charging prospective students $150 for a meeting. It might not sit well."

Yes, I'm sure any dean would be infuriated that a nationally or even internationally reknowned pedagogue would want to be PAID for their work. My god, they should be executed for grand larsony at once.

Teachers get like 3 trillion requests for lessons, on top of their own busy teaching and performance scheduales. I haven't been charged yet, but I certainly wouldn't get mad if I was. These people are professionals, and just like when you go to a doctor or to anyone else, they'll charge you.

I cannot believe the sense of entitlement people have when it comes to violin teachers, as if they are special and they are auditioning the teacher, and the fact that they expect it for free.

February 4, 2008 at 04:42 PM · Um, but Pieter, let's not forget that prospective students ARE auditioning the teacher, at least in some cases. Think about it- the prospective student is fixing to pay the better part of 100k dollars for his/her education, the major part of which will be in a studio with that teacher. If I were going to buy ANY other product for that amount of money, I'd sure want to see a demo of some sort.

Of course, David's point is good too- there is simply not enough time to have every prospective student take a lesson. For my master's degree though, I did take a lesson with every teacher I thought I might want to study with. I'm glad I insisted on it too because those lessons helped me avoid one bad situation that wasn't apparent just from reputation alone.

As for doctors,who are you kidding? When was the last time you paid anything to see a doctor? You live in Canada, right?

February 4, 2008 at 04:47 PM · Howard, we pay over 50% in taxes.

Believe me, we paid for the doctor's visit.

Also the notion that a kid is "auditioning" a teacher is extremely arrogant. I think there's maybe a handful of prospective students a year who are in any position to use such rhetoric. In 99.9999% of cases, it's YOU who needs a teacher, not the other way around. To expect them to do it for free, and on the assumption that it's this priviledge to hear and perhaps even teach average conservatory drone X, is really quite presumptuous. I hate this whole ranking of teachers thing. It creates way too many problems for both teacher and student. Curtis did it best by just giving you whoever was a good fit.

February 4, 2008 at 04:56 PM · Pieter,

Well,let's get this straight first- in fact it IS or should be the teacher's pleasure to teach the "average conservatory drone x" who, after all, has been admitted to the school with full privileges, and pays his/her portion of the teacher's salary jsut like everyone else. But, in your world, I suppose we should feel blessed and lucky even to be able to be one of those poor, mistreated drones, right? Well, part of the auditioning process is finding out whether or not you're going to be treated like a drone. Setting aside for a moment the issue of paying for a lesson, if the prospective teacher can't even find some way to meet with me before I committ to going to his horrendously expensive school, why should I imagine that the teacher would take care of me once I was a student? Just becaue the other drones submit to poor treatment doesn't mean I should and it certainly doesn't mean I'm arrogant for demanding better from institutions that charge the downpayment on a million dollar house to attend them!

February 4, 2008 at 05:04 PM · A lot of opposing thoughts here. Let's stay away from the idea that anybody is "auditioning" at a trial lesson. The idea is to see if it is a good fit for a teacher/student relationship. Not all teacher/student relationships work out so you want to make sure that you get paired with the right teacher. In conservatories that may count for up to 6 credits of every semester so you don't want to choose a teacher you'll want to break up with after a semester (switching teachers can be difficult for everyone involved).

This point was made earlier:

"Anyway, if it costs that much, I'd say yes trial lessons are a bad idea. Instead, find somebody on campus who'll talk to you for free. Maybe a composition teacher.

"I bet you could get a meeting with the head of any department on campus without paying no $150 bucks. When you do, let them know the violin teacher is charging prospective students $150 for a meeting. It might not sit well."

Why would I speak to a composition teacher when I'm looking for a violin teacher?? I'm guessing that your point is that you see that money as a bribe to the teacher so that you get accepted. I've never heard of that being the case. A teacher (although affiliated with a school) does not owe their entire livelihood to their school. Teachers also take students who are not enrolled simply as part of their studio and are allowed to set their own price and a trial lesson is just that... a lesson.

I've known people who have taken trial lessons with Delay and were charged $300 - it was neither a bribe nor a guarantee that the student would get into Juilliard. That was simply her rate for one lesson.

February 4, 2008 at 05:36 PM · howard, it's the attitude of entitlement. Don't you get this simple concept?

A teacher is very busy. They usually have upwards of 40 students per week. That's already a 40 hour work week. 8 hours x 5 days. On top of that, many of them have performing duties. In some really crazy cases, some of them might even be sick enough in the head to want to pencil in time with their families. Then, all of a sudden, around audition times when there are days packed full of 500 Sibelius concertos and G- Bachs, not to mention a continuation of a regular teaching schedual, prospective students (perhaps like yourself) expect to get a lesson, and to get it for free. Tell me what's wrong with this picture?

If they granted every request, the teachers would not be able to fulfill the requirements that they're being paid to. This idea that every student is "owed" a free lesson is extremely arrogant. I took an audition this weekend at Indiana and spoke with a teacher on the phone for some time, and they definately didn't have time to meet with me one on one. I was fine with that, and in fact they told me they appreciate my understanding because they're often innundated with very aggressive "requests" by students, and even worse, their neurotic parents.

So yes, I do think a student should be so lucky to study with a sought after teacher. They pick you, not the other way around. There's another 100 students lining up behind you if you aren't picked.

February 4, 2008 at 05:34 PM · To me, after 30 years working in a University Enivronment, the question here appears to be simple;

Is the teacher at the school because of the students? or Are the students at the school because of the teacher?

Most likely, there are places that fit both sides of that coin.

Make no mistake about it, the school is a buisness... the students are the customers...

If you are treated poorly or even ignored - attend elsewhere.

February 4, 2008 at 06:42 PM · Pieter,

Well, first, yes, I AM entitled to a little more than "shut up and get in line, kid!" when I'm thinking about paying 100k for an education at their school, even if I am a drone. But I do understand that the teachers are busy, and Marina made a good point that it's not so much auditioning the teacher (which is, I agree, an arrogant way of putting it) as making sure that a particular teacher is a good fit.

However, unless the teacher is Dorothy DeLay's revenant, there are many possible situations in which it would be appropriate to want something of an accounting from the teacher before signing on. You could, for example, be a great student auditioning at at a so-so school. You could even be a world class violinist auditioning at McGill. In those cases, you have a lot to lose by not knowing precisely what you're getting into. Teachers should want more contact too, since they want as many non-drones as possible, right? So saying that it's arrogant and uppity to want to take a lesson with the teacher before you go to their school is really just silly, elitist nonsense from the era when universities were as much about hazing as about education. You, being young and impressionable, have bought it, too bad for you. If every student were a drone, and every teacher either Galamian or DeLay, then you might have a point. For better or for worse, this is not the case!

February 4, 2008 at 06:38 PM · "You, being young and impressionable, have bought it, too bad for you."

Howard... you make many assumptions. Also I'm not sure if that was a dig at McGill but I hardly care.

I never said there's a problem with trial lessons, I said there's a problem with an expectation of getting lessons with a busy teacher, and getting mad when it's not possible. Most teachers will try very hard to get you in for one, but the fact is that there are many people applying for the same spot, and time is finite. Actually THINK about what your ideal proposal would be. A teacher would essentially do nothing BUT doing lessons with prospective students. I know the logistics of this, and it really sounds like you don't.

February 4, 2008 at 06:37 PM · From my standpoint, having been a teacher for many years, my POV is:

YES! Audition the teacher! It's your life and your career that are at stake, and you are paying. If a teacher refuses to give you a trial lesson cross that teacher off your list. No teacher is too busy to spend an hour with a serious, prospective student. You may or may not have to pay for the lesson. That's inconsequential.

And don't forget that it's a two way street. You are getting to know each other and decided if it's a good fit. You are sizing up the teacher and the teacher is sizing you up. The teacher may or may not give you some idea where you stand. For example, "I'll be happy to have you in my studio." or, "Competition is very stiff. I might not have room for you." or, "You'll start off with my assistant, and then maybe after a year or two...."

February 4, 2008 at 06:49 PM · Pieter,

Oh and don't come crying to me about how busy university professors are! Please... don't make me laugh.

February 4, 2008 at 07:22 PM · howard?

What exactly are you refering to? Every good violin professor I know of has an extremely busy timetable (like I said, 40 hours + per week). If you look at CIM which I'm familiar with, my teacher (David Russell), David Updegraff, Paul Kantor, both Mr. and Mrs. Cerone, are all pedagogues with rather full timetables. I'm sure they'll be very upset to hear you don't think they're Galamian or Delay, but the fact remains that they are all great teachers who are quite busy. Same goes for Mr. Preucil and Mr. Rose who are both profs at CIM, and section leaders in one of the world's greatest orchestras. You think they have time to meet every little Timmy and Tammy for a lesson? It's quite realistic that many profs are too busy to meet with every individual student. Your point is....?

I'm not crying about anything.... I've gotten exactly everything I want, why would I be upset? I'm sorry you spent 100k and ended up dissatisfied. I have something that may console you a little.

There's a great part of Titus Andronicus (since you're so into quoting Shakespeare);

Why dost thou laugh?

It does not fit the hour.

Why, I have not another tear to shed.

So Howie... after so much crying, maybe you should laugh a little.

February 4, 2008 at 07:27 PM · Enough bickering you two. Everyone agrees it's a good thing to take a trial lesson if possible. If it's possible make it happen, it's for the best.

I think McGill is an exceptional institution, one of the finest on this side of the world.

February 4, 2008 at 07:12 PM · I never said I was unhapppy... but good try! I also didn't pay 100k because I went to school before the 20% hike in tuition that most universities seem to feel free to impose on their students every year.

Med school may be different, so I can't speak to your mother's experience. All I know is that nobody at Eastman had 40 students, neither did the professors at U of Akron or U of Maryland. In fact, one former full time violin professor at UMD taught just two days a week, and was famous for having a timer on his desk so that he wouldn't "get taken advantage of". This, in addition to three months off a year is not exactly what I call tough, although I do understand that it's work, and I do understand that most of them are moonlighting at other jobs... I suppose if you have TWO 100k per year jobs, that life might be difficult at times. Good thing, again, that they have that three months a year off to do "research" or make even more money at summer camps for (again your cynical word) "drones".

500 Sibelius concertos? They should be so lucky.

February 4, 2008 at 07:36 PM · marina it's ok, I don't even like mcgill.

Howard, I dont know about eastman, but the top teachers at CIM definately have most of their time accounted for. Also, few teachers take their summers off. They do summer festivals and are booked most of the time.

If you're really into shopping for a teacher, go to summer camps. That's the best way to actually study with them at like 3-4 times. CIM has recruited a lot of kids that way through ENCORE.

February 4, 2008 at 07:47 PM · Yes, Pieter, as I said, they moonlight in the summers, make a little extra cash, you know. And I never said their time wasn't accounted for, just that they have enough free time to, oh I don't know, have an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT FULL TIME JOB on the side, such as play in the symphony or whatever. In how many other fields can you do this? This is not to disparage them, just to point out that the notion that they're working themselves to the bone with no time to see their poor, attention starved families, or spend time with a promising prospective student is just ridiculous.

I agree that going to a summer program where the teacher or teachers of your choice are teaching is the best way to get to know them.

February 4, 2008 at 08:00 PM · Sorry, Pieter, I didn't mean any disrespect towards your alma mater... Mcgill just was stuck in my mind for some reason. Really, I don't know the first thing about the place, other than what you've said about it. Oh and tell Marina hi for me.

February 4, 2008 at 08:08 PM · Mr. Rose and Mr. Preucil don't have nearly as many students. Paul Kantor on the other hand has over 40, Robert Lipsett has almost 50. That's the average work week for any professional, so I think they're entitled to their private time. Just because they get paid a lot doesn't mean they don't work hard or get tired of hearing people play the violin.

Violin teachers are not public domain, they don't owe anyone any service. I am not talking here about part time teachers like you are, I'm talking about the people who teach as much as any other professional works in another field. Those are generally the teachers who dissapoint a lot of kids by rejecting them from their studios, and the ones who turn down requests for trial lessons, and then get people who go on the internet and angrily proclaim that they're being "ignored".

February 4, 2008 at 08:58 PM · I think that you might consider asking your current teacher who they would recommend. Your teacher is likely to have some opinions in this area and might prefer to contact potential college teachers on your behalf. You might think about contacting teachers with whom you have studied at summer institutes or taken master classes. They will likely have recommendations for you.

The import of taking trial lessons as I see it is to identify a potential teacher who, in addition to their abilities as a player and teacher, takes an interest in you. I think it is a disadvantage to arrive at an institution as a number. It helps to have someone sincerely looking out for you from the beginning.

As far as the imposition on the professor, in any field (engineering, biology etc...), the professor usually likes to have a correspondence with potential graduate students before they arrive on campus and, really, before even reviewing their applications. I would think it would not be much different in music.

February 4, 2008 at 11:13 PM · Pieter, my point was why would the violin teacher expect payment, but the department head, or the composition teacher, or the engineering professor not expect it? If the engineering professor wanted to be paid, he'd be a nut case. And remember they're working for somebody.

About auditioning teachers, of course you do. The instant you have a thought along the lines of I might prefer teacher 1 over teacher 2, you're guilty.

February 4, 2008 at 11:04 PM · Oh sorry Marina! I didn't see your post... I thought Pieter was putting me on when he mentioned your name.

Actually, Pieter, I really don't know anything about McGill other than it's a good school. Not a dig, just my ignorance.

February 4, 2008 at 11:19 PM · Because Jim, the department head would give you a 2 second tour or whatever, pat you on the head and say, ok good luck little timmy.

A teacher would actually be giving you a lesson, he'd be performing a service. That's totally different from a guy who would casually tell you about the workings of the school and what his average day would be like.

February 4, 2008 at 11:21 PM · Pieter, no, they would both answer any questions you posed to them. No difference in what's happening.

February 4, 2008 at 11:53 PM · Jim... no dean at any school would sit for 1 hour with a student who does not go to their university and critique their writing style, resume, speaking abilities, and give them career advice.

They'd answer admissions questions, some curriculum questions, but nothing like what I described. You might know the difference if you'd ever actually been to such a lesson, but I'm no longer puzzled as to why some random guy who claims to be this world class engineer, who doesn't play the violin, is telling me and everyone else here how these things work when he's never done any of it.

February 5, 2008 at 12:07 AM · Pieter, I've never claimed to be "this world class engineer." And I might have done a lot more than you realize, in my time :) I don't argue with people your age; I send them to their room.

February 5, 2008 at 12:08 AM · Ha! Yeah! Go to you room, Pieter! No dinner for you... Mamma's gonna sp... nevermind, let's not get into that.

February 5, 2008 at 12:37 AM · Well Josh just explained what should be quite clear to anyone. I know that some teachers charge no matter what. It weeds out tire kickers, which is important.

Jim; nice cop out. You haven't addressed anything I've said logically, and frankly if I lived in your hovel, I would have run away long before we could have had this discussion.

February 5, 2008 at 03:13 AM · Pieter,

Josh did get it right, however CIM, Eastman, Julliard etc are not the only "markets". Amongst the big 5 schools, it is indeed a seller's market. They could probably require you to take lessons with an adjunct trombone teacher for a year (since the violin teachers have so little time), and there would still be some violin students who'd do it just to be a violin student there for the other three years. At the next tier down though, it's more of a "buyer's market". Maybe at that level, say at CCM or Peabody, the teachers wouldn't be so worried about tire kickers. And at school x (I don't know, name a third tier school so I don't make anybody mad...) At one of those schools, you better believe they're actively recruiting, at least, I would be if I were they. It's not that they don't have great things to offer at those schools too, but they are not in the same position as the folks at a CIM or Julliard, who already have the goods AND the reputation. At those schools, you can find great teachers at the beginning of their careers who are hungry for good students and will roll out the red carpet for you. So I'll grudgingly grant that you're probably right about the top few schools, but that's not the whole story for most people. All I ever said was that it seemed to me that the teachers at CIM, Eastman and Peabody went out of their way to offer me chances to play for them, and I was rather more a drone than a star!

The same goes for engineering schools, I'm sure. When my brother applied to UMD to study physics and math, not just one, but a couple of professors spent time with him, took him out to lunch etc.

By the way, don't make fun of people's houses until you actually have a job. And...and... be sure you read the timestamp on these posts before you skewer an innocent bystander...

February 5, 2008 at 01:45 AM · Pieter, I do address you logically. I do that by not addressing you logically, since you aren't logical. So just go to your room :)

P.S. Howard,

Your brother would have gotten the same treatment at MIT, I believe. So why not your sister at Juilliard?

February 5, 2008 at 01:38 AM · I believe that trial lessons, or optionally observation of or conversation with, a teacher you are interested in studying with is so important. I made the mistake of not doing this when I applied to college. I am in my third year of my undergrad and I've already studied with 5 professors here at IU, and its looking like I will have to spend a few months with a 6th before I graduate in August. It takes a special bond, a lot of trust and respect, for the person you are studying with. I found that out after I realized how incompatible I was with some of the teachers I studied with, and I especially see that after I found a teacher I have really clicked with. I'm progressing so much faster now that I have a teacher that I can optimally learn from.

If you have the opportunity, I highly suggest exploring the teaching style of anyone you may be interested in studying with! As far as I have experienced at Indiana, most of the professors here are more than happy to meet with you and give you at least a few minutes of their time. They too are interested in meeting the students they may want to include in their studios in their future.

February 5, 2008 at 02:32 AM · lol, this thread is out of control :-)~

February 5, 2008 at 03:10 AM · Jim,

Yeah, exactly my point.


Sorry... thought you were replying to Pieter's remark to Jim.

February 5, 2008 at 03:15 AM · Jim, you still haven't addressed any argument that suggests you have experience in this area, or that you've thought it through even remotely. If nothing else, you're very consistent.

February 5, 2008 at 03:17 AM · I don't think so, Howard. But don't worry, the new thatching on the hovel is good till the next monsoon.

P.S. Pieter,

I told you to go to your room.

February 5, 2008 at 03:18 AM · Ahhh Pieter, you were speaking metaphorically... I was wondering what you were doing hanging out around Jim's house.

February 5, 2008 at 03:18 AM · Howard, it was metaphorical, but trust me, the reality (which has been confirmed by a number of sources) is not far from what I illustrated.

February 5, 2008 at 03:21 AM · I'm proud of my little hovel. I call it home.

February 5, 2008 at 03:22 AM · Well, as my brother (yes, the UMD one) always says when I make fun of his home, "yes, well your house is... wait, you don't OWN a house!". Shuts me up everytime.

February 5, 2008 at 03:28 AM · With music elitists to my front, house elitists to the back, and people who comb their hair and brush their teeth sneaking up on the left and right, I want a medal if I get out of this.

February 5, 2008 at 03:31 AM · Again, it has nothing to do with his house.

February 5, 2008 at 04:07 AM · what happened to `My house is your house,` and vice versa.....?

February 5, 2008 at 04:36 AM · The Buddha tells us that is the way of the light. But what if the light is coming from matches? What shall we do then, wise one?

February 5, 2008 at 04:42 AM · strike?

February 5, 2008 at 05:00 AM · Howard, I was only talking about the "top 5" (whatever they are) schools, because they're the only places where many students will get turned down for these lessons.

There are some teachers who don't give lessons because the reasoning is that it gives an unfair advantage to students who see them beforehand.

February 5, 2008 at 05:25 AM · Cripes! A pox on both your damn houses, thatched roof or no!

February 5, 2008 at 05:37 AM · Pieter,

Yes, I know. I meant "top 5" approximately and with probably the following membership- Julliard, Indiana, Curtis, Eastman and CIM. Could be more or less and I wasn't really referring to any standard list, just the idea of a top tier, but you get my point, I see.

February 5, 2008 at 05:44 AM · Mara, go to your room.

February 5, 2008 at 06:00 AM · I'm already IN my room.

February 5, 2008 at 06:43 AM · I think this thread is discriminating against the homeless.

February 5, 2008 at 06:43 AM · Hmmm...FIVE teachers at IU who aren't trustworthy... in only three years...

(lifting eyebrow)

Ever heard this old quote?:

"Sometimes I think the whole world is crazy except for me and thee.... and sometimes I wonder about thee"

Now, now...let the flaming begin!

February 5, 2008 at 01:32 PM · I never said they weren't trustworthy or worth studying with. I also never said that I disliked studying with all of them. I actually have learned a lot from each one. I just said that they weren't for me. And therefore I wish that I had better investigated their teaching styles before I had joined a studio so I could have found the one right for me.

Say what you want about me, but I'm still finishing my Bachelors of Music in 3 years!

February 5, 2008 at 01:42 PM · Very good! You must be working really hard. You have two recitals at IU for the undergraduate degree? Especially good.

How in the world did you do it given all the changes of studio and the lack of consistency which must come with that? How could you really even know what any one of the teachers was "leading up to" with you if you didn't stay with any one of them all that long? I wonder if you might have missed out on a lot of really good teaching because you will have had six approaches in six semesters? --Just some thoughts, not judgements.

February 5, 2008 at 01:57 PM · Wow and I thought I was the one always getting attacked in these threads. Anybody who tells you that taking trial lessons before handing over tens of thousands of dollars for college is not a violinist. At least not a violinist who makes their living playing violin.

February 5, 2008 at 10:13 PM · "I'm the one that has to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to. Sing on, brother. Play on, drum."




Ummm, Hendrix.

"Maybe I should call it quits."

David, you don't need to give up teaching. Just let I.U. do their job :) She might have missed something, she might have gained something too. I.U. says it's good enough to give her a B.M. in just 3 years. With that fact in mind, this is a matter of her living her own life. I'm not a violin teacher, but that's not required to see this.

February 5, 2008 at 02:44 PM · Mahler?

February 5, 2008 at 03:03 PM · Extraordinary. Depressing.

Maybe its time for me to step away from trying to teach. Maybe I'll become a gardener and live out my life peacefully shoveling manure into flower beds. (If you have to shovel it every day anyway, you might as well see something beautiful come out of it...)

If you want any advice about the violin while I'm gardening, you'll have to help me weed. Oh! Wait...that might be seen as payment for something of value... can't go there... hmmm...

Ah! Nevermind. Just keep supplying the fertilizer and I'll keep my opinions to myself. ;-)

February 5, 2008 at 03:09 PM · You know, Mr. Russell, with all the manure that gets shoveled on these pages, it's surprising to me that we DON'T see more flowers blooming.

February 5, 2008 at 03:25 PM · Prospective student "A" arranges a trial lesson within the extremely busy schedule of Super-Duper Elite Professor "V" and pays the handsome sum of $150 dollars for that privilidge.

Ok so here's the question, Does the student remit the payment in the form of a check to The University buisness office? or does the student pay cash directly to the professor? Where does the renumeration belong?????? In the University general fund or in the Prof's pocket???


February 5, 2008 at 03:59 PM · Ah I guess I deserve that, David, even if it's not entirely directed at me. In my defense, it does seem to me that unless students are a little assertive about themselves and their careers, it's easy to get misdirected, lost, or outright screwed at any school, so that's why my advice was to (politely of course) try to get some extra time alone with the teachers of one's choice when shopping around for schools. The part about payment was just an observation about what occurred with me when I auditioned as a senior in high school and as a young graduate student. Of course I believe that you should make as much money as you can, and you certainly have something of incredible value to sell, just be careful that you don't monetize the soul out of it.

I suppose the compromise position is that teachers might want to spend a little time (perhaps not an entire hour) with especially promising prospective students- students who might be of more value to you and your studio's reputation than the run-of-the-mill student. The rest of the auditionees, and the faculty too, will just have to make do as best they can with the process as it is. Actually, come to think of it, that's pretty much how it works already, right? Even at CIM I'm sure there is a "courting process" for the especially gifted students, and that probably includes some time with the teachers. So as a prospective student, why wouldn't I want to try to tap into that, or at least see if the school has that sort of interest in me?

Marina, I used to make my money freelancing like you do. I did that for about seven years until I got sick of it because of the schedule, driving and nightime work etc., so I took a public school teaching job. Now, especially with a wife and young daughter to spend time with, I have no regrets about leaving that life.

February 5, 2008 at 04:00 PM · And David, if you really are interested in becoming a gardner, you better move someplace where there's more sunshine! I have not forgotten that dismal Cleveland weather... lake effect snow,wimpy summers, blech...

February 5, 2008 at 05:26 PM · Ha! Funny, Howard. You should read the blog I posted today! :-)

February 5, 2008 at 10:35 PM · Moral of the story; it's good to get a lesson with a teacher you're serious about studying with. If they've got a lot of people in their studio and are in high demand, book well in advance or expect to be declined when you ask.

February 5, 2008 at 06:43 PM · David- Yes I do think that I missed out on some learning experiences having so many approaches to the instrument. I didn't really know if I would ever finish this degree, much less in 3 years, as I dappled in other majors and programs as well. My success in my education has really come down to self-motivation and the ability to understand relationships between different technical and musical approaches to the violin. At this point, I really can understand what works the best for me personally, and those things come from all different teachers. I know friends who play just like their teachers or just like their peers in their studios, and I love knowing that my approach to the violin is unique.

My whole situation does make me particularly biased towards making efforts towards meeting teachers before deciding to go to any school. I think that had I met my current teacher 3 years ago, I would be in a much different place right now. It's going to be hard to let him go in a few months. :)

February 5, 2008 at 07:25 PM · M.E. did you ever work with Yuval Yaron while at IU?

February 5, 2008 at 07:29 PM · No I didn't. Unfortunately I'm too young to have worked with him. I don't think he's been here since 2000 maybe?

February 5, 2008 at 08:00 PM · one thing l like about mr russel is that he writes zany posts and two, he gives barely enough violin homework to pieter thus allowing pieter ample time to practice on :):):)

don't get me wrong,,,, i like pieter's input, just wonder how he multitasks!

referring to marina below:

oh come on, no fair! one person can't take 2 seats! :)

February 5, 2008 at 07:39 PM · Why does everyone attack eachother?

February 5, 2008 at 07:39 PM · I leave you with the last word. This discussion is now over.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

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