Do not go to RCM Junior Department, my daughter's teacher say

April 18, 2008 at 04:04 PM · My 10 year old daughter has been accepted into the Royal College of Music Junior Department in London. I am quite happy that she has made it after four years of constant struggle with her violin.

But her violin teacher suggest that she should not go there saying that the Junior Department is highly competitive and my daughter won't be able to cope with the pressure and the competitive environment there.

I have realised from my own experience, having helped her to be as good(or bad) as she is now, that learning a musical instrument is quite stressful, though I have never gone through such ordeal(?).

Being very shy, my daughter hasn't said about the result but as a mum, I can see that she is quite proud of herself deep inside. I am proud of her too, but her teacher is of the opinion that she will not do well at the Junion Department.

I requested her teacher two week's break from weekly individual lesson right after the audition. She called me last night that my daughter should not accpet the offer saying somewhat bluntly that the fact she needs a break is a sure sign that she won't manage well. The teacher said that even one of her best pupil who is 6 years senior has failed to get in.

It was the teacher who suggested my daughter to apply in the first place and now she has changed her mind. I have already sent the letter accepting the offer.

My daughter is doing well at school and is on the gifted child list. I am at a loss what is best for her and puzzled about her teacher's sudden change of heart. I didn't think the Junior Department was only reserved only for aspirants for future professional violinists.

Does the Junior Department really require such full-fledged commitment and devotion? Do you think her teacher's advice is reasonable?

Replies (59)

April 18, 2008 at 05:12 PM · I don't know anything about the Royal College of Music, so maybe my opinion here will really be in left field, but I think that if your daughter made it in to the junior division, then the judges must have seen something in her performance that made them reasonably sure she should in fact be there. Apparently your daughter's teacher saw something too, at least at first because she was the one who recommended you take her to the audition. Here is what I think. Your daughter's teacher told you to let her audition but didn't really think your daughter would make it. Low and behold, your daughter worked hard and did in fact make it. Now, her teacher had some more advanced students try out who didn't make it. Teacher now has egg on her face because your daughter made it and they didn't. I say that only you and your daughter know what she can handle emotionally, etc. As far as the judges were concerned she should be there in regards to her skill and potential. Don't let your daughter's private teacher change what might be a very good experience and opportunity for your daughter. Also, if her teacher is that double minded, I would look into finding a teacher that actually is honest with you and your daughter. Again, maybe my opinion is off the mark since I don't have experience with RCM, but people are people and your daughter's teacher sounds like a real coniver.

April 18, 2008 at 06:34 PM · If your daughter could be serious about the violin this seems to be a wonderful opportunity that you wouldn't want to pass up. Obviously they thought she would fit in. Eventually she will have to learn to deal with competition and see if violin is something she might like to continue to pursue. It will be a learning and maturing experience and you might be pleasantly surprised at how she reacts to it all. She also might be inspired by being around other talented kids with similar interests. I see only positives and can't imagine any irreversible harm coming out of her participation.

April 18, 2008 at 06:35 PM · I don't want to say anything to contradict your opinion of your daughter's teacher but something about how she is handling this situation seems a bit dishonest to me. If you do decide to attend rcm will this teacher lose your business? That may be something she is concerned with because teachers tend to want to hold on to students that could prove to be successful and claim their success as their own in the long run. No matter what her reasoning is I think it has more to do with her own personal agenda than your daughter's welfare. It doesn't sound like she's giving you a good reason, especially since YOU know best about what kind of emotional stress your daughter can handle. No doubt violin and competition go hand in hand, but imagine 5 yrs from now what happens if your daughter turns to you and says "I got IN and you didn't let me go????"

April 18, 2008 at 06:31 PM · In my personal opinion as a parent of a gifted violin student is...

You know your child the best. She obviously is very talented in order to get into the program. If you and your child think she is ready then that is all that matters. If you or her thinks that she needs a small break, then take it too.

As far as the other student not getting in.. all students are different, maybe your daughter is better than her or the competition is steeper the older the student.

If I were in your shoes, and my child wanted to attend that conservatory, I would do it with or without teacher recommendation.

I would question the teacher in this... why would she encourage your child to audition when she knows what the conservatory is like? sounds fishy

April 18, 2008 at 07:11 PM · This does seem a really strange situation. I definitely do agree with other posters that you should allow your child to take up her place, since those who auditioned her obviously feel she has something to offer the school and vice-versa.

She'll have the chance to play alongside other talented young people of her age and personally knowing people who went through this programme (and didn't necessarily take up music as a career) she's sure to make lots of like-minded new friends as well as enjoy and experience musical challenges along the way.

Let's face it, if after a couple of terms or so she doesn't feel happy or for whatever reason things are not working out with her studies, you can make the decision that maybe her teacher was right and withdraw her from the school... But if your daughter never has the chance to actually try out this big opportunity she has received - I think both of you will regret it a lot in the future and that would be a sad situation to get into.

April 19, 2008 at 03:14 AM · Considering that this would seem to be the kind of opportunity that doesn't come along all too often, ask yourself this:

1) if you decline, how likely will your daughter regret this decision in 5, 10 or 20 years?

2) if you accept, how likely will your daughter regret this decision in 5, 10 or 20 years?

April 19, 2008 at 04:04 AM · I'd have her go to RCM. Pressure and competition are not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion.

April 19, 2008 at 11:07 AM · I went to the RCM junior department (about 17 years ago though!), and I was older than your daughter when I joined, I was about 15 at the time. I agree that there is an element of competitiveness there, but nothing too severe. I remember really enjoying the atmosphere there, and improved during those two years (mostly down to my teacher there of course) more than I have done at any other time.

Is it not possible that your daughter could try it for a term, and if she doesn't enjoy it she can simply quit there?

April 19, 2008 at 11:27 AM · Can you spend a couple of days watching rehearsals and classes with your daughter? This might help get a general "feel" of what goes on there.

April 19, 2008 at 01:12 PM · What will the teacher provider her otherwise. Safety? A stress free life? Competition can be helpful, and very motivating. Let her have her glory. She is in. What is the danger here? Will they throw her out for some reason? My child has won some local competitions and it helps him take the violin much more seriously than before he won. He loves it and finds it "exciting" versus "stressful" or scary. If your daughter does not have the temperment to compete, it will be "stressful". I think if a child wants to compete, a parent or teacher is doing them a disservice to discourage them to save "self esteem". Are you sure it is not the teacher or you, the parent who is stressed out? The teacher may be over protective. If any competition is fair, in my experience children take losing very well. It is difficult to watch your child struggle or in competition, loose. If the school treats her with respect, I would let her go. The competition is probably more from the other parents or students, not the school itself. Many parents invent a type of pecking order but you have to ignore it keep working and it will work out for her. She is in and has already achieved a dream! Good Luck

April 19, 2008 at 01:52 PM · Congratulations to you and your daughter! She must be very proud, and I'm sure you are as well. Your request for a short break following a period of intense preparation is indicative of NOTHING about your daughter's readiness to attend RCM. Your teacher's behavior is strange and worrisome. Why not have your daughter give this new situation a go? As the other posters have noted, what's the real risk? If it doesn't work, she simply leaves. The much bigger risk is in not trying RCM, in my humble opinion.

(I would also seriously consider the appropriateness of your daughter's current teacher.)

April 19, 2008 at 04:57 PM · Hello Sophie,

I teach at the JRCM and I don't feel it is a fiercely competitive environment at all, and certainly not at your daughter's age group. Comparing with the Purcell School, which is a music specialist school I also teach at, it is definitely less intense (and I wouldn't say that Purcell is fearsomely competitive). Nothing to be scared of, and it doesn't entail any expectations of committing to a professional career, just a degree of commitment that it is something important in your daughter's life (or she wouldn't devote her Saturdays to it). You've lots to gain by accepting the offer, little to lose if you decide to leave in the unlikely event things don't work out.

Best, Nathaniel

April 21, 2008 at 10:43 AM · Thank you all for your kind and encouraging replies. Since I have not been trained as a musician, I have very limited knowledge about musci and its circle.

I have thought about it over the weekend and still puzzled about the reamrks her teacher made discouraging me from sending my daughter there. A lot of thoughts have gone through my mind; sometimes frustrated and sometimes understanding.

I might be wrong but what the teacher might be thinking is more or less something to do with financial support at the school. She might be thinking that my daughter will not be as successfull as others whose parent can lavish on violins, tuitions and others and that eventually my daughter will not make it all the way through.

Her teacher has been complaing that the quality of my aughter's instrument fall far short of what she is expected to have. She may be thinking that we lack both the knowledge of music and financial support that could be essential to see her through. That is one of the reasons I have not been able to push and drag my daughter into making decision to be a professional violinist at her age, though I have done as best as I can within my means to set the stage for her to add on to later on her own. I wanted to provide least opportunity available rather than doing nothing for her. The place at the college is the one she has achieved through hard work, though lacking the best knowledgeable helps from her parents, so I don't want to let her down as most posters here have kindly suggested.

But I don't know what to do with her teacher. She is the one my first daughter's first teacher recommended and has worked for years to teach my daughter as far as she is now but she dosn't have a clear teaching schedule and possesss quite unpredictable character.

My daughter rarely have breaks from her private lessons unless her teacher wanted one. The only sudden cancellation for two years was when my daughter had a severe diarrhea, on which occasion I thought it was right decision not to let her take the lesson. This two weeks break has been the first such occasion but her teacher was angry for not telling her earlier.

I am undecided whether after she has started at Junior Department, she should continue other individual lessons outside the college.

Thank you again for all the kind replies. Long live!

April 21, 2008 at 02:49 PM · "I requested her teacher two week's break from weekly individual lesson right after the audition. She called me last night that my daughter should not accpet the offer saying somewhat bluntly that the fact she needs a break is a sure sign that she won't manage well."

something in this just made me really want to respond. in my opinion, the teacher's saying this is a sure sign that they are not right for a 10 year old!

taking a break is a very good idea and it sounds to me as though you have a healthy attitude to your daughter's relationship to working with the violin, which is rare indeed in the parent of someone young and talented.

i don't have an opinion about the RCM's junior division because i don't know anything about it, but i would say that your daughter deserves to explore the violin as best she can, and she deserves to be a child at the same time. Just do what you feel is right for your family and your girl, and don't listen to other people who want to tell you what's right and wrong.

April 21, 2008 at 07:34 PM · You have gotten some really good responses here.. I would also like to add something that someone once told me.

"Behind a successful violinist is a super parent."

Please don't feel discouraged about your own musical background, just be there for your daughter like you have always been. Be her rock.

Yes, you are going to come across some nasty parents, and please don't become too concerned about the cost of your daughter's violin. One thing that money can't buy; talent and love.

I wish you only the best of luck to you and your daughter


April 21, 2008 at 11:18 PM · Greetings,

I agree wth Cora. The comment about taking a break was utter nonsense. When I entered the RCm many aeons ago the people who came in from junior department were actually much more friendly and supportive than other students who were coping for the first time wth the relaization that they were little fish in a -very- big pond. I would just go ahead and let her join. Maybe this soudns banal, but of she hates it after a fair shot she could do somethign really simple- leave. ;)



April 22, 2008 at 01:19 PM · I can share with you my own not dis-similiar experience as a parent in London. My eldest was encouraged to apply to the Junior Department of a London Conservatoire and was successful. Her tutor then became extremly negative and I found out later that she had not expected my daughter to get in. She appeared, to put it bluntly, become 'jealous'. My daughter went there for four years and left at 18 then went on to do her Music degree at another conservatoire and is a Professional musician today. I too had little or no music background. I too had little or no funds. But we stuck with it and she progressed and made great friends in the Junior Department. If for one moment we had thought it was not working we would not have hesitated to pull her out. Just go for it and put all those negatives behind you. It is a truely wonderful opportunity. Now our youngest is about to audition for the Royal Acadamy of Music Junior Department and is doing so because she wants to.

May 2, 2008 at 01:37 PM · Thank you for all your kind responses and aremed with all the inputs I was able to get the better picture.

It seems that what the posters have said turned out to be right. As the posters have rightly guessed, all the fuss was more to do with the business and personal agenda.

When I met her face to face, she said she was angry because I let my daughter to have two weeks' break and another pupil would be given a place instead if my daughter did not accept the place, which came as a shock to me. The teacher also implied that it could be prearranged with the college so that the pupil the teacher really like could be selected in the audition, which I took as the trademan's bluff.

Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that it is not worthwhile to continue private lessons with the teache. I think I need to have someone more principled and transparent in teaching. I asked my family friend to find a teacher for my daughter for the time being.

However, I still feel unsure if my decision is right. I feel as if we were thrown out in the cold.

May 2, 2008 at 03:35 PM · Congratulations to your talented daughter. If she is happy and proud of her accomplishment (as she should be), I'd trust her on that. I wouldn't worry too much about the instrument at the moment. If your daughter has a great talent, you should both do everything in your power to develop it as well as you can. Things just seem to work out when you're doing your best. There are many individuals and organizations that support the arts. If RCM isn't right for her, you'll both know it. If she didn't give it a go, she wouldn't ever know.

Oh, and sometimes being "thrown out in the cold" is a miracle, and just what you needed in order to find the answer to the next steps in the journey! Do your homework, audition, interview teachers, work at it and then watch as it works itself out . . .

May 2, 2008 at 09:25 PM · Dear Sophie,

firstly, congratulations to your daughter, you must be very proud, it is a real achivement.

I have had many students that have gone on to study at the RCM junior department over the years and it is a nurturing environment for them.Every single one of them has enjoyed their time there socially and flourished musically. Many have gone on to study at music college and others haven't but it gives those who do a wonderful 'grounding' for a potential career in music.

I simply cannot understand your daughter's teacher and her comments! I gained places at junior departments and then at the main conservatoires in London on a very poor instrument because we couldn't afford anything better! Talent will shine through regardless and your daughter has obviously impressed enough in her audition for them to offer her a place!

There is nothing worse than not knowing what she could have achieved if she turns her place down so she simply must try it and see if it is for her. Junior departments can be as competitive or uncompetitive as you want them to be. As long as she doesn't 'waste' her place by not working she should have a great time.

I wish her the best of luck and hope that it is everything she wants it to be!

May 3, 2008 at 03:08 AM · Sophie, I just read this thread for the first time from start to finish. All along, I was hoping the teacher saw some good reason for her opinion that perhaps we were not aware of, perhaps that she knew your daughter wouldn't be a good fit, that she had a fragile spirit, or something like that. And then I read your last post and was appalled. What a horrible thing for her to do! I'm so sorry she did that to you, and I wouldn't think twice about leaving her studio.

I wish the best for you and your daughter, and I hope she absolutely loves where she's going. What a great opportunity!


May 3, 2008 at 06:52 AM · Greetings,

and you can nip over the road and feed the ducks in Hyde park.



May 3, 2008 at 11:43 AM · if the teacher is a good violin teacher, can we overlook character flaws?

May 3, 2008 at 01:38 PM · What? A character flaw whereby said teacher tries to sink their own pupil?

I don't thinkkk sooooooo.

In fact, because of that behaviour, I would have thought that the teacher was most definitely NOT a good teacher by definition.


May 3, 2008 at 02:32 PM · Amen.

May 3, 2008 at 05:02 PM · In my own line of business, something like this would be in violation of UK fair business practises and one would be able to report this to the DTI (UK Dept. of Trade and Industry) who would take appropriate action to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Music teachers may not fall under the DTI's jurisdiction but I wouldn't be surprised if there is some other watchdog, be it some other government agency or some kind of music teacher association. Whatever it is, I believe it would be worth to find out and if this teacher has violated guidelines of fair business practises, then you should report it to whatever turns out to be the relevant watchdog organisation.

May 3, 2008 at 08:35 PM · From the college website

"Regular lessons with teachers outside JD are not allowed." I guess that helps answer the question about whether you should find another teacher. Situation could be neatly resolved. You can comfortably congratulate your daughter and say thankyou to her teacher who at least developed her talent to this point, before she had this weirdo attitude change.

May 4, 2008 at 01:27 AM · "if the teacher is a good violin teacher, can we overlook character flaws?"

ok, allow me to be verbose and explain:)

good violin teacher: one that is good in teaching violin and violin only.

character flaws: other than good violin skills, poor role model for kids in terms of life lessons and skills.

thus my question: since violin teachers come in all shades of colors, despite their skills in violin, how tolerant should we be when being confronted with the 2 entities in one teacher? sure, the rhetoric should be well, get a perfect teacher then, one that is a great person and a great violinist. sure.

from the student's achievement, it is reasonable to assume the teacher is a very good one when it comes to teaching a 10 yo to get into a prestigious program like that. if this recent incident did not happen, it is also reasonable to assume that the parent and the student may continue to feel comfortable with that teacher.

by no means am i defending that particular teacher. since we only hear one side of the story, i would like to remind myself that NOT all of a sudden, the teacher in question becomes worthless.

May 4, 2008 at 01:32 AM · I agree with Neil. Besides having the requisite skills, a teacher must always act in the best interest of the student. This, to me, is the very definition of a good teacher. In this case the teacher acted against the welfare of the student. I would never send my son to such a teacher regardless of superlative teaching talent. What worth is there in a teacher you cannot trust?

May 4, 2008 at 02:05 AM · except to arrive at the definition of a good teacher, it is advisable to hear more than one side of the story, and to look at the entire span of the teacher's involvement. i have no problem siding with the assumption that the teacher is potentially putting her interest ahead of her student's based on this one singular incident. did we get the story that from day one the teacher has been behaving as such? i did not.

if my kid has received great violin instruction over the years and this one incident is turning ugly, i for one would not be ungrateful for all the positive things the teacher might if not surely has done to help raise the kid's level of play. it is only fair to draw a line in the middle and put things in perspective. may be some of you are very righteous individuals, always doing good in life.

no one in this world has the time to assert that a good teacher is one that sabotages a kid's future. what is there to agree or disagree???

to ask the astute ones here more bluntly: how much carp should one put up with a teacher that knows the violin chops but lacking in other departments???

why am i asking this? because i have yet to meet a perfect human being and that includes violin teachers! :)

"What worth is there in a teacher you cannot trust?"

for one, the teacher's contribution has helped earn the kid a spot in the school. that is worthy whether you can trust her anymore or not!

May 4, 2008 at 02:11 AM · al,

Your point about it being just one side of the story is well-made. I've pointed out similar things in the past on - more bluntly and much to the chagrin of those concerned. :)

However, it doesn't change my opnion that if the behaviour of the teacher happened as described then, no, that teacher is NOT a good teacher.

I think it pays to remember that the teacher is not just responsible for teaching violin, but is also one of the many closely involved in the development of a child as a person. The teacher has a responsibility and trust that goes beyond the mere teaching of musical mechanics.

I'm sorry, but I can't stomach the world that forgives minor character flaws such as mass murder, drunkness and drug-taking, violent wife-beating, father-raping, dictatorial tyrant, etc, just because someone is good at sport, music, acting or being a celebrity.

So it's up to you as to where you draw the line in what sort of "character flaw" you're willing to accept for someone to teach your child. However, if it was me that line would not be far from the values I hold.

I could go on, but, for once, won't. :)


May 4, 2008 at 02:22 AM · other than mass murdering, drunkness and drug-taking, violent wife-beating, father-raping, dictatorial tyrant, etc, i think i can tolerate just about anything else:)

May 4, 2008 at 02:42 AM · Whilst personality flaws are tolerable, a serious breach of trust automatically terminates the teacher-student relationship in my book.

May 4, 2008 at 01:40 PM · No one says you can't be grateful for the knowledge the teacher has imparted on your child thus far. However, I would find it difficult to continue going to a teacher that has so blatantly stated that my child's musical path is not their main priority. I would politely express my gratitude until this point and move on. It's always most important to move on.

May 4, 2008 at 08:30 PM · I’ve been following this discussion with great interests and sympathy. Maybe this is a cultural thing (correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the o.p., Al and I are all happen to be of Chinese ethnicity), I’m naturally inclined to think along Al’s line when faced with a teacher-student conflict. From very young I was taught to be utter most respectful and grateful to our teachers while recognising that teachers are human. So as long as they know their stuff and have taught us well on the subject, we can take a lot of carp that flows on the top. The trust is enormous here so is the chance for abuse. To second guess our teacher’s intention/motive, especially when the relationship is long and successful to the last point, is really a hard thing to do. In this case though, I agree with Ben that there is a breach of trust (given what we’ve been told so far, which is all we can work on here), and this is a dead-end in any fiduciary relationship on my book too.

The issue here is not whether she is a good teacher or bad teacher, but rather when a fatal mistake is made by the person who is in the position to be looked up to, to be trusted and relied on who carp on you like this, to say it hurts is an understatement.

May 4, 2008 at 10:24 PM · I agree with Yixi. We've been taught "to think of the source of water when drinking it". But I guess we have to draw the line somehow when something like that happens.

May 5, 2008 at 01:13 AM · great comments above. hate to beat the dead horse even more, but i'm still wondering what kind of teacher the family was dealing with,,,one that is labelled as having "unstable character", one that encouraged the kid to apply to that school in the first place and did a 360 in face of the verdict. talking about being unstable...

with that track record, i am hopeful that the teacher will be in full support of the family's decision by next week when another cycle of hormones kicks in:)

on the other topic, i do see a personality trait in many music teachers that rivals a military drill sergernt's. some teachers can be real nasty at times when sharing the beauty of music:) they can act like real jerks. a little put up, suck up and shut up for the next generation who are on a quest for knowledge? :)

May 5, 2008 at 02:21 AM · Al, is it possible that you have missed Sophie's subsequent post where she described the teacher's very own admission that she wanted Sophie's child to decline for the purpose of making space for another pupil of hers who didn't get accepted?

In the face of such an admission, any conclusion that this is a mood swing which will soon revert and resolve itself is nothing but wishful thinking. Conflicts of interests aren't mood swings.

May 5, 2008 at 03:13 AM · ben, i just saw that post that you were referring to. still, the additional info does not explain why the teacher would encourage choi's kid to apply for that school in the first place, to compete with her "favorite" other student. the outcome of the situation suggests that the teacher really does not have that much of a pull in that school's admission process. not sure if i can catagorize that as bad character as such. rather strange behavior for sure.

dude, i was being facetious that the teacher would change her mind next week:).

May 5, 2008 at 05:22 AM · “i was being facetious that the teacher would change her mind next week:).“

Al, just for the fun of argument, what if she does change her mind tomorrow? Does this tell us anything about who this person is and isn’t? Should Ms Choi take her back? Probably not. We don’t have her side of story and there is much too little information for us to say anything about her as a person. She may turn out to be an absolutely wonderful person but acted out of character in this particular case for whatever reason. Good and stable people make ridiculous mistakes for all sorts of reasons. Some mistakes are sufficient enough for ending a relationship, and this is one of them.

Not only it is futile and irrelevant to ask what kind of person this teacher is, I also kind of feel that it's not entirely fair for us to speculate too much on it. If the teacher happens to be reading this thread, I hope the message she gets is that it is her conduct described by Ms Choi rather than she as a person that we are condemning. Regardless of the cause and motivation, she acted unprofessionally and that we hope she will learn a lesson from this incident.

May 5, 2008 at 08:27 AM · If The family accepts the place, they can't have another teacher anyway. there is strange behaviour everywhere, we can't always predict another person's agenda, nor can we identify what is driving anopther person's agenda. Maybe the OTHER parent was harassing the teacher. Maybe the teacher really didn't want to teach the other pupil and was hoping that she'd get in so that the teaching relationship would have to end. Lots of possibilities.

May 5, 2008 at 04:35 PM · Yixi--is it not also an Eastern belief that one should accept disappointment as a welcome opportunity for change? Being "kicked out" by this teacher seems to be the perfect happy ending. No blame to place, just the understanding that now the paths are diverging and the student must be ready for the next steps in the journey. When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear! I hope I'm not misunderstanding, but doesn't accepting the position at JRCM mean Miss Choi will now be placed with a new teacher anyway?

As far as the other student is concerned, not being accepted is her own "disappointment" to welcome and learn from. All beginnings do not result in the endings we imagine. As I think about this situation--a difficult one--it seems good for a teacher to be flexible, especially when the outcome doesn't match her intentions. Perhaps there are better things to come for everyone concerned. We're usually inept when it comes to knowing what is best for us, and DEFINITELY when it comes to knowing what is best for someone else.

Al--you know I'm being as delicate as I can be in taking you to task ;), but I have one issue to kindly submit--though no one should be expected to be perfect as we are all in a state of being perfected (life school), nevertheless we teach what we are. We are constantly teaching. It is very difficult to separate the violin from the other aspects of living life. Eventually, and in many ways, we are just as influenced by all the other aspects of a person (and that is not to qualify a standard of good or bad, just to admit that all things influence each other). I really hate to admit this, but in an effort to be very honest, I know that as a teacher, my students will recieve a great deal of excitement and love for the violin, because that's who I am as a person. But, they will not recieve an organized or easily discernable pattern towards success, because that's NOT who I am (or who I've chosen to be). I mourn my weakness, but I also celebrate it. Quirkiness is okay and makes us endearing to each other. It makes me the perfect teacher for some students, and terrible for others.

This other teacher has her quirky points, and I'm sure she was just doing her best. The whole thing sounds welcome as now both students will have the teacher they need with the ability to help them.

May 5, 2008 at 03:51 PM · yes, Madame Yixi's analytical laser gun is tuned real fine! i think it is human nature that we linger over after-tastes, esp if it is slightly on the bitter side:) and i am certainly guilty of fueling the fire here.

here is a little eastern story for sensei kimberlee:). btw, just saw your fine post,,,nicely written!

a little scratchy tremolo on e string please to set the mood...

long time ago, in a far away land, on a dark stormy night, the little monk went to the market with the master monk. on the way home, they came across a large puddle of water blocking the path and saw a beautiful lady in fine clothes and shoes hesitating to cross it. the master monk went up to the lady, picked her up (possibly sexual harassment by today's standard, so don't try it:) and carried her across the puddle in his arms.

the little monk's mind was flooded with the pic of his master carrying the beautiful lady across the puddle. two days later, he finally went up his master to ask: what make you decide to carry the lady across the puddle?

the master: ah, grasshopper, i see you are still carrying the lady on your mind.


May 5, 2008 at 04:55 PM · And now I'm carrying the grasshopper on my mind! Covered in chocolate. Good story. Sensei Kimberlee! Nice one hahahaha. In return, here's a story for you:

No violin tremolo needed (half-rate story not worthy of even scratchy tremolo):

A girl goes to her violin lesson on a bright and sunny day. The teacher asks her to play what she has prepared during the week. She plays, very nervous that she will not impress him as she so desires to do. Her efforts to please the teacher result in the obvious conclusion, and the teacher says "I see you have decided against playing the violin today." Girl answers quizically "but teacher, I just played for you!" The teacher responds "No, no one can play the violin while balancing their teacher on the scroll."

Okay, okay, that was pretty much a NOSE DIVE story, but I'm a novice at this . . . I wasn't brought up in Eastern traditions. Learned everything I know from Asians on and Shaw Brothers movies. hahahaha. I'm grateful for any knowledge, even if it ends up convoluted in my Western mind. :-) tee hee hee.

May 5, 2008 at 04:29 PM · kimberlee, that punch line is very important because i challenge my kid every single day with it...are you trying to impress me because i am not easily impressed anyway or are you going to enjoy it regardless, because if you do enjoy it, there is a chance that others may share your enjoyment along with you? what do you say, shiao sha gua (little dumb mellon:)?

ok, i copy and paste one last fable for kimberlee and other enlightened ones raised on cheese instead of tofu:)

long ago, in a far away land, near the frontier lived an old man. One dark stormy night he found his horse missing. enter tremolo. It was said that the horse was seen running outside the border of the country. The neighbors came to comfort him for the unfortunate loss. But the old man was unexpectedly calm and said, "It doesn't matter; it may not be a bad event, on the contrary, I think it can be a good one." (if you sit on and break a violin, a mysterious strad may appear at the door:)

One night the old man heard some noise of horses and got up to see. To his surprise, he saw another beautiful horse as well as his own. It was clear that his horse had brought a companion home. Hearing the news, the neighbors all came to say congratulation on his good luck. At the greetings, however, the old man was very calm and thoughtful. He added, "It is true that I got a new horse for nothing, but it is hard to say whether it is good or bad. It may be an unlucky thing."

What he said was testified right. The son of the old man was very fond of the horse brought home, and one day, when he was riding the horse, he fell down from the horseback and terribly hurt in his left leg. Since then he was never able to walk freely. "Nothing serious," the old man said, "perhaps it is going to be good." (there comes another strad:)

A year later, many of the youth there were recruited to fight in a war and most of them died. The son of the old man was absolved from the obligation for his disability, so he escaped death.

The old story tells us that good and bad, disaster and happiness can be converting objects to each other sometimes.


May 5, 2008 at 05:34 PM · I listen and I learn, sifu Al. ;) haha cheese and tofu. Cute. Unfortunately, I'm allergic to both dairy and soy. Sad story for another day. It's not a wise story, neither does it have any meaning whatsoever, especially since I'm probably going to get cancer anyway.

May 5, 2008 at 04:35 PM · erase the last line kimberlee!!!

replace it with upset stomach to which the old man would say: nothing serious, it may end up as good! hahaha

May 5, 2008 at 05:35 PM · Okay. We take what we get, we do the best we can and we move on, just like Yixi and the old man says. Or, as Rudyard Kipling would have it: "if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same . . . then yours is the earth and everything that's in it, and what is more than that, you'll be a man, my son" (at least I think that's it--going on memory here).

BTW--did that strad show up yet? Was it a 3/4 you broke? or 1/2 size?

May 5, 2008 at 06:08 PM · we have a spare, so strad fairy probably won't show. it is interesting though, that both violins are so so and each has a set of neat and contrasting acoustic properties, not unlike some violin teachers are great in violin but quirky and vice versa:)

the one that was broke, ok sound from a distance but sounds horrible under the ear. high position g and d very tough to pin the pitch/note down. need just the right amt of bow pressure, so takes effort to play.

the other one, sounds very pretty and noble under the ear, with great body vibration that you can feel under the chin or on collar bone. BUT, from a distance, it sounds thin. for self practice, it is quite enjoyable, until others hear it and give you feedback:), like, oh, the one you broke sounded better,,,and oh, nice haircut, it will grow back!:)

may be after all violin fairy appreciates the dilemma and comes through?

May 6, 2008 at 12:02 AM · The "Guarneri Fairy" is a little faster and she doesn't growl as much. Maybe you'll get her instead.

May 6, 2008 at 03:38 AM · Kimberlee, yes, what Al wonderfully described to us in English is the story behind the Chinese famous proverb 塞翁失馬 (“Sāi Wēng Shī Mǎ”; i.e., Sai Weng Lost his Horse). I like the expression "one door closes, another opens" better, as every time I heard this Chinese proverb, I thought of “The True Story of Ah Q” written by one of the most influential Chinese writers Lu Xun (1881-1936), who was famous for being highly critical of certain Chinese mentality such as self-deception and extreme apathy in the face of injustice. You know what I mean, Al. I’ll copy and paste it here for you guys:

Ah Q has no status in the village of Weichang, except for what little he may temporarily gain by lying, stealing, or somehow linking himself with an important person. He wanders all day on the streets and makes a living by stealing and begging, and sometimes by doing low-paid temporary jobs. Ah Q has an "abundant" spiritual life made up of watching others doing things that he considers "foolish" or "rude." ...

Ah Q is known for deluding himself into believing he is the victor every time he loses a fight. In one scene, Ah Q is beaten and his silver is stolen. He slaps himself on the face, and because he is the person doing the slapping, he sees himself as the victor. ...

When Mr. Zhao, an honored landlord of the village, beats Ah Q in a fight, Ah Q considers himself important for having even a tiny association with such a person. Though some villagers suspect Ah Q may have no true association with Mr. Zhao, they do not question the matter closely, and instead give Ah Q more respect for a time.

One day, news of Xinhai Revolution comes into town. Both landlord families, the Zhaos and the Chiens, become revolutionaries to keep their power. Some people, under the name of "revolutionary army", rob the houses of the landlords and rich folks. Ah Q also wants to join them and also claim himself a revolutionary, but misses the opportunity to act when the time comes. Finally, Ah Q is arrested as a scapegoat for the plunder and sentenced to death by the new governor.

When Ah Q is asked to sign a confession, he worries that he cannot write his name. The officers tell him to sign a circle instead. Ah Q is so worried about drawing a perfect circle to save face that he is unaware he would be executed until it is too late. Before his death he persuades himself he will be reborn again as a valiant man, and tries to entertain the crowds watching his execution, but fails to remember the correct lines of the Chinese opera he is emulating.


Not a happy story, but not many Chinese people I know aren't convinced by Lu Xun.

May 6, 2008 at 04:19 AM · how about this:

the other night,i attempted to sit on a chair

miscalculated the distance

from my ass to the chair

and overreacted to the situation

and fell upon my violin

breaking it into 1,000 pieces

because of the total dismay of destroying my favourite fiddle

i was incapable of retaining an upright position

and remained,for the remainder of the evening in a state of torpor,regarding the demise of my fav fiddle-not really,i recovered quite soon !

since then,i've had to play on another violin,

i've adapted to the situation

by resetting the soundpost,

installing a new bridge upon a fiddle which i've considered to be 2nd rate

up until this catatastrophe.

now,,i play on the 'second rate' fiddle

and it sounds great !

so,make the most of your mistakes...

sorry to have misaligned the original thread -

just play !


Great post Yixi !!!

May 6, 2008 at 05:23 PM ·

May 7, 2008 at 01:50 AM · I promise this to be my last digression on this thread. Kimberlee, I wasn’t suggesting any of us are self-deceived or anything. It was only to share my immediate thought to the proverb, which at the time came so strongly and distinctly but not any more. I guess I lived in China too long to not see the cloud from both sides. I’m sure the result is just to get everyone confused , even though it could be an interesting read.

May 7, 2008 at 09:13 AM · I am surprised to see all the responses while I was away. Thank you for all your responses. But I am compelled to correct the assumption that I am Chinese origin and that the teacher is not of the origin eighter.

I have endure what some posters say "character flaws," I think it is what we have to put up with as long as we live in a society where all sort of different people live. And I can definitely say that I have acted on principles as far as the teacher is concerned, which the teacher might have thought is my weakness thus taken advantage of.

I belive that the general rule of behaviour and the princple of teacher-student relations should be the same as in all the rest of relationship.

Thank you for your overwhelming responses.

May 7, 2008 at 01:04 PM · ms choi, i am confident you will find or have found a satisfactory resolution/closure to this unpleasant episode.

just to want to clarify that i did not have your and the teacher's ethnicity in mind because one, i am too busy to mindread here and two, who cares.

May 7, 2008 at 02:39 PM · Very well said, Al! And I stand corrected. Ms Choi, we are on your side and everyone is doing his/her bit to show support. Discussing cultural difference can help understanding certain approaches one takes, but if it doesn't apply or makes no sense, then please ignore the noise the best you can.


May 7, 2008 at 02:47 PM · yixi, i don't see why you should stand corrected when you are correct:) more often than not, mind twisters in the western culture may be untied with some eastern touch.

funny you brought up lu xun, one that is known to say something like that instead of visiting coffee houses, i spent my time writing, when asked how he developed his craft. i read somewhere that starting last year in beijing, the school system had replaced his ah q assay with a martial art writing from a hk writer.

the changing of the times,,,

May 10, 2008 at 06:53 AM · I'm only a student, and learning violin for personal pleasure. I cannot advise you with any depth on if your daughter should attend or not.

I can say one thing I am very certain is for your and your daughter's benefit. Get a different teacher immediately.

If your teacher gives you this advice, which is so different from previous advice, and does not satisfy your expectations for the reason, you can find a teacher that can do better for your daughter. The teacher should assist in forwarding the student, not hold back. If there is a reason to protect your daughter, why was it not evident much earlier?

Second, have a talk with your daughter. Did your daughter express concern to the teacher, but is afraid to talk to you about it? Don't tell her what you want, ask her what she wants, and don't lead the discussion. Let her know that any answer is a good answer, and give her time to adjust to the question.

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