Should I get another teacher?

July 31, 2012 at 05:57 PM · I texted my teacher on Sunday (I know what some might be thinking) and asked whether or not she thought I would be ready to audition for colleges next year. I got no reply yet, so I am guessing that this Friday (my lesson day) I will get my answer. But what if I do if she says she doesn't think I can?

Now I have been playing the violin for 6 years now and only in the last two years have I gotten really serious about it. I also only got a private teacher for the first time 7 months ago. Yes I know this already sounds like the answer is slim to none on me being ready for college auditions in a year, but I learn extremely fast and for the last year and a half I have been teaching myself and according to my private teacher, I have taught myself very well. I have also taught myself to play viola and cello so I know that I am capable of learning a lot in a short amount of time.

I myself know that I will be ready for college auditions in a year, even though it will be very tough to do so. I have made into the MYA orchestra and I am transferring to a school where the orchestra has won grammy's so I am prepared for hard work.

I guess my really question (after all this rambling) is should I get another teacher that believes in me more (if she does think I won't be ready)? Yes she has helped me grow exponentially in the last 7 months, and we have a really good connection, but would it be better to get another teacher that will believe that I can making it to the college process prepared and also help me fine tune myself?

Replies (28)

July 31, 2012 at 06:43 PM · Seems you know the answer already.

When I was studying, my teacher said I wasn't ready, and I ignored it because I was getting impatient.

I wasn't ready.

Strict teachers are always better. What does it help students if an "understanding" teacher doesn't confront them with the facts?

July 31, 2012 at 07:27 PM · If you're ready for college after teaching yourself violin, viola, and cello over the past six years with only seven months of private lessons, I will be very very impressed.

July 31, 2012 at 07:48 PM · Yes, get another teacher

July 31, 2012 at 08:25 PM · If you know you will be ready in a year. Do you know how you will be ready? What you need to prepare? If you are prepared for hard work. Do you know what that hard work involves? And what you need to work hard on?

Knowing and believing is two different things. Find out how you are to get to your goal, and you will know if you are able to achieve it.

You have all this energy and desire to make it to college. But be careful not to get over your head with what you think about yourself. Get down to the details. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? What do you need to improve? What do you need to work on?

Being a fast learner means diddly squat if you dont know what you need to learn. You may be asking the wrong question all togehter. Ask your teacher (in person) what you need to do to be ready for college auditions. Get her to come up with a development plan. If she genuinely believes you cant make it this year, what about the year after? What do you need to prepare? If your teacher cant tell you how she's gonna prepare you, then, you go looking for another teacher.

July 31, 2012 at 08:41 PM · Paul Chan's answer is excellent.

July 31, 2012 at 08:43 PM · Getting another teacher carries the implication that you're looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear. That's not always the best thing to do.

Telling a student how far they can go is actually no simple thing, and I myself got varying advice when applying to conservatories. My teacher at home said I'd definitely get into a top school, but the head of my college music department said I never would (I got into Peabody). During my studies, one teacher told me to quit. Another said I could get into a major orchestra (haven't yet...). So this is quite a dangerous business and there are not hard answers. Especially so when someone is in that most unfortunate category of "pretty good."

If the teacher says you aren't ready, he/she should give some specifics, especially if objective skills like spiccato, vibrato, intonation, etc. are involved.

Don't just look for the teacher that tells you how awesome you are--it doesn't necessarily mean they will be the best teacher or hold you to the highest standards.

July 31, 2012 at 09:15 PM · I agree with Paul, Scott and others. If you just want a teacher who will tell you what you want to hear, you may find yourself changing teachers pretty often. You've been with a private teacher for a very short time now. Stick it out, but do have a frank talk with her so she'll understand your goals, and whether the answer is yes or no for the very near future, she'll have a better idea of how to develop a game plan for you.

It is indeed not so easy to asess this type of thing for your teacher, let alone for us who haven't seen or heard you, or charted your progress from week to week. Let us know what happens!

July 31, 2012 at 09:24 PM · Simple alternative answer...maybe teacher didn't get text...

July 31, 2012 at 09:32 PM · I've little to add - just to say what great answers above!

Great because they apply to every ambitious student whether 16 or 61... Identify your goals, communicate with your teacher, get them to feed back not so much on the feasibility (unless its a clear cut case like tone-deafness I think they should let you pursue your dreams - but we've discussed that before), but on what you have to achieve to reach your goal. The great thing about a realistic teacher is that you can establish realistic goals and know when you reached them.

I think it would be a dreadful mistake to switch teachers when the one you have, as you said, has helped you advance effectively to date.

July 31, 2012 at 09:43 PM · Thank you all SO much for the replies. I'll be sure to let you know what happens on Friday

Frieda and Paul Chan- I have done my research on colleges for the last year or so, so I have an understanding of all the things I must accomplish in the next year and what colleges are looking for. I did not want to go into the college audition process blind to what was being asked of me. Thanks for bring that up though!

Paul Deck- I went to a public school and they gave me lessons on the violin for the first 4 years of my "career" but it was a public school, so it wasn't nearly as good a quality as getting a private teacher. Plus my teacher there was lazy and tired of the kids :/ I just taught myself cello freshman year, but ended that and in the last five or six months taught myself viola and I will continue to play viola until I can no longer play.

Scott- You bring up a good point with asking about the specifics. I'll be sure to bring that up in the conversation we have.

Raphael- I think that I will go with what you saying. I'm not looking for a teacher that will sugar coat things and tell me what I want to hear. What I want to hear is the truth and she is not afraid of telling me that and that makes me happy. I have a great relationship with m teacher and I have learned so much from her, which is why I am only considering leaving and not acting on it quite yet. I'll be sure to talk with her and if things go haywire then I'll go with Kitty and leave although it will break my heart.

Majory- You made me smile :) Im pretty sure she got the text, but if she didn't, that's a score for you!

August 1, 2012 at 03:35 AM · One thought about asking for specifics.

How about rephrasing it? Ask specifically what you need to work on, and how to gauge adequate progress; challenge the teacher to set a goal and lesson plan that will achieve it.

August 5, 2012 at 03:32 AM · So I have gotten my response!!

Friday I couldn't make it to my lesson and that killed me because I really wanted to see what her answer would be! Today is Saturday, and I was thinking hard and heavy. If her answer was no I wouldn't care, but if her answer was no and she wouldn't help me get to where I needed to be then I knew I would have to find a teacher who would even though the process of learning me musically would slow down the process of me learning intensively. So I sent yet another text (since Friday she answered none of the calls my mom made) today telling her that before I had another lesson I would need to talk to her ASAP because I know that she is setting up her schedule for the school year( the last bit implies that I was thinking of dropping her as a teacher)

So she called me a couple hours later, and I had to call her back because I wasn't around my phone. When I asked her if she recieved my text message on Sunday she stumbled over her words but basically said yes, and we commenced to discuss that topic. But what she started talking about COMPLETELY threw me off track.

She thought I meant if she thought I would be ready college with a double major for violin and viola. I could have laughed (but didn't) at that. Turns out that she believes in me and then some. She said I need to pick which instrument to focus on the most. Now what sold me was that even though I only started viola six months ago, she told me that from what she had heard she believed that if I chose the Viola I could be ready for that in a year also.

So moral of the story: she is behind me 100% and ready to help me. I don't think there is a way in hell that I could get rid of a teacher who is ready to help at any extent. P.S. she isn't the type to tell me whatever I want to hear.

Thank you all for your help!!

August 5, 2012 at 04:24 AM · Great to hear!

August 5, 2012 at 07:40 AM · we all love happy endings. Now go to! :)

August 6, 2012 at 03:41 PM · That's the thing with texts; they never really communicate, but they DO let the person you text have time to think.

No way could she have put all that into a text message. You did well to ask the question--and even better to phone her. Voice-to-voice is always better (though face-to-face is best). Good on you.

Tough choice, that one! It'll partly depend on how you see yourself in ensembles--the melody or the support. Hugely different mind-set, both enormously satisfying.

August 6, 2012 at 05:15 PM · I would suggest that you target a couple of schools which you are thinking of applying for, and get in touch with the violin teacher(s) there. Ask for a trial lesson, which you would pay for, for an evaluation of where you stand and what you need to do to be accepted into the school.

August 6, 2012 at 09:06 PM · Marjory: That is part of the reason I texted her the question so she could think about it rather the giving her such short notice during my lesson. Just yesterday I tried to make a list for both instruments to see which I should choose. I guess I won't be able to decided until I put a better set of strings on my viola so i can get the full potential out of it. It's a hard decision

Roy: That is actually an amazing idea! I'll definitely try that later on this year or next summer! Thanks.

August 7, 2012 at 12:19 AM · Nairobi, there are many instruments out there, so I wouldn't make a decision based on that, but on what you like doing with it. I was a happy violinist, but when I discovered what violists do in quartets and orchestras, I was hooked; I like being part of the 'glue' rather than the main attraction.

Now, ____ years later, I'm playing both, enjoying the very different experience of playing melodies and being more audible to non-musicians AND playing in the middle, helping hold things together.

If you talk to teachers at schools, do catch violin and viola till you make your decision.

August 7, 2012 at 03:23 AM · Marjory: That's exactly how I think about the viola and violin! I love the violin so much and love the beautiful melodies they play and the sound of the high register, but then the viola came along with its deep rich tone and won me over.

I also love sometimes not being the main attraction and instead enhancing or just being the glue :) I find myself more attracted to the glue of music sometimes more than the main attraction. I know that playing both of them can be possible in my future, I just don't know which one I want to major in now. This is yet another thing that I will decide with the help of my private teacher this Friday.

August 7, 2012 at 06:25 AM · (removed)

January 10, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Just thought I'd update you guys.

So I did wind up getting a new teacher. I went through for the next two months, happy that I had stayed with my teacher. Towards the end though, I started seeing that she was teaching me like her younger students (of which are her majority. I'm the only junior she was teaching). I had a trail lesson with a different teacher to see the difference, and it was a major one. I wasn't learning enough to help me get to my goal fast enough.

My new teacher and I haven't had a lot of lessons with each other because of scheduling and holiday issues, but the few I have had have made me soo much better. I am such a sponge in the fact that I suck up everything she says and work on everything I can. I love walking away from a lesson with so much new information to think about that my brain is just about to explode. Another thing that made me happy is that most of her students are in college or on their way to college, so I have a teacher that will know exactly what I need to do ( not saying that my other teacher didn't).

I am happy with my decision, although I miss my other private teacher. She was and is beyond livid, so we no longer speak. I knew that it would happen eventually. Maybe it was the doubt? I don't know. But thanks you guys for helping out.

January 10, 2013 at 01:38 PM · It's a deep shame that your previous teacher is livid, particularly if you were honest about your concerns the whole time.

It is an inescapable truth that some teachers are better than others -- and that some teachers will "click" better with certain students in terms of their ability to match teaching style to learning style, to adapt to the uniqueness of a particular student's physique, and to have the personal qualities that motivate a particular student.

January 10, 2013 at 02:21 PM · Good for you! My high school teacher had a reputation for being the best teacher in town, and all the violinists went to her. She had a huge studio and her violinists were generally pretty good. I took lessons from her for two years before I realized that I wasn't progressing. I switched teachers (to a lesser known, but more highly educated teacher) and had my Mozart 3 ready by audition time.

Like you, my old teacher did not take it well at all. She had some parting words that were not very kind. There is nothing wrong with changing teachers because the two of you don't mesh. That's a very mature decision.

If you are thinking about pursuing music in college, get to know the music program and its teachers. You will be seeing the violin teachers at your college all the time, make sure you work well with them. Contact them before you audition. Ask questions about how they teach, what they teach, ask if you can talk with some of their students. If you go to a college or university and don't like your profs, life is going to be pretty miserable. I loved my college professor. I had known him since 5th grade, he was an amazing teacher. I wouldn't trade the time I had with him for anything.

Good Luck!

BTW, you should take your teachers anger at your leaving as a compliment. An incredibly immature compliment, but a compliment none the less. If she didn't care about you at all, she wouldn't have been angry that you left.

January 10, 2013 at 06:34 PM · I would love to hear how you & your teacher are going to decided on colleges/conservatories, perhaps a new post? This could be helpful for those coming from behind who will be shopping for such in the future.

January 10, 2013 at 08:42 PM · Royce: I'll make sure that I post once we get closer to decision time. I've talked to my new teacher about colleges, and she has told me that she'll do everything in her power to make sure that I get to where I need to be, even two lessons a week. I'll definitely post again

Eugenia: I did realize that it was an immature compliment :). You made me laugh and I say thanks for the laugh and the information (p.s. I play viola now). It's not that me and her didn't mesh, because we did, it just that I learned all I could from her and it was time to move on. Thanks for the compliment of maturity :)

Lydia: It is a shame and I do miss her because she is my base musically, but we did get along, and I did learn a lot! I just learned all I could from her

Thank you all for support!

January 10, 2013 at 10:16 PM · In response to Nairobi and others who ask if they should switch teachers, if you are asking, then the answer is probably 'yes.' It is unfortunate that Nairobi's teacher did not take it well. Changing teachers is a healthy thing to do. Perhaps not every year, but I think it is a good idea to get a fresh perspective every few years. A good teacher should understand that.

I felt really bad about switching my son from his previous teacher and I dreaded having to make the phone call. But, he actually took it really well. He was very supportive, and is even letting my son play on a borrowed violin of his. We knew it was time to move on because my son was getting bored at his lessons and we were having a hard time motivating him to practice.

January 11, 2013 at 01:33 AM · Congratulations on the new teacher! It sounds like you made a good decision.

January 11, 2013 at 06:06 PM · One of the most difficult things a teacher does is set a student's expectations for what it means to be professionally excellent. A student must decide on his/her own whether they are up to the demands. Old school teachers can be brutally frank but modern teachers can be a little reticent and sometimes their behavior seems a little weird. The saddest stories are teachers who set false expectations and shift the burden to others

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