Teacher does not feel comfortable with my daughter

June 22, 2015 at 02:04 PM · Hi,

I am new to this forum but I have been reading here a lot.

I am the mother of an advanced violin student (teenager), and I am worried about her teacher. I do not play violin myself, but piano.

My daughter started at the age of five and was always dedicated. Other teachers told me that she is very musical and gifted and that I always should support her playing (which I do). She always says she wants to become a very good violinist but does not want to become a professional. She practises one hour per day.

Last year her teacher whith whom she was for six years as told us that daughter should move on to a more advanced teacher. So I inquired and finally found teacher at conservatory. Daughter passed accession exam and teacher took her. This was last autumn. Teacher was told that she does not want to become a professional and that she practises one hour.

After two weeks the teacher told me that he took daughter only for trial, as he thinks she is not very able, especially with her motorics. Nevertheless, lessons went on. Soon after, daughter wanted to participate in a competition which was idea still by the previous teacher. Although new teacher initially approved this participation, he suddenly recommended daughter should refrain. But daughter participated and won the first price. Again I got compliments for my daugher's gifted talent which was in sharp contrast to new teacher's opinion.

Now teacher recommends that she should switch to viola. But she does not want that. Teacher does not teach viola himself, so this would necessitate a new teacher. Teacher and I talked and he repeated that skills of my daughter are limited, and usually he only teaches elite students. He would continue with her until he feels too uncomfortable.

Daughter does not know what teacher thinks about her. She wants to please him. She would feel hurt. She likes his lessons. But she often feels what people think and was uneasy about the viola suggestion ("does he want to get rid of me?") I witnessed some lessons and I think they are very good. But I feel very uncomfortable about the situation.

Why did this teacher take on my daughter?? Should I look for another teacher? How do I explain this to daughter and to people who recommended this teacher? Difficult situation!

Thanks for comments and recommendations.


June 22, 2015 at 02:32 PM · Sounds to me the teacher doesn't really want to teach your daughter but somehow he was bound by some obligation to do so unless you leave? Is the teacher free to fire students?

June 22, 2015 at 03:52 PM · This is a very bizarre situation. This teacher is obviously not fond of your daughter in some way or form. It's weird that the teacher hasn't gotten rid of your daughter yet, especially if he doesn't like her, or approve of her playing/tells her to switch to viola?

I would get a new teacher right away. If your daughter wants to play violin(regardless of whether or not she wants to be a professional), no one should have the right to tell her to switch to another instrument. If what you say is true, it sounds like your daughter is a perfectly capable violinist. However, her abilities should not be a factor in your decision making. There's no reason to continue a relationship if it has been strained, or if there is some kind of animosity at the lessons.

As to what to tell your daughter, just tell her what you think, and be honest about your opinion. She would appreciate it.

June 22, 2015 at 04:12 PM · What are your reasons for staying with this teacher?

In my opinion, there's never any reason to tell someone who doesn't want to be a professional that they don't have talent. Talent isn't the point in that case, whether they have it or not. I would also never tell someone who is enjoying violin to stop playing.

I don't think this teacher is a good fit for your daughter. But I'm curious why you haven't found a new one already.

June 22, 2015 at 08:41 PM · I would look for a new teacher as soon as possible.

June 23, 2015 at 01:30 AM · Yup. Time to find a new teacher. You certainly want a teacher who can offer an honest evaluation (for instance, your daughter may be playing well for her level but has some fundamental technical issues that will hold back further progress), but not a teacher who is discouraging a perfectly capable student from going on. (Even if there are fundamental issues to address, the teacher should address them, not gripe that the student is unteachable.)

June 23, 2015 at 11:13 AM · Dear all,

thank you for your thoughts! Yes, I think we should get a new teacher.

I have hesitated so far because daughter likes the lessons and always says "that was interesting, I learn a lot". The lessons I witnessed (I was accompagnying on piano) were indeed professional, and the teacher showed a lot of patience.

But later he said to me that it is no fun for him being patient, he finds daughter too slow grabbing motoric ideas, although he acknowledges that she has good tone, intonation, and vibrato.

Daughter does not know what the teacher thinks truly, and I have not told her. But usually we always talk openly what school teachers think of her, and I don't like this unopenness now.

I wonder how I can explain to her that I believe we should look for a new teacher.

Also she was very proud and happy about being admitted to conservatory.

June 23, 2015 at 12:43 PM · Well, I would suggest that honesty is the best policy. Explain to her that this teacher really only wants students with professional goals, and you don't think he has her best interests in mind. While she may be disappointed, she's old enough to handle it. If you aren't considering this already, I would also suggest making finding the new teacher a team effort. Let your daughter participate in the selection of her teacher. There really is, in my mind, no excuse for this teacher. He should have either been upfront at the beginning, or simply not accepted her as a student in the first place.

June 23, 2015 at 01:58 PM · The fact that he evidently doesn't want to teach her anymore isn't the problem. A teacher does have the right to dismiss a student. The problem is that he hasn't dismissed her; instead, he complains to her mother about factors that are beyond the student's control, even going as far as to encourage her to stop playing, but continues to teach her anyway. It seems like he wants you to break up with him so he doesn't have to do it himself. I'd indulge him if I were you!

June 23, 2015 at 02:06 PM · Boy. Sounds awful, and unhealthy for all involved. I echo what the others are saying. And while your daughter likes the conservatory atmosphere, the truth is, it's a place for a pre-professional mindset, and those who devote more than one hour a night to practice. (This is my own, possibly ignorant opinion, and others more qualified to judge, feel free to refute.) It just sounds like a poor fit (and not because your daughter's not capable).

June 23, 2015 at 05:18 PM · I agree with Terez: many conservatoire teachers are out to select, not develop, the students who will be boost their self esteem. In the meantime, they need our money!

June 23, 2015 at 05:27 PM · I agree that your daughter should change teachers. Speak to the dean of the school and ask if she can be changed to a different teacher. Mention her awards.

June 23, 2015 at 08:28 PM · How does this teacher explain technique (i.e., the physical motions of playing the violin, which I think what you mean when you say "motoric skills")?

I find that teachers break down into two major camps. There's a type of teacher that demonstrates the physical motion, often asking students to place their hands on the teacher's muscles and feel what moves when they make the correct motion, and then to make those motions themselves. Visual demonstration is often part of that teaching style. The other type of teacher is more verbal; they give verbal explanations and often rely on analogies to convey the "feel" (kinesthetic sense) of the correct motion.

I suspect that some students learn much better from one approach than the other. For instance, visual demonstration is useful to me so I can check myself in the mirror, but for me it conveys next to nothing about how the motion actually works, and the muscle demonstration is 99% useless to me. I need the verbal explanation and benefit most from the exact right analogy.

The failure to "get it" is not always the student's fault. It might well be the teacher's, especially if there's a style mismatch.

June 23, 2015 at 09:12 PM · Honestly, though, let's assume that the student really is completely talentless (which doesn't seem to be the case here, but bear with me for argument's sake). What is the point of telling the mother that? It's not something the student or the mother can change like they can practice time. Maybe the teacher can't bear to deal with it, and that's fair enough, but complaining to the parent and then continuing the lessons is a toxic way to handle the situation.

June 25, 2015 at 11:05 AM · Dear all,

these are indeed helpful thoughts, thank you!

Steven, I also believe in honesty. But I must find a way that does not hurt her, and there is no way round of communicating this to the teacher, as it must be consistent what I say and what he says.

Sarah, yes, I wonder too what sense it makes telling me things which I can't change.

Terez, you are probably right, but the teacher had been recommended to us and my daughter and I have been recommended to send her to conservatory.

Lydia, I am not sure which kind of teacher he is. When I witnessed teaching, he both demonstrated and explained and made daughter repeat until he said he was satisfied. To me this method seemed OK, and daughter was pleased too, but apparently success comes quicker with some other students.

Dear all, your posts reaffirmed me that I am not exaggerated with my misgivings.

August 8, 2015 at 04:31 PM · I'm a little late to the conversation and I hope you have changed by now. It sounds like he is not teaching for his student's sake, but his own. It is all about him. A good teacher can teach anyone and enjoys progress of all their students. My daugther's teacher has a huge variety of students and her only limits are time. She acknowledges when a student is playing for fun, or on their way to a career (like my daughter) and she teaches accordingly. But she would also never box a child in and if that child took off and started becoming more serious, she would go with it.

I can't think of anything worse than labeling a child and making determinations about the future like that. My daughter is growing and changing all the time - because her teacher believes she can!

Anyway, I hope you have found a teacher that values your daughters talent and effort!

August 10, 2015 at 12:31 AM · I'm also late to this thread and am also wondering if you've found a new teacher by now.

I agree with the - I think - unanimous opinion that a new teacher is in order. However, I'd also say this: It's fine that your daughter doesn't want to be a professional. But the violin is obviously very important in her a life and she wants to play at a high level. That being the case, she should be practicing a lot more than just 1 hour a day whenever feasible - at least 2 or 3 hours.

September 21, 2015 at 08:20 PM · Apologies for piggy-backing this post. But the discussion board is not allowing me to add new posts.

We need another violin teacher for our child. I know Lee Snyder is at Settlement and there are many wonderful teachers at Temple Prep. But we'd like have audition lessons with 2-3 teachers before deciding.

Child has perfect pitch. Picks up piano tunes just goofing around and sings.

Child wants to play violin seriously but not compete.

Child wants someone who can coach her to conservatory auditions someday.

Child has an older sister who is a serious violin student who is about to start voice lessons.

I am a classically trained pianist.

September 21, 2015 at 09:47 PM · Get a different teacher. Don't give this one another second of your time. It is very strange that he is continuing to teach you when he has actually told you he does not want to do so. Some teachers actually don't believe in encouraging their students, instead setting impossible standards for them. This could be a very extreme form of such tactics, and his claims about your daughter might be representative of what he says about all his students. This approach is surprisingly effective for some students, the way boot camp is effective, but it is also demoralizing for a child, especially a child who does not intend to pursue music as a career. If your daughter took first place in a competition that the teacher believed she should not even attend, then clearly the teacher is severely under-estimating her capabilities. It is also rather insulting to violists that this teacher thinks a student who does not meet his standards should switch to viola, as if viola were somehow inferior. Many violinists also play viola, and vice versa, so while there are violinists who make negative comments about the viola, and teasing between instrument sections is common, anyone who actually feels this way makes for an arrogant and uncooperative ensemble mate. You have to have a realistic idea of how your instrument fits in the ensemble and a respect for the other sections in order to cooperate with the rest of the ensemble, rather than competing against them. In my opinion, understanding that, as well as having a genuine love for music and a creative spirit, are just as important as the violinist's actual skill level. These are things your daughter should be learning, and it doesn't sound like this teacher can provide that. Being a good performer does not make one a good teacher or even a good musician. Your daughter needs honesty. She needs to know that not everyone's opinion is reflective of reality, and she needs a teacher who will encourage her.

Others have said your daughter needs to be practicing more. I disagree. While she would be making more progress if she were practicing more, there is no reason to push her harder if she is content with the progress she is currently making. Doing so will backfire. She has already said she does not want to be a professional. She will likely one day decide she is content with her current level and wants to stop learning altogether. That day will come a lot sooner if practicing consumes time she would rather be spending on another activity.

September 23, 2015 at 02:04 AM · The statements "Child wants to play violin seriously but not compete." and "Child wants someone who can coach her to conservatory auditions someday." speak to contradictory goals. So does the assertion that child doesn't want to be a professional and yet wants to someday take conservatory auditions.

There's no reason to go through the time, effort, and expense of preparing and then taking conservatory auditions if one does not intend to be a professional player.

And anyone who intends to go onto conservatory and a professional career as a classical violinist is going to have to compete, period. Professional orchestra auditions are inherently competitive. Juried performances at the college level, while they don't have prizes (normally), inherently have the same kind of pressure as competitions. Getting gigs as a soloist or as part of a chamber-music group is inherently competitive in the same way that business is competitive.

September 23, 2015 at 03:40 AM · Here in France, I often have to vigorously defend the Serious Amateur from the "all or nothing" approach


Serious Amateurs will practice less, and less efficiently, so they will have lapses of intonation and dexterity; they spend all day in their jobs, so they will have lapses of concentration.

But they will encourage their friends to come to concerts, and provide music lessons for their children. Without them, the professionals would probably starve.

So I beleive that they should have the same consideration and expert attention from their teachers as the ambitious future professional.

As a semi-retired semi-pro, I am lucky to play music because it's beautiful, not to prove something..

September 23, 2015 at 07:22 PM · Chongwei,

There are many excellent teachers in the Philadelphia area. I'm glad that you already know about Lee Snyder. He's a great teacher!

September 26, 2015 at 02:55 AM · Adrian, I would agree with you, and add that adult Serious Amateurs deserve the same as children who will only grow up to be amateurs. :-)

Still, I think pre-conservatory-audition preparation is somewhat different than generally high-quality training, especially in the last two years of high school where actual devotion to preparing the auditions can be significant.

I was sure that I didn't want to audition for conservatory, but my teacher in high school made sure that he taught me the necessary repertoire in case I changed my mind. Similarly, I was sure that I didn't want to be a professional, but several teachers made sure that I had the basics needed to take a pro orchestra audition if I ever changed my mind about my career path. I'm grateful for that training despite never having had to apply it.

September 26, 2015 at 07:51 AM · I agree, Lydia. I try to ensure that the future, and present, Serious Amateur gets the same teaching as the Ambitious Future Professional; only the pacing and repertoire are more modest.

And I have often seen "slower" children grow into motivated and able teenagers.

September 26, 2015 at 01:32 PM · Adrian, serious amateurs in the US need more people like you :-)

September 28, 2015 at 03:33 AM · Aw, shucks!

October 6, 2015 at 02:35 PM · Thank you Adrian. We DO need more like you. I love to play, and the better I play the more I enjoy it, should be a good enough reason to continue to study.

Realistically, there aren't enough jobs for everybody who picks up an instrument to be a professional. Long before there were professional orchestras, people got together in their parlors with family and friends, and played for their own enjoyment. Some of these folks were superb musicians. Please don't tell me we've lost that completely.

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