Please help, do we speak up, change teachers or not?

August 29, 2015 at 12:01 PM · Our child recently switched to a new teacher after staying with the first teacher for two and a half years.

We left the former teacher because of the long distance commute and because teacher demanded child pay attention and stay cheerful during 3 hour long lessons while daughter could not effectively communicate with the teacher because of the teacher's advanced age.

The former teacher has sent dozens of students to study at the top conservatories in the US.

Former teacher also tells us our child is highly gifted and would head to conservatory within a few years.

We chose the former teacher because I knew her from when my brother studied with her and our child begged to study the violin, we are just as happy if she wanted to play the cello or nothing at all.

When daughter left her former teacher, our daughter was working on a Vivaldi and a Bach concerto and a Mozart Sonata with scales, and other studies.

Her new teacher is wonderful, he has a calming personality, plays well and studied with a great teacher.

We are not doubting his ability to teach.

But we just want to know if it is okay to ask teacher to give daughter more to practice than a few lines of a study? She has been on the same few lines for the past 8 lessons.

New teacher never said our child gifted to play the violin or even doing anything correct on the violin. New teacher said daughter's bowing is all wrong so needs to re learn how to handle a bow. We agree with the teacher's assessment but months of open bow seems to have gotten to our daughter who is normally very patient.

Should we even stay with this teacher or should I ask an old friend who is an incredible teacher and violinist to teach our kid?

We live in a major city and I would think someone on this forum can recommend who we might take child to nurture her talent.

Child does seem to be a natural, she plays piano by ear without ever having a lesson. She can play simple sonatinas just by listening to me and seem to start to pick up Bach Two Part inventions.

I want to get her an appropriate teacher before getting her a piano teacher.

Daughter is feeling deflated and impossible to practice more than 20-30 minutes a day because she is bored and frustrated.

Thank you.

Replies

August 29, 2015 at 03:35 PM · I'm not comfortable judging the teachers ability, or not, from your post. But as a long-time teacher myself I do have one piece of advice. Sit down and talk to the teacher - preferably without your daughter there. Good teachers have reasons why they do what they do but it's been my experience that even the great ones don't always talk about their reasons much. It's not fair to make a judgment about this teacher without understanding the reasons on what they're choosing to focus on. After talking to him, you may not agree and choose to leave anyway. But at least you'll have a solid reason for doing so.

One other comment. You mentioned that the other teacher made numerous comments about your daughters ability, talent and potential. Personally, I don't trust teachers who make those kind of statements. I'm not saying that your daughter isn't talented and skilled. But what I am saying is that a good teacher doesn't fill the child's heads with those thoughts, rather they spend the lesson time helping the child develop those skills so they can fulfill their potential.

August 29, 2015 at 04:51 PM · Maybe this good teacher was saying it so often because she couldn't remember that she'd already said it.

August 29, 2015 at 06:39 PM · 1. How old is your daughter?

2. How many years has your daughter been studying the violin?

3. How much does your daughter typically practice per day, when she is not frustrated? (If it's a different amount every day, the average number of hours a week?)

August 29, 2015 at 07:14 PM · Ms. Saunders,

Thank you for your advice. I will speak with the teacher without my daughter being present.

And yes, I agree, we took the teachers raving with a grain of salt. But a mutual friend (Curtis and Julliard trained) concur daughter is a natural talent. Perfect pitch and played Bach Concerto with just a little help by ear after hearing records of Oistrakh and Heifetz dozens and dozens of times.

We think the former teacher was telling her of her great talents on weeks when she was sloppy with her practicing.

August 29, 2015 at 07:16 PM · Mr. Rokos,

I think there may be some truth in her former teacher not remembering things already said when complimenting our daughter. There were weeks where she plays the entire movement of a concerto, moved onto another movement of another piece, and teacher asks her to play the concerto again. That's why some lessons were close to four hours long.

August 29, 2015 at 07:20 PM · Ms. Leong.

1. She just turned nine.

2. She started lessons at 6 and a half. We made her wait 2 and half years. I was raised by "tiger parents" and gave up a musical career and hope not to repeat the same mistake. We want our children to enjoy music, and will support whether they pursue music/sports/art as a career.

3. She was practicing 1-4 hours a day. But usually 2 hours.

Now she has no music to play, she practices about an hour and asks to read a book.

August 29, 2015 at 11:01 PM · I don't know about your child, but I do know that after 1hr of intense lesson, I am beat! 3hrs seems excessive, you may be better off with more frequent, but shorter lessons. I tried 1 1/2 hr lesson, and that was bordering the too much at once.

Discussing any concern with the teacher is a must of course. He/she can't be there to see the child's reaction / issues, and a child this young isn't about to tell a teacher what is on her mind either. I think that the learning process should remain fun and motivating, yet challenging at the same time if she is really keen about mastering the instrument.

August 30, 2015 at 01:04 AM · I agree with the idea of having a serious talk with the teacher without your daughter present. I also see no reason why you can't interview other teachers. In your area there must be some to choose from.

August 30, 2015 at 01:40 AM · I notice that via your profile you're in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The many-hours-long lessons with an elderly teacher are making me wonder if your daughter is studying with a former teacher of mine who lived there (and might still), who had a habit of teaching until we were "done" -- which could sometimes be upwards of five hours even though I was only paying for an hour. (It's a highly unusual habit, since most teachers are busy enough that they can't give that kind of lesson time to a student.)

I think two hours of practice time each day is reasonable for a serious student, but it should be divided between repertoire, etudes, and fundamentals. Even if there is remedial work to be done, it should be tackled with all three approaches -- fundamental exercises (a bunch of different ones to approach the problem in a different way), etudes that either practice that particular skill or a closely related skill, and repertoire that further contextualizes that skill.

One vector of attack on a problem is not as effective as multiple vectors of attack, since it is likely to "click" more with one vector than with others.

Long lessons require substantial note-taking. And concentration can easily flag in a longer lesson, especially for a child. Once concentration starts to slip, it's time to stop the lesson.

August 30, 2015 at 03:32 AM · Dear Mr. St-Pierre, right the three hour lesson coupled with our one hour commute each way to the former teacher was taking all of the joy of my daughter's love of the violin. She would come home and listen to Elman or Oistrahk and cry quietly. It really broke our hearts.

Her current teacher is much more attuned to her emotional state and stops lessons when she starts to show signs of fatigue which is generally about one and half hours.

Dear Mr. Deck. Yes, that's in the plans, she has a lesson in two days and I will talk to the teacher the day after without telling her.

And yes, I spoke to a music prep program here and the director knows of daughter's former teacher and has four potential teachers she could have trial lessons with to see which teacher likes her and vice versa. I should have gone down that route first and might visit that option again.

Another music school heard a bit of daughter's playing and mentioned a scholarship after a season of study there. Although that does sound great, I am not sure I can get the one teacher there I am very interested in. I think he is high in demand and advancing in age. Nothing against teachers in their eighties and nineties but daughter just need a switch to slighting younger teacher. I think her current teacher is in his late fifties to mid sixties.

Dear. Ms. Leong, thank you for your care in my child's well-being, I think you might be right, it is probably the same teacher. Although her former teacher is in the suburbs of Philadelphia and not South Jersey? We've known each other since the 80's although it's really sad teacher no longer remember knowing me from the 80's. Luckily teacher's memories of my brother is still there. He was a terrible student, practicing one hour only on good days, I wouldn't forget him either.

And yes I agree, having enough to practice will work best for daughter, I hope the current teacher will agree to let her work on some concertos or even some short pieces just so she can play some music.

I think my worst fear is current teacher thinks daughter is not fit for playing the violin and is just taking her on because we have a very good mutual friend who made the introduction.

Thank you every one for your words of wisdom and support. My husband was starting to think I was veering to the other extreme of not wanting to be a tiger mom.

I suppose waiting a whole entire year to switch teacher is too long. I will try to work things out with the current teacher the best I can. I hope he hears my concerns, I am optimistic he will.

We hope to stay with him because it's only been a few months but I won't be set in staying for the sake of staying.

I will keep everyone posted. I really appreciate the support.

August 31, 2015 at 12:45 PM · Something is inconsistent about the assessments from several people that your daughter has talent, and the fact that she has been doing months of practice on open bowing exercises with her new teacher. Get to the bottom of that inconsistency with your new teacher and you may have a new understanding of the situation.

There is a big difference between musicality and the focused effort required to develop violin technique. Is that the issue from the teacher's perspective? Would several different bowing exercises help? Has the teacher noticed change in bowing from the open bowing exercises, thus what is the next step? Why has your daughter not developed the bowing skill after months of trying? . . . and many other related questions. If you tackle that inconsistency in depth in a neutral discussion with the teacher, you will understand the situation much better.

You also should understand that some teachers want kids to win contests so they can polish their teaching reputation and they "hot house" kids with marginal technique, and other teachers want kids to build solid natural execution of excellent technique so they have a good chance of getting to the top levels of performance.

August 31, 2015 at 04:59 PM · "I was raised by "tiger parents" and gave up a musical career and hope not to repeat the same mistake. "

Looks like

A. Already happened

B. They will go from teacher to teacher in search of Professor Perfecto Assai, with a preference for the biggest names and highest prestige

August 31, 2015 at 05:00 PM ·

August 31, 2015 at 10:29 PM · With a child, you need someone who can find that delicate balance between insisting on good technique but also allowing your daughter's self-motivation to play a part. Ironically, this may be harder to find, when you have a very talented child who has an unusually high attention span. Just because a child can tolerate too much doesn't mean you should allow any teacher to continue to pile on more, whether that means lessons that are too long or lessons that are focused on technique to the point that the child's imagination and self-drive are shut off.

September 1, 2015 at 12:34 AM · Ms. Brown,

Thank you for your support, wow I have heard of violinists who relearnt bowing technique with new teachers but did not know Mr. Galamian took away the violin as well? I am not a violinist so I can't imagine how that can be done.

I did tell my daughter the stories of bowing and I also pointed out Arnold Steinhardt to him when we walk past the Curtis faculty or other visiting musicians during our walks in Center City Philadelphia. I didn't do it when he sat next to us on a Septa regional train once when she was four years old. That was just a few months after she started wanting "a violin to play on mommie".

We've also ate next to other musicians, the most memorable for me is Alfred Brendel, before she was born, with his amazingly strong and big hands.

Dear Ms.Niles,

I spoke to the teacher and now fully appreciates what he is trying to do, he want my daughter to correct her technique and insist it is corrected and consistently correct.

And I explained it to daughter and she agrees she was to play beautifully and not just play. We know the teacher from before starting lessons and know him to be a caring person.

Dear Mr. Laird,

Thank you for your thoughtful comments and words of wisdom. I don't think this teacher is on an eco trip and would use a student to serve himself, we chose him over other teachers because he seems to understand one can be very good at an art form and not pursue it as a career.

The former teacher did talk of competitions a lot and it really bothered us. I did some competition and the joy of the win did nothing for my sense of self of happiness.

Although my daughter is the ambitious one and not me, she asked and talks about the audition requirements of Curtis vs. Julliard Prep. But to my joy, she has even less interest than I in entering competitions.

Dear Mr. Cole,

I think you misunderstood. I don't think you saw the part of my posts where I talked about asking my daughter to wait three years until we got her a violin teacher. A tiger mom would have started as soon as a child shows interest in the violin, or even without a child showing interest.

We are not seeking name or prestige. We just want her to pursue her love of music because it brings her happiness.

I came from very humble beginnings and I will admit we can comfortably afford wonderful experience such as private violin lessons but these things are never as important as the person. Our children's well-being physically and mentally is our priority.

I feel kind of sad for you if you think most parents are using their children as tools of self aggrandizement. Whatever reason you feel appropriate to write such reply, I feel bad for you.

The world can be full of beautiful things, like parent's love for a child, support of strangers on violinist.com like the other commenters, beautiful music, beautiful violin music.

September 1, 2015 at 09:35 AM · I would say that the primary role of a teacher, above everything else, is to make sure that music is a beautiful and enjoyable experience. If they can't do that, then IMO they are not a good teacher, regardless of their technical knowledge. I suspect you need a different teacher!

September 1, 2015 at 11:31 AM · The reason for studying an instrument is to make music! Any day that ends with having only done practice exercises is a failure, IMO.

Years ago, I found myself sitting at a piano and realizing I could play practice pieces perfectly from sheet music, much to the delight of my teacher, but could not give a decent rendition of an actual song from memory. That ended any desire I had to further study the piano.

Talk to the teacher and point out that your daughter is happiest and most motivated when she is learning and playing music.

Although technical studies may take up most of her lesson time, he should make a point of spending a little time at the end working on a piece of music.

I believe the great violinist Nathan Milstein once said, "There are plenty of scales in music."

September 1, 2015 at 11:48 AM · Carmen, I disagree - for most people you're probably right, but sometimes people gain satisfaction from seeing a skill improve.

When I was a preteen or early teen, I switched from the local Suzuki teacher to one on faculty at a university, and spent the next six months pretty much only doing technical exercises. I actually enjoyed this; I hadn't decided to do music professionally at this point, but I wanted to be able to play more advanced repertoire well, and I realized that this was the fastest way to get me to this point. There was also something gratifying about being able to track progress on a simple, distinct task. Within a piece of music, it's often harder to tell if you're improving because there's so many different factors going on at the same time. At this point, I'm constantly grateful for this time - there's so many technical problems I've seen my peers have that I haven't had to struggle with after that (don't worry, there were plenty remaining for me to work on). I do realize, though, that this is somewhat of an unusual point of view.

September 1, 2015 at 04:35 PM · I truly believe that music teachers need a better education in psychology, especially developmental psychology and applied psychology of personality.

We often forget that teaching is a relationship, a specific one, but very important, because we all started violin at tender age.

Also, the second relationship is with parents of the under-aged child.

Violin teacher is not only a musician, but also a pedagogue and a role-model for a young person.

Yes, violin is an extremely difficult instrument to learn, but sometimes a musician is born not out solely of technical ability, but from a radiant personality, striving to share the joy of music!

It is impossible to tell if the current teacher is the best teacher, but the question is: is this the best teacher for my child at this stage of development?

A friend of mine, a professional violinist from Italy told me how her parents did not understand her describing her delight after violin lesson as a child. She would use "giocare" (to play, like to play a game [with teacher]) instead "sonare" (to play a violin, to produce sound).

If there is no pleasure, there is no music.

September 1, 2015 at 08:15 PM · As a kid I liked etudes. I liked how they were very gradually increasing in difficulty, typically only one page so a manageable amount of material to work on, and I could take something that was new and get somewhere with it in a week or two. I felt that the etudes I was given were at the right level whereas the repertoire pieces assigned to me were way too hard and very frustrating.

September 2, 2015 at 12:30 AM · Thank you Mr. Rennick-Egglestone,

Well, she is not enjoying the lessons much although she does look forward to showing the teacher her improved technique so we'll see what happens in the next few lessons.

Mr. McLellan, I love that. Thanks.

Dear Mr. Tanzio,

Indeed, many scales in music. Things are looking better this week, daughter said she will show teacher she is really getting it. They had a good lesson, I think teacher is realizing she is just a little child.

Dear Ms. Rambo,

Thank you, I think after her former teacher, I know have the courage to leave if lessons brings her more sadness than happiness. I get not every lesson is a happy lesson, but she does seem to be sounding better. Yes, she plays her concertos when she gets home. Teacher never said she couldn't so I don't stop her. I hope that isn't a bad thing....

Dear Mr. Milakov,

I know, not all teachers get children or even an adult.

I had thought starting her at six instead of three when she wanted to would have buffered her from the potential harshness of the study of violin whether she is talented or not. She does look up to her teacher as she did the former teacher.

I will talk to daughter more about how she is enjoying or not enjoying the violin. It's funny how she sits down on the piano and play away because she has no pressure to sound a certain way, it's just her playing the piano, no lessons, not feedback, just fun.

Dear Mr. Deck,

I loved playing etudes as a piano students, it was so exciting to finally gain the dexterity to play the entire Chopin Opus 25 in one sitting. But I think my daughter is too young to appreciate that sort of a goal or sense of accomplishment. She thinks its great when she can play a movement of a concerto by memory, in tempo and in her words, sound somewhat like Heifetz. I tease and say you mean rushing all the way like Heifetz? She laughs and say "no, with the unique sound and tone of Heifetz" knowing full well she is far far away from that. She also likes Elman and Krogan but for now, she can never get tired of Heiftez's Mozart No. 5.

September 2, 2015 at 12:30 AM · Thank you Mr. Rennick-Egglestone,

Well, she is not enjoying the lessons much although she does look forward to showing the teacher her improved technique so we'll see what happens in the next few lessons.

Mr. McLellan, I love that. Thanks.

Dear Mr. Tanzio,

Indeed, many scales in music. Things are looking better this week, daughter said she will show teacher she is really getting it. They had a good lesson, I think teacher is realizing she is just a little child.

Dear Ms. Rambo,

Thank you, I think after her former teacher, I know have the courage to leave if lessons brings her more sadness than happiness. I get not every lesson is a happy lesson, but she does seem to be sounding better. Yes, she plays her concertos when she gets home. Teacher never said she couldn't so I don't stop her. I hope that isn't a bad thing....

Dear Mr. Milakov,

I know, not all teachers get children or even an adult.

I had thought starting her at six instead of three when she wanted to would have buffered her from the potential harshness of the study of violin whether she is talented or not. She does look up to her teacher as she did the former teacher.

I will talk to daughter more about how she is enjoying or not enjoying the violin. It's funny how she sits down on the piano and play away because she has no pressure to sound a certain way, it's just her playing the piano, no lessons, not feedback, just fun.

Dear Mr. Deck,

I loved playing etudes as a piano students, it was so exciting to finally gain the dexterity to play the entire Chopin Opus 25 in one sitting. But I think my daughter is too young to appreciate that sort of a goal or sense of accomplishment. She thinks its great when she can play a movement of a concerto by memory, in tempo and in her words, sound somewhat like Heifetz. I tease and say you mean rushing all the way like Heifetz? She laughs and say "no, with the unique sound and tone of Heifetz" knowing full well she is far far away from that. She also likes Elman and Krogan but for now, she can never get tired of Heiftez's Mozart No. 5.

September 2, 2015 at 12:30 AM · Thank you Mr. Rennick-Egglestone,

Well, she is not enjoying the lessons much although she does look forward to showing the teacher her improved technique so we'll see what happens in the next few lessons.

Mr. McLellan, I love that. Thanks.

Dear Mr. Tanzio,

Indeed, many scales in music. Things are looking better this week, daughter said she will show teacher she is really getting it. They had a good lesson, I think teacher is realizing she is just a little child.

Dear Ms. Rambo,

Thank you, I think after her former teacher, I know have the courage to leave if lessons brings her more sadness than happiness. I get not every lesson is a happy lesson, but she does seem to be sounding better. Yes, she plays her concertos when she gets home. Teacher never said she couldn't so I don't stop her. I hope that isn't a bad thing....

Dear Mr. Milakov,

I know, not all teachers get children or even an adult.

I had thought starting her at six instead of three when she wanted to would have buffered her from the potential harshness of the study of violin whether she is talented or not. She does look up to her teacher as she did the former teacher.

I will talk to daughter more about how she is enjoying or not enjoying the violin. It's funny how she sits down on the piano and play away because she has no pressure to sound a certain way, it's just her playing the piano, no lessons, not feedback, just fun.

Dear Mr. Deck,

I loved playing etudes as a piano students, it was so exciting to finally gain the dexterity to play the entire Chopin Opus 25 in one sitting. But I think my daughter is too young to appreciate that sort of a goal or sense of accomplishment. She thinks its great when she can play a movement of a concerto by memory, in tempo and in her words, sound somewhat like Heifetz. I tease and say you mean rushing all the way like Heifetz? She laughs and say "no, with the unique sound and tone of Heifetz" knowing full well she is far far away from that. She also likes Elman and Krogan but for now, she can never get tired of Heiftez's Mozart No. 5.

September 2, 2015 at 12:30 AM · Thank you Mr. Rennick-Egglestone,

Well, she is not enjoying the lessons much although she does look forward to showing the teacher her improved technique so we'll see what happens in the next few lessons.

Mr. McLellan, I love that. Thanks.

Dear Mr. Tanzio,

Indeed, many scales in music. Things are looking better this week, daughter said she will show teacher she is really getting it. They had a good lesson, I think teacher is realizing she is just a little child.

Dear Ms. Rambo,

Thank you, I think after her former teacher, I know have the courage to leave if lessons brings her more sadness than happiness. I get not every lesson is a happy lesson, but she does seem to be sounding better. Yes, she plays her concertos when she gets home. Teacher never said she couldn't so I don't stop her. I hope that isn't a bad thing....

Dear Mr. Milakov,

I know, not all teachers get children or even an adult.

I had thought starting her at six instead of three when she wanted to would have buffered her from the potential harshness of the study of violin whether she is talented or not. She does look up to her teacher as she did the former teacher.

I will talk to daughter more about how she is enjoying or not enjoying the violin. It's funny how she sits down on the piano and play away because she has no pressure to sound a certain way, it's just her playing the piano, no lessons, not feedback, just fun.

Dear Mr. Deck,

I loved playing etudes as a piano students, it was so exciting to finally gain the dexterity to play the entire Chopin Opus 25 in one sitting. But I think my daughter is too young to appreciate that sort of a goal or sense of accomplishment. She thinks its great when she can play a movement of a concerto by memory, in tempo and in her words, sound somewhat like Heifetz. I tease and say you mean rushing all the way like Heifetz? She laughs and say "no, with the unique sound and tone of Heifetz" knowing full well she is far far away from that. She also likes Elman and Krogan but for now, she can never get tired of Heiftez's Mozart No. 5.

September 2, 2015 at 12:33 AM · Thank you Mr. Rennick-Egglestone,

Well, she is not enjoying the lessons much although she does look forward to showing the teacher her improved technique so we'll see what happens in the next few lessons.

Mr. McLellan, I love that. Thanks.

Dear Mr. Tanzio,

Indeed, many scales in music. Things are looking better this week, daughter said she will show teacher she is really getting it. They had a good lesson, I think teacher is realizing she is just a little child.

Dear Ms. Rambo,

Thank you, I think after her former teacher, I know have the courage to leave if lessons brings her more sadness than happiness. I get not every lesson is a happy lesson, but she does seem to be sounding better. Yes, she plays her concertos when she gets home. Teacher never said she couldn't so I don't stop her. I hope that isn't a bad thing....

Dear Mr. Milakov,

I know, not all teachers get children or even an adult.

I had thought starting her at six instead of three when she wanted to would have buffered her from the potential harshness of the study of violin whether she is talented or not. She does look up to her teacher as she did the former teacher.

I will talk to daughter more about how she is enjoying or not enjoying the violin. It's funny how she sits down on the piano and play away because she has no pressure to sound a certain way, it's just her playing the piano, no lessons, not feedback, just fun.

Dear Mr. Deck,

I loved playing etudes as a piano students, it was so exciting to finally gain the dexterity to play the entire Chopin Opus 25 in one sitting. But I think my daughter is too young to appreciate that sort of a goal or sense of accomplishment. She thinks its great when she can play a movement of a concerto by memory, in tempo and in her words, sound somewhat like Heifetz. I tease and say you mean rushing all the way like Heifetz? She laughs and say "no, with the unique sound and tone of Heifetz" knowing full well she is far far away from that. She also likes Elman and Krogan but for now, she can never get tired of Heiftez's Mozart No. 5.

Dear Ms. Chen,

Yes, I hear you. My daughter sounds better now, her four octave scales sounds pretty sweet. Almost like singing. I think she has a better control on the bow now, no more sawing, more gliding...

January 15, 2016 at 02:20 PM · Dear all, just wanted to update everyone. The new teacher last year turned out no to be a good fit, I say this because our daughter stopped practicing entirely because she said there is something wrong with not having to play scales or etudes and only working one concerto that he skips around different movements. And frankly, I am no violinist but when he plays the passages for him, even I can tell he isn't playing it correctly.

When we asked about child's scales and etudes he just said, you can teach technique via music.

At any rate, we ended up asking my old friend to teach her. Back on Sevcik, Dont, Flesch :) and everyone is happier.

January 15, 2016 at 10:23 PM · Thank you for the update. Always nice to know how things turn out. :-)

January 16, 2016 at 05:56 PM · Lydia, I will have daughter join this forum when she is older, and able to communicate effectively in a mature way. She knows I am on this forum so she wanted me to update everyone.

January 16, 2016 at 07:09 PM ·

January 16, 2016 at 10:01 PM · Thanks for the update! I'm glad you worked it out and everyone is happier! :D

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