stereotypes of American vs. European music teaching

October 31, 2005 at 04:08 PM · Hi.

I know I posted about my sociology assignment earlier, but I've decided to expand on the topic of the differences between America & European musical education.

If you can answer these questions, please do. Even if it's short!

1) What are some stereotypes of European teachers and American teachers [of music]?

2)Have you had an experience that fits any sterotype? Can you describe it?


Replies (23)

November 1, 2005 at 04:05 AM · Are you really interested in stereotypes? Or are you looking for widely known typical characteristics? (Is there a difference?)

November 1, 2005 at 12:56 PM · Same thing. I need to interview people for my paper, so ANYTHING will help. I'm getting desperate....

November 1, 2005 at 02:34 PM · Ask Carla Leurs about the difference in playing from New York to the European scene, she wrote about it once.

November 1, 2005 at 11:40 PM · She's here on the board, right?

November 3, 2005 at 10:02 PM · Hi guys,

I've experienced both - I've studied in the United States and England and have had French and Russian teachers. It seems to me that Europeans become very technically solid quite early in life and then waste their time in college. American students work like crazy in college and party before (or study something else)...In the end, Americans come out on top because we have more opportunity.


November 3, 2005 at 10:24 PM · Hehe...

I don't know if that's true, about Europeans wasting their time...but I've heard that they have music instruction and theory/history/ear training classes years before coming to college, so when they get to college...they just have more theory/history/ear training! Maybe it's true. I don't know.

Thanks for your input!

November 4, 2005 at 10:04 AM · Never mind. I take back my comments.

November 5, 2005 at 05:35 PM · There is even a diffierence between north ,east and south europe.I would say that English teaching techniques pretty much go hand in hand with American.If we are talking about beginning violin.Because of the common language and publishing house franchises a lot of material is passed around.Maybe Suzuki which is very popular in America is slightly less so in England but many other methods such as Applebaum and Rolland are freely available there.I would say the rest of northern Europe (could be presumptious) takes more from the German schools and traditions.These countries all have the same basic system however of music school for young children and passing on to a conservatory at 18 after an entrance audition.Notation uses the same names a,b,c etc.France and countries south ie Italy,Greece,Spain use do,re mi etc for notation.I can't speak for all these countrie but in France and Italy one can enter the conservatory at 11 yrs even as a beginner.The course is 10 yrs leading to a diploma at 21 yrs.However in Italy this is changing and the conservatory is getting university status with entry at 18 by audition.The old Italian school of violin playing is very much at the forefront and the style of playing is lighter than the German school.Countries in the east of Europe favour the Russian methods although now ther boundries are down everybody has the chance to examine closely each others methods.Of all the methods the Russian is the one that has more porevelance in America as so many great Russian violinists emigrated there and bought their methods with them.At a higher level many Americans favour Galamian who is read but not practiced in Europe.We're too fond of Flesch.

Hope this helps.One last word.There are no schools programmes in Europe (England being the exception).Children sign into a music schoool or take lessons from a private teacher

February 8, 2006 at 01:28 AM · Each to their own and all that... My teacher uses a mixture of Galamian and Russian methods (We're in Scotland), although I was a suzuki student for my first year of learning, then switched to a Russian teacher.

By the way, When you talk about England I suppose you mean Great Britain. England is just one of the 4 countries in Great Britain A.K.A United Kingdom. The 4 countries are: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the Republic of Ireland is separate). PLEASE don't pigeonhole them all as England because it shows a distinct lack of geography and awareness of out national identities. All of us being referred to as England really p****s us off. Just wanted to clear that up as I see that a lot on this site, especially by the Americans.

February 8, 2006 at 01:48 AM · Greetings,

actually somewhat apologetically I note that Great Britain is only -three- countries: Scotland , Wales and England. The name comes from the time when Britain was doing its usual war mongering and Brittany was referred to a s little Britain. The Great Britain bit was what was conquered at the time...

If you want to include all four countries then that is the United Kingdom. That is why in dictionaries the maps of the area (in front, back etc) are refrred to as `The United Kingdom of Great Britain =and= Northern Ireland.`

I have to explain this anal stuff over and over again to the Japanese who translate `Igirisu` meaning `The United Kingdom` into `England` all the time.

And boy oh boy, do students get cheesed off at our `one country having four soccer teams at world cup time,



February 8, 2006 at 01:48 AM · or was it France that conquered us while we were down at the boozer....?

February 8, 2006 at 07:25 AM · No Jonathan I was talking about England.I can't think of any violin methods that have come from Scottish,Welsh or Irish sources.If you know of any I'd be very interested as I like to keep up to date.I'm not talking about fiddle methods but those leading towards a classical training

February 8, 2006 at 01:35 PM · Buri,

that was enlightening (I mean the bit about how it was all conquered)...hence the reason why I always pause and think when addressing, Inglaterra, Escocia, Gales or Gran BretaƱa or Reino Unido.

Theres a lot of nice names to choose from as appropriate.

To get back to the original post, albeit late, you do get into a conservatory in Spain at 11 (with an entrance exam), but it is considered as a part of the Secondary and High school, only it takes place outside of your own school. Basically, you are substitute Music, and you Optional subject in school with the grades you get in music school. Basically, at 11 you can study per week

-1-1:30" hr main instrument,

-30" second instrument,

-2 hours music theory/harmonics/composition etc depending on year,

-2 hours orchestra,

-30" accompaniment,

and from year 3 of consrvatory (=at 13-14),

-2 hours chamber music.

This is on top of your normal schooling.

At 18 you audition for a place at a conservatory superior,which is equivalent to being at university. I believe the system has been "modelled on" the French one.

Teaching style?? Considering that nearly half of the teachers are from abroad, esp. E Europe, but well settled here, I guess it might be called a "mixed approach"

February 8, 2006 at 06:43 PM · The word choice of 'stereotype' really bothers me for some reason. If you used the word 'generalisations' or 'teaching practices', these questions would be of more value. I just feel that a stereotype is something like 'hearsay' or 'rumor' and has no real value for measurement of cultural differences.

However, I must suggest that the differences in teaching could stem from how music is offered in the schools, as the poster above me has highlighted. I think basic private studio teaching for anyone is 'whatever works' or 'what my own teacher taught me' and therefore we would have people who teach in the Galamian tradition, and others in the Suzuki methods, and so on.

Perhaps it would be valuable to instead seek to see how music education is structured in the broader cultures. For example, in America, we have traditions around the marching band and school orchestra, whereas in England, children take private lessons during school and once they reach a certain standard, play with a group at lunch or after school if it is available. But basic private teaching methods in my limited experience, are quite similar.

February 8, 2006 at 07:40 PM · Hi,

In the Czech Republic a four year old child must take aural and rhythm examination in order to be admitted to the music school. It is a public school and it is free. There they learn theory and sight singing beside their instrument and when ready, join the orchestra.

At 12 they can audition to the Prague Conservatory - the so called "prep." The kids attend morning classes in the ementary school (that is associated with the conservatory, so that the classes don't overlap) and go to the conservatory in the afternoon for the music classes.

At 14 there is another examination for the conservatory proper. The Conservatory is a 6 year program (not counting the 2 years of the "prep.") that is tuition free. The final examinations and the graduation is at 20. After that some can audition to the Academy or go ahead and start working.

The musical classes in the Conservatory included the main instrument,twice a week for an hour - one usually being a technical lesson and one the repertoir. We would always have an accompanist ready for each lesson. Once in a while my teacher would invite his private students to his home where we would watch Heifetz tapes and talk about pretty much enything music related.

These are the other musical classes. Some where from the first year on, some were added later in the program:

Piano lesson (once a week)

Music Form and Analysis



History of Musical Instruments

History of Music

Intonation, Rhythm and Aural Training (the Czech version of the Ear training and Sight-singing class)

Chamber Music and Accompanying

Singing in Chorus

Orchestra Literature


Those of us that did double major (Performance and Pedagogy) had also these classes:

Violin Pedagogy

Psychology of Education

History and Philosophy of Music Ed.

Seminar in Music Ed.

I remember travelling a lot with the orchestra which was hard work but also a lot of fun.

We had to do a certain number of recitals, competitions and those of us who also did Pedagogy had to teach a certain amount of private lessons, under supervision.

In addition to all of these classes we had to take all the other stuff like two foreign languages, History of Art, Psychology etc. It was quite a load. The classes were rigidly structured for the first 4 years. You couldn't choose individual classes like you could here in America. However the last two years you were allowed to elect "individual sudy" and finally choose what to take and when. It made my life so much easier!


February 8, 2006 at 10:56 PM · Lucia,

What you say is very interesting and explains why there seems to be a much higher level in Europe at a younger age. In many subjects, Europeans must chose when they are young, what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Socialogically, this must be very interesting to compare to the United States' system, where many (myself included) didn't decide to become musicians professionally until our mid to late teens. There are certainly many pros and many cons to both systems.

February 8, 2006 at 10:59 PM · When European teens f&%$ up in school and miss the grade and get sent to trade school, but then see the light and realize that they don't want to be tradesmen, they come to the U.S. and get their degrees.

That's the difference.

February 8, 2006 at 11:07 PM · Greetings,

funny, I have attended three European universities and the @#$%& ups had no inclination to go to America.

More fool they perhaps? Or perhaps not?



February 8, 2006 at 11:15 PM · That's because they were already in University :-) It's the chaps that never get that far that I am talking about.

February 9, 2006 at 12:13 AM · Greetings,

its all a bit chicken and egg. Universities seem to #$%& up the #$%& ups and vice versa.



February 9, 2006 at 12:28 AM · Well one thing is for sure - strictly academic speaking, in Europe, there is no concept of college - So, in countries like France or England, if you want to be a doctor, you generally decide when you are 18. If you happen to change your mind while in your studies (or if you fail the year, which happens to many people), you don't have many other options in the academic world. As far as I know, same applies for other subjects - you have to decide at the end of your teens if you want a humanities track or a polytechnic track in certain countries.

February 9, 2006 at 04:49 AM · Greetings,

actually times have changed. I graduated from the RCM and then London University in performance and then orchestral studies. In my early twenties I began picking up MAs in TESOL and then became ABD in cognitive psychology before I succumbed to the lur e of that mad, capricious, sexy beast the violin again.

I think it is probably the Internet and distanc elearning which has changed things in higher education, making it more accesible over the span of ones life.



February 9, 2006 at 07:26 AM · Daniel,It is important to divide Europe into four parts. Eastern europe, the old communist block has a much more organised system of musical education.Anyone with talent was nurtured from a very young age.There also were far less distractions for students than their western european counterparts who could loll infront of tvs and computer games for hours.I've heard things are changing now we're all one happy europe.The north and south also differ as I've already mentioned in my earlier post.Although in Italy and Spain (also France) children can attend conservatorio at the age of 11(this is also changing)the standard is not as high as in northern Europe.It could be due to long summer break(3 months) without lessons (and too much sun)

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