Violin: Is there duty to teach?
As I cruise along trying to learn how to play violin, I am struck by similarities of how the teaching of others proceeds in a similar fashion to that of the practice of medicine.
One of the foundations of the process of becoming a physician involves the "duty to teach". This is not some idle claim, but part of the intertwined experience of all current physicians.
Everyone starts off as a lowly medical student and ascends through the ranks. The maxim of "see one, do one, teach one" as far as procedures go, definitely applies. By the end of training, each person feels an incessant pull of teaching others to the best of one's ability. Those at a certain level feel bound to raise the levels of others who are not in a way that is almost obligatory.
I find the desire of others to help me learn violin reminiscent of the process.
Do you feel the need to help and improve others who are not fortunate enough to be as far along as yourself? Do you feel it enough to almost be viewed as an obligatory duty?
Yes, sharing what one has had the chance to have acquired is a vocation.
This is a very interesting question. My initial question is where does the duty come from? I gather that medicine is an exception in imposing a duty to teach. So far as I know there is no such duty in other trades, such as law or engineer. Certainly there's no duty to teach literature, philosophy or other subjects in liberal arts.
I've never felt a "duty" to teach -- that is, in a structured, scheduled setting; but sharing what we know with someone who doesn't have our knowledge -- which is what teaching is -- is something most of us can probably find opportunities to do, even if we're not in the teaching profession. This I can do and have done.
Yixi, it is not the kind of duty that says you need to make money by teaching. It is more like an instinct, to share your knowledge. This is easy to see on Violinist.com. Every day people here sincerely try to share their knowledge with others. Just as in the medical field, this helps the whole violinist community, it helps the people who are asking for advice, and it helps the people who are sharing their knowledge, because by doing so they also gain new insights.
"So far as I know there is no such duty in other trades, such as law or engineer".
Teaching, to me, is a calling, not a duty. It took me the better part of my professional career before I started teaching others about my paid profession (Supply Chain Management). I actually liked both the profession and teaching. The violin was my non-work activity, something I did just for my own enjoyment. Three decades of lessons and playing in multi-generational community orchestras and that was sufficient for me, until...
"It is a basic animal instinct to pass on the knowledge you have..."
That's an interesting question. I didn't know that physicians had a duty to teach but it make sense in that there are learning experiences that one cannot absorb simply through reading or writing but only through direct and immediate observation and discussion. I don't feel an obligation to teach but I will certainly engage if someone asks for help or feedback. On a side note, it appears there are many physicians who are also excellent musicians. I wonder if their training has cross benefits or transferable skills.
@ Mary and K Ch, I think we have different concept of what
Just wanted to point out that in conservatories in Greece you are not supposed to receive a violin degree without teaching first. It is somehow a mandatory thing, involving teaching at least one beginner, for at least one year. Depending on the student teaching the beginner, the whole practice can be supervised by a senior professor at a regular basis.
In every employment context I am aware of I have found a basic rule, often unspoken, but none-the-less acted on: You can ask for help (advice, etc) on any issue "once", and people will help you.
I should add some context to my question.
"Sharing what we know or believe is not teaching"
At the medical clinic where I go for care, none of the doctors teach. Not even the old ones. They practice medicine until they retire. So the comparison on which this thread is based is seems suspect to me.
I agree that medicine might not necessarily be the best comparison since modern medical teaching techniques are now high tech. Some students seldom touch a real human being. If it were compared to violin directly a person would look at violin techniques presented via video and listen to good violin music, of course dissect the theory and physics behind all of it, eventually they would get to play a computer assisted violin.
“Nevertheless, most of us who emerge unscathed at the other end have a deep abiding of responsibility to lift up others in the very purest sense. This is what I mean by "duty to teach". An innate sense of the goodness of providing instruction/guidance in an unqualified manner is what I really mean.”
That's true. But even those that win cutthroat auditions or even have solo careers still teach. I think teaching for many musicians must satisfy some need for interaction that doesn't happen in an orchestra or on stage. What kind of human interaction can you have in an orchestra except for sotto voce snide remarks to one's stand partner?
Scott, I agree. They teach for reasons other than “An innate sense of the goodness of providing instruction/guidance in an unqualified manner” , which, to be fair, is too high a bar for anyone.
I think that the interesting issue raised by the OP is answered by the fact that the biggest title a musician can get is "Maestro", which means teacher.
There are many reasons people teach and there are many methods by which they attempt to do so. Most conventional are the one-to-one music teacher/tutor/mentor relationship and the teacher/professor to classroom relationship. But there are other teaching relationships including apprenticeships, lectures/seminars and professional publications. I have had some experience at both ends of all of these either in music or my professional field (physics).
I happen to work at a medical school, and I think that while it's great that the OP has taken the service/teaching model to heart, he might be forgetting that physicians belong to one of the few remaining professions that use the apprentice system. The final two years of most med school programs are clinical education in which (despite Timothy Smith's comment about high-tech training) students are constantly exposed to patients (the accrediting body for US medical schools in fact requires that medical students have "clinical experiences related to each organ system; each phase of the human life cycle; continuity of care; and preventative, acute, chronic, rehabilitative, end-of-life, and primary care in order to prepare students..."). Clinicians directly teach medical students during these experiences, and after students are awarded their MDs, they almost always enter residency programs that last from 4 to 8 years during which time they continue to be trained in their chosen specialty by established physicians, often while themselves teaching the next class of MD students. So a great deal of medical training is done by working physicians. On the other hand, I would say that the majority of working physicians in America at least, post-residency, do not teach. Like Paul says, they treat patients until they retire, and that's what they do. I'm not sure how it works outside of North America.
This is off topic, but... Andrew Victor, what years were you in or near Ridgecrest? Curious because I personally know at least two outstanding string players from there, a professional violist and a very good amateur violinist. (Small world!)
As for teaching: as principal violist in a community orchestra, I do things like suggest fingerings, play passages to show how they should sound, and sometimes even offer technical tips to get the right sound, because I want the section to sound right. I think that's a duty in an ensemble setting. But I don't teach lessons because I have no confidence in my ability to teach the fundamentals -- for the last two years I've been reworking my own basic technique after 16 years of self-teaching, so I think I have a duty not to teach beginners. At least with the ensemble, I know I'm unlikely to lead anyone the wrong way because they've had plenty of training already and aren't learning basic technique from me.
Some do, some don't. When having a choice, study with those who do, whether they are soloists, or "failed" violinists, as was cynically (and horribly) suggested above (some people have a gift for teaching effectively and love it-this does not necessarily makes them bad musicians and performers.)
Andrew H., I lived in China Lake/Ridgecrest from late 1962 to mid-1995. Whom do you know?
"the biggest title a musician can get is "Maestro", which means teacher"
"Most, if not all, violin teachers end up teaching because they fail to win cut-throat auditions."
Andrew V: The professional violist is Darcy Rindt, who plays in regional orchestras in Northern California. I think she's in her 40s. The amateur violinist is Heather Boberg, who might be a little too young for you to have encountered (was 7 when you left).
I knew Mick Rindt, probably Darcy's father.
The best teachers, be they teaching in public school, private school, or other, change lives and even their community to an extent -- sometimes far more than what others may think. They do not do this from a dry sense of duty, but a passion for it. We need more of that, and to support and celebrate it, not more reluctant or poor teachers doing it because they feel they have to.
With reference to Yixi's earlier comment about law and engineering, there is an area of the law which interfaces with engineering and other scientific disciplines, in which one-to-one teaching is necessary and required, and cannot really be taught from books. It is the skill of drafting patent specifications.
Trevor, I agree that we all benefit from some kind of teaching in almost any trade. Law articling is not just dealing with dog files :-) The question I had was what kind of duty OP was talking and it could be made a bit clearer -- moral? professional? Contractual? Or all the above? I figure that your having trainees was either part of your professional duty and perhaps also a moral duty that you take upon on your own, yes? I doubt an IP lawyer can be required to teach in a free society.
Yixi- thanks for teasing this out a bit.
On a number of occasions over the years at the end of an Irish folk music session in a pub I've seen an "elder statesman" of the session take a beginner aside into a corner for 10 minutes or so and give them a kindly mini lesson. I had that happen to me in my early days of playing folk fiddle. Grateful I was, too.
“An innate sense of the goodness of providing instruction/guidance in an unqualified manner” , which, to be fair, is too high a bar for anyone.
Interesting conversation. A duty to teach in music, certainly not. Many compelled to teach, for certain.
In my folk fiddle days (which is how I started on the violin), getting thoroughly dissatisfied with my lack of technical progress I went to my local violin dealer/luthier to see if he could recommend a violin teacher to help. I was playing cello in orchestras at the time, and although there were several violin teachers in them whom I could have approached I didn't really want someone who already knew me; which is why I consulted the violin dealer.
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