How to learn the violin as an adult

August 3, 2018, 12:53 PM · I am 27, I started playing violin at 21. I wanted to make the violin my life's work as I am a composer as well and I want to compose music for the violin (which I have done extensively in a short amount of time). However, I began to teach myself, and then I went to a local teacher who obviously didn't have a clue what he was talking about and it was obvious even to me. I then was recommended a former orchestra musician who taught me for the last 5 years but apparently she was incompetent as well because it became increasingly obvious to me as the repertoire we studied became more advanced that she was wrong on many things and ignored many aspects of my technique that were critically important. I even posted a video of myself playing here awhile ago and the responses indicated that there were many issues with my playing that would certainly prevent me from auditioning at a university successfully. I auditioned at a music school, not a university but a community college with a good music program that prepares students for university auditions on wednesday.

The music department there told me that I would audition with their violin professor, who is also a violinist in the state orchestra here (I won't name names because of what I am about to describe). If I was up to the level required for the school I could start as a music major right away, if I was not ready yet then I could take "enrichment" classes which are violin lessons as credited classes to bring me up to the level of skill required.

At my audition, the professor stopped me before I even played my first note and it quickly turned into a lesson that I then owed him money for. Apparently my bow grip was completely wrong (despite asking my previous teacher countless times if I was holding the bow correctly and she said I was doing it right). I'm playing Kayser etude 36 which my previous teacher told me should have spiccato bowing at the FROG not near the middle of the bow as I myself see professionals doing spiccato, and he confirmed that my teacher was wrong and the bowing for this piece should not be at the frog. When I decided to play detache he stopped me again because my detache was closer to the middle or tip of the bow where he said it should be closer to the frog, which admittedly sounds much better but I had never been taught that way. When I played the Bach Partita in D Minor he tried to explain the issues I was having with rhythm by having me play the dotted eighth notes as three sixteenth notes, but he doesn't speak english very well and I couldn't understand what he was saying and he shouted at me and told me to leave and that he'd never teach me. I stood there in disbelief not understanding what was happening and finally he wrote down on a blank staff how he wanted me to play it and I did. I could go on, but long story short the professor openly mocked me and couldn't believe I've been playing this instrument for 6 years, was incredibly rude and loud and needlessly cruel, and ultimately conned me into paying him 60 dollars for a lesson I never asked for. He then suggested to me I take private lessons with him rather than at the school. Clearly this man is manipulating me into paying him outside of the college so he can make more money off of me, but he is an incredibly good violinist, the best I have heard in person and definitely the best teacher. As far as I can tell my only recourse is to try and find another teacher who is as skilled but less unethical and cruel and try to learn from this man who has treated me without a shred of respect or dignity in the meantime. Telling the school about his breach of policy would likely get me nowhere and only make things worse for myself.

So here I am. I've invested tens of thousands of dollars in lessons over the past six years and apparently learned almost nothing. The only person qualified to teach me I've found so far is an absolute villain, and I've searched hard for a good teacher from the state orchestra here and this man is all I've been able to find. I can certainly tell he is more skilled than my previous teacher and certainly can teach me what I need to succeed, but his very obvious attempt at deception as well as his unprofessional and arrogant demeanor has me concerned that I am setting myself up to be conned by another teacher who doesn't care if I fail or succeed as long as I hand him my money.

Is this normal? Is it common to be treated so badly when learning classical music? I'm not a child, I'm a 27 year old man and I want to play the violin well more than anything but I absolutely will not tolerate being mistreated or conned by anyone regardless of how skilled they may be at the instrument.

Does anyone have any advice on how I can actually learn to play this instrument without being duped into paying unending sums of money to immoral or incompetent people?

Replies (59)

August 3, 2018, 1:06 PM · > he doesn't speak English very well
> and I couldn't understand what he was saying
> and he shouted at me and told me to leave
> and that he'd never teach me.

This is unacceptable in any professional setting. Communication skills and empathy are critical for anyone that hopes to actually teach.

August 3, 2018, 1:14 PM · I failed to mention, as far as professional settings go, it wasn't one. I clearly asked him to audition with him for the school and he gave me his home address. He made it sound like it was a misunderstanding but I don't see that as a coincidence that he had me come to his home rather than his office and then proceeded to berate me and hard selling private lessons after the fact.
Edited: August 3, 2018, 1:36 PM · My apologies, I don't mean "professional" as in a corporate, business, or institutional setting. I mean *professional* as in operating in the quality and supportive manner that one expects from experts in the field who represent themselves as teachers first and foremost. On very rare occasions, there are situations when it is actually useful to yell at a student...this isn't one of them.

My wife and I have been working with adult beginners and comeback players for many years, and we do everything we can to help them develop a strategy for acquiring the technical foundation they need to achieve their musical goals. If you send me a PM, I would be happy to recommend someone in your area that we trust to do the same, or if you are ever anywhere close to Southern California we would be happy to see you at our studio as a guest.

Good luck and best wishes as you pursue your career!

Edited: August 3, 2018, 2:29 PM · I'm also an adult learner and have had a few teachers the past few years, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I've noticed that the best teachers I had weren't necessarily the best violinists (in terms of reputation/orchestra position).

I'll put a question out there for the teachers and more experienced violinists out there to answer: Can exams such as ABRSM or RMC (Canada) help adult learners to develop proper technique, and perhaps help identify areas of improvement that training with a teacher might overlook? Could this be an avenue for the OP?

August 3, 2018, 4:09 PM · "At my audition, the professor stopped me before I even played my first note and it quickly turned into a lesson that I then owed him money for."

This is HUGELY unethical. If it's going to be a lesson and not an audition, he should have clearly stated this. If it wasn't going to be a free trial lesson, and instead something he was going to charge for, he needed to be up front with that, as well as tell you what his fee was. And if he asked you to leave mid-lesson, even if you had negotiated for a paid lesson in advance, I believe that action should normally result in no payment for him.

I would actually report this incident to the university. This sort of thing may be very much against the university rules.

August 3, 2018, 4:14 PM · "Can exams such as ABRSM or RMC (Canada) help adult learners to develop proper technique, and perhaps help identify areas of improvement that training with a teacher might overlook?"

Not really. The exams are effectively a structured list of general skills with third-party evaluation on set repertoire. This is not necessarily the optimal way for a student (whether child or adult) to learn. You need good teaching regardless of the curriculum.

The exam system isn't used in the US at all, and arguably the level of violin teaching is actually higher as a result.

August 3, 2018, 6:20 PM · Unless you’ve recently moved, I think there must be good violin teachers around you.

August 3, 2018, 9:56 PM · I looked back at the other thread and watched your video.

You are effectively a beginner. With your technique, you are absolutely not ready to play that Bach Partita. You do not need a college prof to teach you -- in fact, a violin professor may be entirely the wrong sort of teacher for you. You do not need a professional performer in your local symphony (the Florida Orchestra, apparently, since you're in Tampa) either, although there may be violinists in that orchestra that might be good for you.

Rather, you need a teacher that is excellent at teaching basics -- the beginner and intermediate levels of the violin. They are going to need patience because rather than setting a good foundation from scratch, they are going to have to undo six years of your diligently learning to play the violin incorrectly.

I think a reputable community music school that serves adult students as well as children is likely the best place to look for a new teacher. Perhaps something like this: LINK. (Despite the name, that is not an actual university conservatory, but a community arts school, it looks like.) It looks like they have solid support for adult students in the form of both private lessons and ensembles.

I'm sorry. The guy you auditioned for was unethical and needlessly cruel, but the truth is that you are nowhere ready to study the violin at the college level, and you have wasted the better part of six years and a lot of money due to what is presumably bad teaching (assuming that you did not misinterpret what your teacher said, and that you worked diligently to do as you were told).

Edited: August 3, 2018, 10:04 PM · I agree with Lydia that you should report that unethical professor. Also his fee is too high, especially since you weren't asking for a lesson.

Maybe try getting a grad student from university to teach you. Also, that state orchestra the professor plays in might have better violinists willing to teach you and not be so abusive and manipulative. That would probably anger him, but who cares?

August 3, 2018, 10:14 PM · I agree with everything Lydia said.

Leaving aside the issue of this particular violin teacher however, $60 is not too high a fee for a violin lesson--in fact, for an experienced professional with a good track record, it is extremely reasonable. (I charge more than that.)

August 3, 2018, 11:16 PM · Yeah, but he wasn't even asking for a lesson. It was suppose to be an audition. I wouldn't have paid. The first hint that there was something wrong is that the OP had to go the professor's house instead of the community college for the "audition".
August 4, 2018, 12:04 AM · A lot of things here, and I don't feel like writing my usual essay in response to this, but I'm just gonna throw in my 2 cents:

If the "villain" teacher is willing to teach you for $60 an hour, I might go with that.

It sucks that your teacher was probably terrible for the past X years, but it is what it is. It's actually surprisingly easy to unlearn bad habits within 6 months or so if you're WILLING to feel like you're moving backwards for that time period, so don't give up just yet.

You just need a teacher that knows that proper technique is, and also one that is willing to tell you bad news, which it sounds like the "villain" teacher is.

What he did is unethical in a sense, but he also may have taught you something worth thousands, which is that you need to change teachers. And by charging you for the things you he showed you, it may have attached a level of significance to the experience that you would not have understood otherwise. Free advice is never taken seriously.

My 2 cents: take some lessons from the villain, and be prepared to be open-minded about re-learning everything. And don't take what he does personally. He probably undercharges for his skill level because he knows he's a temperamental jerk.

However, I'm gonna give you some extra advice: be willing to get mad back at him if you feel he's being unnecessarily cruel. Tell him he's being unfair and you're just trying the best you can if that happens.

August 4, 2018, 12:06 AM · Of course the professor's behavior was outrageous and the OP was under no obligation to pay at all. Any $ amount requested in that scenario would have been inappropriate (and therefore too much). I just wanted to clarify that in the world of violin lessons in the US, a $60 fee for a lesson with a qualified teacher is not too high.
August 4, 2018, 1:42 AM · One of the rare qualities in a teacher, is to be able to explain the function and reason behind everything he/she teaches.

Nobody are a born teacher. All teachers need to learn how to teach. Far too many performers (even the really good ones) thought they can play and thus can teach.

With all due respect, I would stay away from teachers who *completely* refused to teach children.

August 4, 2018, 9:01 AM · "You do not need a college prof to teach you -- in fact, a violin professor may be entirely the wrong sort of teacher for you"

As a former college prof, I'd say that many of us do indeed know how to teach the basics, and teach them well. I just saw a Craigslist ad in my area for a teacher who is charging $50/hour....but she's only been playing for 2 years. Yeah, that'll be some good teaching.

I have a feeling there was some error in communication in Eric's situation. It's possible that while both he and the community college thought he was going to "audition," the professor thought he was coming over for a lesson. It's been acknowledged that the professor's first language is not English. It simply doesn't make sense to charge someone for an audition. It's also possible there was a big discrepancy between what the teacher expected (someone prepared to take a community college audition) and someone on a totally different level. Hard to really say without being there.

Lastly, going to a teacher's house for an official audition isn't necessarily a red flag of anything, unless other committee members are required. I went to Danny Heifetz's house in Baltimore to audition when I was looking for a different teacher at Peabody. He gave me a mini-lesson, and didn't charge me. Many teachers do so much teaching at home that it's just a second office for them, and having to hear one student may not be worth driving, parking, and schlepping to the office. For the last few years of teaching, I had all my university students come to my house.

August 4, 2018, 9:18 AM · "I would stay away from teachers who *completely* refused to teach children."

People teach at a primary level for many reasons. Some love kids. Some are trying to build their studio.

However, teaching children and beginners takes a certain mental energy and patience, and I can understand if someone would chose not to if he/she could afford it. I think many of us would like have, in our perfect studio, advanced students with whom we could discuss lofty ideas about interpretation.

You also have to know your own personality. Those with no patience for kids SHOULD stay away from teaching them.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 10:48 AM · Hi Eric

I saw your video from the other thread. People have suggested it before, but what you need is a teacher that truly understands how basics work. Many teachers teach dogmatically, which is normal because in classical music, it’s a teacher to student tradition, and they repeat the cycle. But the problem with dogma is that they don’t always understand why they do what they do. They may even think they do because it obviously works for them, but everyone is different, and it might not work for certain people.

I recommend a teacher who understands these concepts, and there are not too many out there. I know Peter Purich in Montreal does this. He’s been helping professional violinists from all over the world who have had health problems as a result of violin for 40 years. People travel to Montreal to seek him out. I don’t know if he does Skype sessions, but I think he’d be the perfect teacher for you at this point. He has seen every possible scenario and is not dogmatic at all, he is familiar with almost all schools of violin playing bow grips etc... He is not a virtuoso master violinist, but he is someone who understands the mechanics of the instrument

August 4, 2018, 11:20 AM · I am an adult student learning to play „for the love of it“.
What I really value highly is my teacher (who is a professional musician) being serious about my improvement. Never ever I got the feeling of her thinking „so what, Eva is just an adult student, basically going nowhere“.
Actually it is the opposite. She is always very present and seems to have a clear vision of what to improve or tackle next. I was totally puzzled when she told me I should concentrate on this and that because that will be important when starting Mendelssohn in a couple of years. I never even knew that something like that would be an option in the future.
My point is, if the OP is studying with a great violinist who is not taking him seriously he probably won’t meet his goals (if those are achievable).
What is the likelihood of having/meeting three problematic teachers in a row?
August 4, 2018, 11:23 AM · Scott, I don't disagree with you, but I think you misunderstood what I was trying to convey. At the moment, he doesn't need someone who plays the violin at the highest level of artistry and can shape conservatory-level students. He needs someone who can teach him the fundamentals. Some people who teach at that highest level are also good at teaching the basics. But there are way more people who are great through, say, intermediate level, and they are less expensive and much more abundant. In a big metro area like Tampa, there should be lots of teachers to choose from who can do that.

I made that point because Eric seems to have gotten himself into a mindset where there are just a few possible choices for instruction, and I don't think that's true at all. My expectation is that he can find a reasonably-priced teacher, located near to him, who will have the patience to re-teach him the fundamentals, and will enjoy having an enthusiastic adult beginner for a student. He just needs to cast a wider net.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 7:03 PM · Maybe as Scott said there was a misunderstanding; this might explain his odd reaction and why he suggested you study at home with him instead of at college (possibly because you werent ready) . You also say that he has a strong accent, so he's from another culture: are you sure you didnt misinterperate his reaction? I dont wish to sound condescending to either party but sometimes there is that possibility to figure out.
Before you take a decision, I think it is Worth investigating this further with both the college (why are you reluctant to ask for clarification from the college I didnt get that) and the professor.

He might not be (or maybe he is) be an absolute vilian. You sound like you're really hurt by what happened and Im sorry for that (losing time and money that way) but dont let yourself get too vulnerable, it might warp your judgement.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 8:16 PM · Eric (OP) lives in a city with a professional orchestra. There also seems to be a lot of other violin teachers who are not in the orchestra. I think Lydia is trying to get Eric to see that he got himself mentally trapped in a false dichotomy.

Realizing after 6 years of lessons that he chose the wrong teacher can be very difficult and rather depressing. It's really unfortunate that Eric stayed with his former teacher for as long as he did. But, I'm afraid that going to this professor he found is going to go just as badly for different reasons.

He needs a good teacher who can help him without abusing him. Sure, it could all be a case of misunderstanding including the part where he shouted at OP that he'll never teach him again during the "lesson" but I for one would never accept that kind of behavior from anyone, let alone from a teacher. Educators need to be held to a higher standard than throwing a temper tantrum fit at their students.

Eric, have you looked into the violists from the orchestra? There is one player in particular who might be a good match for you. Her profile says she enjoys teaching teens and adults, she has degrees from Oberlin & CIM and she looks very kind. If I were you, I'd contact her and request a trial lesson.

Edited: August 4, 2018, 9:04 PM · Scott,

I included that opinion (a rather personal one) for the reason being that, in my experience, generally teacher who teach kids with good to great result, will not have problem in conveying his/her idea with effective communication.

On the other hand, I've met some teachers who don't teach kids, lacking in their teaching skill. Those teachers usually choose (audition) new students too. They usually rant a lot about students, and throwing temper at them is pretty common.

My findings is that, adults usually will figure things out themselves, but for kids you need to figure out a way to feed them, with intuitive or even creative way of explanation. If the point wasn't clear, even the adults will not have a direction to find their way to solve the problem.

There were one instance where 3 different guest teachers giving masterclasses one after another, all of them are fantastic players and with tons of ideas to throw to the student. But one stood out from the rest, often with just one phrase, or even one single word, to convey her idea. It was mesmerizing and powerful. Then I realized, such explanations will be easily understood, even for kids. The very teacher also has a charm or charisma to calm the student down with her patience. To learn this skill, in my own experience, is to teach kids.

August 4, 2018, 9:45 PM · It's worth noting that different students respond to different communications styles and conceptual communication and teaching styles. For instance, a teacher could describe the right approach in terms of a feeling ("imagine using a large brush to paint these notes"), or a verbal technical description ("sink the bow into the string in its middle, but release the weight at the ends"), or a demonstration, or a "come feel my muscles while I demonstrate and try making your muscles do the same thing".

In any event, I think that teachers need to treat students with patience and respect. They don't need to be saints, but on a normal basis, good teachers need to be able to manage calm and try different approaches when the student doesn't seem to be getting it. I think the kind of blow-up that Eric describes is extremely unprofessional and should not be excused. He's not in a desperate situation where this guy is the only teacher in town. He's got plenty of other potential choices.

August 4, 2018, 10:42 PM · I've not much to add to this vibrant discussion except to say that just because one is not progressing after having worked at the violin for five years does not mean that all one's teachers have been incompetent. It's very hard to take seriously the criticisms that I read in Eric's post when he claims to be preparing college auditions but is clearly not anywhere near that level. (n.b. I'm not either.) If your teacher has been assiging pieces out of the Suzuki books and Wohlfahrt studies, but then you go home and spend your practice time on Mozart 3 and the Bach D Minor Allemande, that would easily explain why your technical progress has been slow.

I suspect that the situation with the college professor was just a huge misunderstanding that went awry.

August 5, 2018, 12:22 AM · The OP appears to be someone who is committed and eager to learn. It is perfectly reasonable to be able to work on Mozart 3 and some solo Bach after 6 or 7 years.

The teacher in this case is not only incompetent but also unethical. Apparently, this student represents a set of cash flow and nothing more.

August 5, 2018, 2:27 AM · Paul, Eric was preparing those pieces with his teacher for his college audition.
August 5, 2018, 4:49 AM · Playing violin at a high level is one of the hardest things a human can attempt.

It requires thousands upon thousands upon thousand of hours of playing/practice.

I wish to God I could show you shortcut. It doesn't exist.

Lock yourself in a room for a few years and practice 5, 6, 7 hours a day. There's no other way.

August 5, 2018, 7:48 AM · Kiki, having seen Eric's video, I can't imagine how a competent teacher would send him to an audition with his Bach in that state. His rhythm in the opening is off and the tempo is unsteady. Even if someone isn't good at teaching technique, they should at least be fixing that kind of basic error. (Conversely, the professor should have had an array of ways to help fix those sorts of rhythm issues.) But it also indicates carelessness in practice -- those issues would have been instantly visible with a metronome.

If we give his teacher the benefit of the doubt, maybe those issues have been mentioned in lessons but not fixed in practice. But most professionals wouldn't strongly discourage an audition when a piece is in that kind of state, because whatever person hears the audition is likely to draw negative conclusions about the quality of that teacher if they hear a student play this way -- i.e., it reflects negatively on the teacher's professional reputation, locally.

Perhaps just as important, Eric doesn't appear to have had a conversation in which his teacher has told him, clearly and ambiguously, that he's nowhere near ready for college auditions. There are many possible reasons for that; for instance, they might have tried to tell Eric this, but in a "nice way", which he might not have interpreted correctly.

For students who are pre-professional, regardless of age, the teacher needs to be keeping that in mind throughout the process. 6 years of serious work is enough time for a dedicated student to be audition-ready. We don't know why Eric is in his current situation -- it might be his teacher, or if we give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, he might not have been practicing as told -- but there should have been serious discussions along the way about whether or not he was meeting the expectations of pre-professional progress.

I'm also re-reading Eric's post, and I'm wondering if he's been in the habit of ignoring what his teachers have told him to do, because it's contradicted what he saw on the Internet, or read himself. The "you shouldn't have two teachers teaching you technique" discussion on the other thread applies just as much to being an online autodidact.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 8:19 AM · Hello Eric
Just to say how sorry I am that you had those problems.

The college professor sounds strange. On the other hand he may come from a country where an authoritarian attitude in a teacher is normal. Who knows, if he can play and can teach, that kind of thing might be beneficial for a period. Whether he, or your current teacher, can play is hard to judge unless they teach with violin in hand and demonstrate, which is traditionally the method of some of the best teachers.

BTW I watched the video. The pulse of the music seems to come in, at times, and it sounds musically pleasing, and at other times it gets lost. The left hand issues, and the bow issues which struck me as at least as much in need of good guidance, will start to get resolved once you get a suitable teacher. You can probably work on the rhythm alone, perhaps with a metronome.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 8:39 AM · On this site we typically give teachers the benefit of the doubt. And for good reason. But every situation has two sides, and teachers are human too. In this situation *some* fault likely rests with the teacher. If you've got a student that you've had for five years, and you know they're going home and practicing Mozart 3 when they're supposed to be working on far less advanced material, then at some point it's part of your responsibility to say, "Find another teacher who doesn't mind you wasting your time that way." And if you know that your student is going off to college auditions (even community college) with chops like Eric's, then it's part of your responsibility to say, "Please don't do that. You're not ready."
Edited: August 5, 2018, 9:51 AM · Lydia, I don't think OP gave enough reason to think that he ignored his teacher's instructions in favour of online sources or violin instruction literature.

Also, on the side and only tangential to this subject, I think such sources -when they're good- present good references and benchmarks to measure ones teaching against and as a supplement . And most modern literature and pedagogy concur on the main points, so one will find very similar if not identical points being repeated by different sources, with variations.

I do not know how this applies to OP 's case as he does not touch on how he discovered that his teacher was incompetent. As you say, there is a lot that we do not know, so the benefit of the doubt applies to both parties.

In my experience Eric you need to compile a list of possible teachers; I would also encourage you to look into their backgrounds, CV so to speak. You will see whether they are "teaching" focused or not. In keeping with Lydia's point about teaching fundamentals, there are also teachers who have trained to be teachers, whether in Paul Rolland workshops, with Mimi Zweig, Suzuki, etc. This shows dedicated interest in a methodical approach. Ive happily come across such a teacher here. Very clear and methodical. But there are also teachers who might have a long successful experience of teaching students

August 5, 2018, 11:03 AM · I would give Eric, the OP, the benefits of the doubt. He has been paying thousands of $ and spending 7 best years of his life learning to play an instrument he loves.

Why wouldn’t he listen to his teacher?

August 5, 2018, 6:07 PM · Let me count the reasons.
August 5, 2018, 6:45 PM · Mary Ellen Goree - Yeah, I totally agree with you. Violinists that went far to actually win auditions into professional orchestras and won competitions deserve to charge a much higher teaching fee than those that couldn't make it. I was just distressed for the OP. Sorry I got carried away!
August 5, 2018, 7:26 PM · I don't want to sound harsh, but at 27 and considering OP is far from taking a college audition, OP might want to reconsider going to college to study violin performance.

"I'm wondering if he's been in the habit of ignoring what his teachers have told him to do, because it's contradicted what he saw on the Internet, or read himself."

I wouldn't blame him. I've done that myself. In fact, it was after I thread I opened here (which is now lost, after the forum changed their server or something). If anything, I'm troubled by the fact that OP could have ignored his teacher yet stayed with him 5 years.

August 5, 2018, 8:44 PM · Oh also about detaché, if it's a sort stroke, it happens somewhere between the middle and 2/3 way up. I've had two teachers confirm this to me. Another teacher wanted me to do the short strokes between the middle and 1/3. Reading the literature, Rolland, Galamian, etc
...they say it happens middle/ square arm position (which is around 1/2 to 2/3 for average arm proportions). This is also when the lower arm opens and closes without the need to displace the elbow in order to remain on the contact point.

So maybe your old teacher was not wrong there. Different teachers sometimes follow different traditions.

August 5, 2018, 8:44 PM · Rhiannon: "Violinists that went far to actually win auditions into professional orchestras and won competitions deserve to charge a much higher teaching fee than those that couldn't make it."

Symphony musicians are not necessarily the best players in a given city, and certainly not necessarily the best teachers. In fact, you will generally find that the most sought-after teachers in a given city are well-established teachers who turn out capable students on a steady basis. In most cases, they aren't orchestral players. (This is not to say that some professional orchestra players aren't fantastic teachers, but there is no direct correlation between the ability to win an audition and the ability to produce great students.) And in many cases, great teachers never sought orchestral careers.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 9:16 PM · Lydia's got it right.

Violinists who have, through rigorous study of violin skills, and have mastered the fundamental concepts of *teaching* other violinists to achieve success in the field deserve a much higher teaching fee than those who aren't competent enough to achieve the same results.

There is a long-standing failure by many people to comprehend the difference between acquiring proficiency in some skill like playing the violin, hitting a tennis ball, composing poetry, or writing error-free code, and the wide range of psychology and communication skills needed to teach others how to do the same.

August 5, 2018, 9:19 PM · I believe you guys! Just trying not to bruise any egos is all.
August 5, 2018, 9:58 PM · My ego is fine and my fees are high. :-) But I have the credentials and the long history of successful students to justify the fees. I do agree that winning a symphony job does not necessarily guarantee good teaching ability, but the two are not mutually exclusive either.

If the OP is in the Tampa Bay area, I can guarantee that there are numerous violin teachers ranging from good to excellent both in and out of the Florida Orchestra.

Edited: August 5, 2018, 10:01 PM · if our healthy children, after spending six years in elementary schools,are still reading at first grade level, we would have serious problems with the *teacher*.

We wouldn’t blame the children nor would we blame programms on PBS kids that may be providing “conflicting information.”

August 6, 2018, 12:20 AM · You wouldn't blame YOUR children, alright. ;-)
August 6, 2018, 10:37 AM · Teaching kids are more than just teaching the instrument. Getting their attention, and interests, is a VERY challenging mission.

However, if the kid is highly interested and passionate, that's the different story.

August 6, 2018, 10:45 AM · Reading and playing the violin are not analogous activities.

There are many ways to successfully play the violin -- there's a whole variety of physical approaches. These approaches need to work as a system. Taking piece parts when you don't know what you're doing can result in a mess.

August 6, 2018, 12:40 PM · When I wrote that I didn't want to bruise any egos, I meant both sides: those who were successful to become professional performance musicians and those who weren't. I acknowledge that there are many great teachers in both situations - which is a good thing!

It's just that in the OP's situation, I would not have paid that fee or any other amount because the OP didn't ask for a lesson. It was an audition. That's all. I just felt very bad for him.

Edited: August 8, 2018, 5:55 PM · It doesn't matter how mystical a particular "system" is, if it does't work and has not worked for 5 or more years, then it is useless to the student. The teacher in that situation should at least have the decency to refer the student to someone else with a different "system" or a different implementation/delivery of the same or similar "system".

I am not a reading specialist, but i am pretty sure there are different "systems" of teaching reading too. In the end, if a kid of average ability (!!!) still can't read after being taught to read for 5 years, the teacher should be fired and should not be teaching anyone else reading.

August 6, 2018, 2:03 PM · The analogy is fine. If an adult were trying to learn to read in English and had paid for lessons for 5 years and still could not read much more than comic books, yeah, I'd probably wonder about the teacher. But if I then learned that the student intended to demonstrate his grasp of Faulkner and Joyce for college admission, then I'd wonder less about the teacher.
August 6, 2018, 2:12 PM · I was referring to the "PBS Kids" remark. My point is: Has the OP tried to do exactly as instructed, or tended to wander in their own direction?

Either way, I agree that five years of instruction hasn't been effective and regardless of the cause, a change of teacher is likely in order. However, it's useful to understand why things haven't been productive so that a different teacher (and perhaps learning approach) can be taken.

August 6, 2018, 10:41 PM · Since Eric hasn't been back to this thread in some days I suspect this will just have to be one of the great unsolved mysteries.
August 8, 2018, 1:11 PM · "started at age 21" Sorry, but it is completely unrealistic to consider either a college violin performance major or a professional career. Not impossible but; you will always be competing with players that started at 7 y.o., literally grew up with their instrument, and are playing difficult concertos at 21. If, however, your primary interest in music is some other specialty, like composing, than definitely continue the violin lessons. Players really appreciate it when the composer demonstrates a technical knowledge of their instrument. Keep looking for a teacher; there are lots of them. The teacher is technically an employee, that can be fired at will. After reading this, and other horror stories, I feel a little better about my own teaching, and my fees.
Edited: August 8, 2018, 2:11 PM · The lack of accountability is a very serious issue in violin studio teaching. The ABRSM and other Grading Systems (which is not popular in the US) would at least motivate teachers and students/parents to evaluate what was (and wasn't) achieved in the past year(s) and explore better alternatives.

To make the problem worse, students/Parents often silently blame themselves (for lack of talent) and many bystanders would publicly insinuate without evidence that it is the students who didn't listen to their teachers.

August 8, 2018, 2:32 PM · Eric, see if you can look up the youth music competitions in the area (provided they exist) and try to see if there are listings of the teachers of those students that are winning competitions. If you see a teacher's name more than once, that would be a good place to start. Teachers like motivated students that listen, although you may need a lot of remediation. Put in some hard work for a few years and see where you are regarding the music school thing.
August 8, 2018, 4:24 PM · The problem with seeking out teachers of competition winners is that sometimes those teachers will only take on students who are already at competition level. The OP needs someone who can teach beginning to intermediate technique in a systematic way to an intelligent adult. This may or may not be the same person whose best students are winning competitions, and it may or may not be the same person who excels at teaching such technique to children.
August 9, 2018, 4:45 PM · That's true Mary Ellen. I don't know how common it is, but my teacher takes students from their first ever violin lesson up to conservatory level, and while I had some experience before I started with her, I have found her to be excellent for me as an adult learner. I can't think of a better heuristic off the top of my head, but that might not reflect others' experience and other markets, not that Denver is a hotbed of violinism compared to other big cities.

BTW, I went to the CMF the other day. The Bartok was awesome!

August 9, 2018, 5:32 PM · Thank you! That was a fun performance! Wish you'd introduced yourself. :-)
August 10, 2018, 12:59 PM · I will have to do that next season. I'm really glad that Oundjian got selected as the music director - He's the most consistently good conductor I've seen.
August 10, 2018, 3:44 PM · Joel, you should never feel bad about your teaching fees (unless you suck as as teacher, which I severely doubt). With very few exceptions, I have found that the lower my prices were, the less students tried to succeed (this being the case with both wealthier and poorer families). With this being the case, I actually feel worse about ever undercharging, since it meant that people were much more likely to fail as a result of not trying hard enough.

I used to feel bad about charging people (and admittedly, occasionally still feel some sort of guilt complex), but what I've come to realize is that because students tend to try harder when they are paying a decent sum for lessons, it makes for a much more positive experience for both the teacher AND the student when the prices are reasonably high.

August 10, 2018, 3:44 PM · To clarify, Peter Oundjian is currently the acting artistic advisor. We are still in a music director search. I do agree that he is excellent and I would love to see him on the podium more often.

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