Turning Down Adult Students

August 3, 2017, 2:27 PM · Hello all;

About 70% of my students are adult learners (usually brand-new beginners), and some of them come to me because some of the other teachers in my area flat-out refuse to take on adult beginner students. I've always thought this was interesting, but never had a dialogue about it except with the students themselves.

Anyone ever had experience with this? Or, as teachers, have you ever refused to even meet with an adult beginner? If so, why?

Replies (88)

August 3, 2017, 2:51 PM · Erik,

I still remember the frustration of trying to find a teacher willing to start an adult - and that was 40 years ago. Since there was only the phone book back then I started making calls. Some were polite telling me that they don't start adults or even teach adults. Others were brusque making me know that I was wasting their valuable time with my inquiry. A few simply hung-up on me. Fortunately there was one who referred me to a teacher who he knew had adult students. Using his name as an entry I found the teacher of my ultimate teacher. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. 40 years later I'm still playing and have one remaining student as well as assisting with the local Youth Orchestra program.

August 3, 2017, 2:57 PM · I do take the occasional adult beginner, but I can think of a few good reasons other teachers might not: it is the very rare adult beginner who sticks with it over the long haul; limited time that is already filled with children; a teacher who does not take beginners period.

I realize this forum has a fair number of serious adult beginners but in my experience you are outliers.

August 3, 2017, 3:05 PM · I have quite a few adult students, beginners and returners... and the dropout rate is higher than for school kids, but most stay with it. I find my adult students rewarding to teach; sometimes there are periods when practicing is sparse, as life gets busy, but overall they make good progress and I can see that the lessons are a real enrichment to their lives, which makes teaching worthwhile.
August 3, 2017, 3:18 PM · I haven't personally had experience with this. All of my teachers as far as I am aware have been very accepting of adult beginners, and have basically treated them like they do the child beginners, including them in studio recitals and classes.
I have heard of some teachers, though I have yet to actually meet one, however taking their ageism against the "elderly" to a further extreme by refusing to accept teen beginners, or even beginning students older than five or six.

There really is no good reason for a blanket age policy, and each situation should be considered individually before a student is rejected, with age not being the sole reason.

August 3, 2017, 3:20 PM · I'm rather cynical about this, I'm afraid. I kind of wonder whether you will get a representative response in a public forum. Someone who takes adults students might be willing to say that publicly, but the general "vibe" of these threads (which have come up in the past) suggest that someone who does not take adult students needs to somehow feel inferior or defensive.

I can definitely see where having adult students presents its own challenges and it might be something that a teacher just doesn't enjoy or maybe they didn't really prepare for when they developed their studio, studied pedagogy, etc.

About quitting, well, children quit too. But usually for different reasons.

August 3, 2017, 3:58 PM · There was a really good, and lengthy, thread on this topic last year: LINK.

I think very few adult beginners, even those who are really enthused about it at the outset, end up sticking with it for a multi-year period. Some do, but I'm guessing it's hard to tell who those people are going to be.

August 3, 2017, 3:58 PM · Someone who doesn't take on a client because of a trait that someone cannot control, which doesn't inherently say much about someone as a person or potential student, should feel somewhat inferior, in my opinion. Especially given the reputation classical music has of being snobby, elitist, and inaccessible. But this kind of stuff is on the whole, still considered pretty socially acceptable, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone proudly came forward to explain their position.

It is, however, still within a teacher's right to refuse service to anyone, no matter how silly we may think the reason is, and it would definitely be interesting to get some insight into the psychology of this mentality.

August 3, 2017, 4:12 PM · Honestly, I can definitely see how a teacher wouldn't want the challenges associated with adult students. In my fairly substantial experience teaching adults, I find that they need a lot more encouragement on a week-to-week basis than kids do, because their expectations are often unrealistic and they feel that every day that passes puts them even closer to the "Edge of futility," which is the non-existent point at which learning is no longer possible.

In short, they're impatient. They have a certain sound in mind that they want to make, and until they make that sound, they feel inadequate. Of course, this is not the case with ALL adults, but it's certainly more common with adults than kids. Kids' ideas of success are vastly different than those of adults, so it's easier to keep them moving forward for a longer span of time, and thus a teacher who only accepts young students will eventually get a fleet of much more accomplished players than a teacher who fills much of their slots with adult beginners.

And let's be honest: it's easier to get kids to practice regularly by holding their parents responsible and rewarding good efforts on the kid's part than it is to motivate adults to practice. Adults are way too cognizant of their ability to say "no" when they're at home and their only supervision is themselves, particularly once the instrument loses its initial novelty after the first few months.

With all of this said, I personally enjoy teaching anyone - regardless of age - who actually puts effort into learning, and despise teaching those that don't. No big surprises there. And for me, it's impossible to know whether or not a student will put that effort in until I meet them.

August 3, 2017, 4:12 PM · I've taught a lot of adult beginners and comeback players, and it just really depends on one's ability to communicate well, and understand the unique challenges that this group of players faces, one of which may be the inability to consistently practice as much as we want them to.
August 3, 2017, 4:16 PM · Lydia: I followed the link and find it adequate. This thread can be considered closed now.
Edited: August 3, 2017, 6:10 PM · If a teacher looks beyond the revenue and tries to make a name for herself, then it would make sense to focus on kids some of whom may eventually get into Juilliard, win competitions, and solo with orchestras.

Let's be honest, the probability of adult beginners/returners achieving any of the above is nearly zero.

August 3, 2017, 5:22 PM · I am a 59 year old re-learner, and though I would not presume to know how professional teachers regard adult students, I can make the following observations to adult amateur violin students about the student-teacher relationship;

1) Understand that it is a long term project. Adults seem to be very achievement oriented, and might have unrealistic expectations about their currently level, and the necessary investment in time and work. A professional teacher may be reluctant to taken on an adult student with unrealistic expectations, or may be reluctant to strip things down to extreme basics needed to rebuild. Start where you need to, and accept it.

2) Committment matters. I'm serious about my violin study, and practice actively every single day. I surmise that teachers will respect the committed adult student, even if they cannot progress as fast as younger minds, or have the longer life horizon to excel. Less than "all in" does not respect teacher's professionalism and time.

3) Trust your teacher. They will come to know what you need. Don't be overly prescriptive about repertoire - your teacher knows best what is appropriate, why, and when.

4) Participate in studio events. Play in the studio recital even if you are absolutely the oldest student on the program. You will discover It's important to you as a violinist, as well as to your teacher.

5) Enjoy the journey, and consider yourself extremely fortunate if you find a teacher who will guide you, and make journey with you.

Edited: August 10, 2017, 12:44 PM · My advice to an adult beginner is to go with the flow and put in some effort and see where you're at, rather than setting goals like "I want to go to Juilliard in 3 years" or "I want to join the local symphony." Adult beginners have several opportunities like joining adult amateur orchestras and soloing with them, playing solo performances at various community centers (e.g churches, streets, studio recitals) and playing chamber music with others. If you want to close this thread, I'm afraid you're going to have to delete it.
August 3, 2017, 6:20 PM · This thread now has a life of its own, so even deleting the original post probably won't kill discussion.

Ella, David Zhang seemed to be considering this from the teacher's perspective. It's unlikely that an adult beginner will ever achieve the milestones that earns fame and sought-after-status by a teacher.

Most teachers build more prestigious studios by taking the best students they can, which will exclude most, and possibly all, adults.

August 3, 2017, 7:11 PM · A teacher can both take on likely prestige students and likely less prestigious ones. A former teacher of mine regularly sent students to places like Julliard, Colburn, NEC, etc., and taught adult beginners as well as kids who weren't very serious as well. She also taught at the Colburn pre-college division.

I just don't think there is any excuse for refusing a potential adult student without some other reason than their age.

August 3, 2017, 8:18 PM · Everyone deserves the chance to learn :)

"There can be various reasons for an adult to pick up a new instrument, re-learning what they have learned as a child, or to move forward from their current levels. Being able to learn continuously should be celebrated as the greatest joy of life!" - extracted from https://goo.gl/7zv16K

August 3, 2017, 8:58 PM · I expect that it depends on the studio, Lieschen. There are teachers who don't want to take kids who aren't on a pre-professional track, for instance, or who want a minimum commitment of two (or four!) hours a day of practice.

My own teacher has a more mixed studio, but I imagine that's true of most of the adults on this forum -- if their teachers didn't, they wouldn't be studying with them. ;-)

August 4, 2017, 1:02 AM · I just try to take on any students who will politely nod their heads as I go on rants about respecting the instrument and why the world is deeply flawed.

But in all seriousness, I think some teachers get this false notion that they have a "reputation to keep" when the fact is this: no one cares about your reputation except you. From a financial perspective, it makes the most sense to treat teaching like a business, and with the exception of a few amazingly notable pedagogues like Delay, no one is going to remember you any more for sending a few more students to Julliard than they're going to remember you for simply being a great teacher.

And let's be honest: how many people even know who Delay is?

August 4, 2017, 5:21 AM · Ironically, I bet less young pupils than we generally think stick with the violin, as adults who start generally do so with all the good will and intentions. Do you really believe all little kids who start the violin will keep at it? They may, or may not-just like with adults (the kids will be adults one day as well, and refuse to keep working or just do something else.)

While no doubt some aspects of the violin are "better learned" as a young one, one cannot discount the tenacity of the "rebel" spirit some grown ups are gifted with.

I honestly believe it's the musical world following what tradition dictates, lacking an open mind for the possibilities out there-and no, I am not referring to a non-musician wanting to pick-up a violin at 53 and desiring to outdo Heifetz within a few years, while also having world reknown (some kids are also misled to believe this...) One can be realistic and at the same time play the violin at an advanced level, though this requires a price regardless age.

Of course, some teachers don't teach beginners, and some others are not used to teaching adults. That is fine-you don't want adults to be wholly trained as kids would be. Some adults that do play but don't have a specific resume also have difficulty finding good teachers, however, just because they are adults, started at 18, etc.

August 4, 2017, 6:10 AM · Erik, I think that the selectivity *is* related to the financial perspective. A teacher who is in-demand because they are perceived to be great (their students win competitions, take top seats in orchestras, go on to big-name conservatories or even bigger-name teachers, etc.) is more likely to have a full studio and be able to charge more for lessons.

I imagine it's probably more satisfying to teach students with more talent, drive, and who practice more, too.

Edited: August 4, 2017, 8:56 AM · Indeed Lydia. I'm lucky in that my teacher mostly teaches kids/teenagers on the music major track, could not believe my good fortune when she said she would take me on.

My previous teacher had mostly children (through late middle school based on who I saw coming/going from the studio), and their style of teaching -while it got me back on the horse playing-wise- was not ultimately right for me. There are differences in teaching adults vs children, and there are some things that children come by easier than adults, which is challenging.

If the minimum practice time is 2hrs/day, yeah, I can see why you would not take on adults. Even one hour a day for me is stretching it after a long day at work and commuting, and juggling everything else. Oh, to be a kid again...

(I know who Delay is, my teacher studied with her.)

Editing to say that the old thread is hilarious re: crushing the spirit of surly students. I have had more than one teacher in my day shock me into the realization that I was not helping myself by acting a particular way.

It did hit home that some adult students never get over the nervousness of playing how they play, of not judging themselves or having expectations. And, it must get old to have to continually reassure an adult. I mean, we're there as students to be told what we are doing wrong, not to be lauded for what we have done right all the time. Personally, I think that's where most of my problems come from as a returner: the expectation that I can play the way I used to, right now. It's a strange and rather unhelpful dichotomy.

To add to the old thread: my teacher has told me that even top players do indeed seek the advice of others to continually refine their playing/practice and that this is a never-ending evolution of the art/form/music for the player.

Adalberto - most definitely! Endless amounts of money (which would mean no job = lots of free time) and I'd gladly practice more than I do now. As it stands, life's obligations dictate the amount of time that I can reasonably practice on a daily basis.

Edited: August 4, 2017, 8:21 AM · Granted endless amounts of money, if a really good teacher taught me if I had to commit to 4 hours of daily practice, I would gladly take on the challenge. In an ideal world, I would happily take weekly lessons until I physically couldn't anymore.

(2 is not so hard if you have studied violin before, as time flies by quickly as you work your way through your evolving routine.)

August 4, 2017, 9:34 AM · An unmotivated kid will probably keep showing up for lessons and paying, at least for a while. (If they quit, they are more likely to quit on a school-year boundary.) An unmotivated adult will probably quit at an unpredictable time, leaving a hole in the schedule and representing an income loss.
Edited: August 4, 2017, 1:53 PM · Erik,

It is a business and reputation matters, which is why some can charge $250 a hour, others much less. For a business, the predictability of cash flow is vital. Motivated parents are much more dependable as a source of cash flow than the average adult student. There are of course outliers--I for one have never missed a lesson since I returned to the violin and I practice "only on the days I eat".

BTW, you have no idea how much "tiger parents" care about the reputation AND pedigree of their children's violin teacher.

August 4, 2017, 11:31 AM · "An unmotivated adult will probably quit at an unpredictable time, leaving a hole in the schedule and representing an income loss."

The child continues because the child is not the client -- the child's parent is the client.

The studio where I take lessons charges a whole semester at a time -- in advance. So if you quit "unpredictably" you lose your payment -- it is written in the policies.

The way parents chatter about this or that violin teacher is the same way graduate students chatter about professors as they choose their major advisor. Partly wholesome and substantive, partly just rotten gossip about stuff they don't understand at all.

August 4, 2017, 12:04 PM · The unmotivated inept child with controlling parents is partly the client in the sense that they take up space that could be utilized instead for a more motivated student that gets something much more positive from the lessons ( don't know if innate talent should be part of that equation ).
I like Paul's idea of pre-paid packages as a way to combat abrupt leaving, and thus the fear that an adult would quit mid-semester. I would only change it by adding in a few cases where exceptions could be made based on specific hardships coupled with a track record of loyal commitment. Interviewing each student and perhaps the parent with a complementary trial lesson in advance also helps predict who the bad apples will be, without having to resort to black and white policies on who gets in and who doesn't.
August 4, 2017, 12:27 PM · Most teachers, in my experience anyway, offer a trial lesson, during which fit can be assessed. But I'm guessing it can be hard to figure out who's going to stay and who's going to leave.
August 4, 2017, 1:06 PM · In my experience, the biggest obstacle for adult beginners is finding peers to play with. Almost all children who learn an instrument have some kind of group setting, whether that's a school orchestra, a Suzuki group, a studio group, or whatever else. I think it's really necessary to have that in order to be motivated to stick with it long-term. No matter how excited one might be about violin, eventually everybody will hit the wall if their only experience with it is sitting at home practicing alone. Problematically, however, most adult amateur groups are composed of relatively high-level players. True adult beginners are intimidated, and possibly unwelcome, in those groups.
August 4, 2017, 1:38 PM · Sarah,

We need more programs like this:


year round. I posted a link to a summer chamber music program which accepts students 12-90 and claims that age is not a factor in grouping. I have never gone myself, but the Apple Hill quartet once visited my former school a while ago to speak about their program and said that the groups often have teens and octogenarians placed together, and that it is often a lot of fun. According to the website, it also looks like they welcome those with less experience.

Imagine if each music institution implemented a program of this sort and worked it into their year-round offerings for beginning and pre-professional students. That would probably eliminate some prejudice, and maybe put some people on to classical music who otherwise would find it snobbish.

August 4, 2017, 2:11 PM · Most community orchestras are at the intermediate to advanced level. Mine has some former adult beginners, but they didn't start playing with the orchestra until they were at the intermediate level.

In my city, there are meet-up groups for adult beginners, and at least one of the community music schools has formal ensembles and group classes for adult beginners.

Support for adult beginners is better in the fiddle community, I think, than it is in the classical community.

August 4, 2017, 3:31 PM · What do you consider intermediate level Lydia?
August 4, 2017, 6:52 PM · I think the *attitude* toward adult beginners is usually better in the fiddle community, but practically speaking, I don't know that there are that all many venues for people to play. Sure, you can go to sessions--although they are their own snarly little fiefdoms--but rarely is there anything organized on the level of community orchestras or adult chamber music groups. What's difficult, too, is that there might only be one or two other fiddle players at the session, often of unpredictable quality. There are not always amateur "role models" around like you'll get with, say, the concertmaster of a community orchestra.

A lot of musical skills are most easily learned by osmosis through regular group interaction, with vibrato being the best example. I certainly know how to teach vibrato, and can do so successfully, but I always felt like the fastest way kids grok vibrato is just to see other kids doing it all the time in youth orchestra. It's quite difficult to teach an adult vibrato when that adult does not have a group setting to reinforce the instruction.

August 4, 2017, 6:57 PM · Maybe I've just been lucky enough to live places with all-fiddle groups that welcome people of all levels, including beginners. :-)

I'd consider intermediate level, for minimal community-orchestra playing level, anyway, to be around the level of the Bach A minor (Suzuki book 7). The player should be comfortable in 1st and 3rd positions, and be able to manage 5th position if necessary, and have a reasonable command of various bow strokes, including a workable spiccato.

August 4, 2017, 7:17 PM · I thought meeting people and sharing common experiences and interests was what "social media" was supposed to be all about.

There is no point having a "trial lesson" for a child who has never touched the violin before. The studio where I have lessons instead invites the parent and child to visit a lesson of another child about the same age.

August 5, 2017, 11:23 AM · I disagree strongly, Paul Deck. I always offer free introductory lessons to potential students, and they almost always can use regular detache bows with at least 50% of the bow length by the end of the lesson, as well as a couple of different rhythms. They are also sent home with a pretty firm grasp on how to properly hold the bow and set up the instrument, along with pictures and detailed instructions in case they can't remember. So I wouldn't say there is "no point" in trial lessons for brand new students.

I would also find it extremely rude to charge a student for a lesson where strangers were watching them. This seems super unprofessional to me, although I've heard of plenty of teachers who do it this way.

In addition, seeing how I interact with another child really doesn't tell the whole story. The specific chemistry between a particular student and teacher is vastly different than the chemistry that I would have with another student.

August 5, 2017, 11:32 AM · Suzuki programs normally have an open-lesson policy that allows -- indeed encourages -- others to come observe. Many teachers of more advanced students, however, also have an open-lesson policy, because students can learn a lot from observing one another's lessons.

Open studio classes, taught master-class style, are common amongst some conservatory profs, as well.

Edited: August 5, 2017, 1:28 PM · As a adult beginner myself, I found 5 violin teachers in my area. 1 already stated on her website she didn't accept adult students, so I didn't even bother. 2 violin schools never emailed me back. The other two did teach adults. And I ended up taking now almost a year of lessons with one of them. My first lesson was also a free trial lesson. She is amazing and has even helped me get into a orchestra :) she herself said, even most kids in the world that start out on the violin will never be a concert violinist or a maestro on the instrument either so really what does it matter. And I agree :)

but I have to say after those two schools simply ignored me, I got a little bitter especially when I read up more about how some people in the classical music world, considered me a 'waste of time' or inferior to violinists who started young. Well, I can't really help I came from a lower class family with a mother in debt I wanted many things as a kid but that just wasn't available for us. BUT I am more angry towards the people who discouraged me from taking lessons cause I was 'old' (18)

Finally years later After watching ViolinNoobies progress video on YouTube I got a spark of hope and started finding a teacher and taking lessons at 23. I don't believe in talent personally, I do believe in a lack of motivation. I think anyone can learn almost anything if they put their heart and soul into it. Also I have encountered people showing me a video of a little Korean girl who played violin very fast, and then are like 'you ll never be as good as this kid!' uhm..okay great? :/ and those comments ALWAYS come from people who can't even play air guitar.

In the end even though I may still be a little bitter. If someone doesn't want to 'waste time' on adults. Than that is their choice :)

August 5, 2017, 1:10 PM · I also note non-musicians strong opinions about musical potential.
August 5, 2017, 2:00 PM · Funny thing... you could indeed play like any tiny korean (or any ethnicity) kid with serious work, and because you are older you may be able to do things the tiny kid at that stage couldn't do, for all her technical fluency. Seriously, prodigies are awesome, but it's more than rare that they sound better or more interesting at 6 with the Mendelssohn, than they will once they become more mature musicians.

Even our modern great players aged 30-40+, I would bet sound and musically express miles better now than they did when they were 5-10 years old.

Edited: August 5, 2017, 2:54 PM · Youre right, Adalberto Valle-Rivera. Also I tried to find the video on youtube but can't find it now, the title was something like 'amazing Korean girl plays violin!' and she was like 5. vibrato and shifting positions like a little pro, was pretty impressive to see those tiny hands do all of that, but also discourages some adults when they see that. yeah I definitely don't play like that (yet!) Im not gonna lie I did feel very awkward at first due to my age. the students that come before and after me are between 5 to 9 years old. I'm used to it now haha.
Edited: August 5, 2017, 2:47 PM · I find that lot of people, especially the untrained, get unjustifiably impressed any time a young child makes some sort of palatable noise on an instrument, regardless of whether they really are exceptional. For them, the child's age is the main determiner of product quality,and they expect little if anything in the way of a young child's competence. If said child fails to transition into a creative, innovative adult, they are thrown aside.

When one is an adult to begin with and plays similarly to one of those YouTube sensations, and one can no longer fall back on age, as people have adult superstars in mind for comparison, people scrutinize the actual playing much more, and then decide that it actually may not be very good.

August 5, 2017, 3:32 PM · @Sophie "Also I have encountered people showing me a video of a little Korean girl who played violin very fast, and then are like 'you ll never be as good as this kid!' uhm..okay great? :/ and those comments ALWAYS come from people who can't even play air guitar."

Sometimes there's a fine line between being realist and being an asshole, and for some reason this line is crossed more often in violin talk than with other classical instruments. Maybe there was in fact some truth in all those violinist jokes.

Edited: August 5, 2017, 4:11 PM · Erik,

I think letting a potential student observe the private lesson of another student is perfectly fine as long as there is a prior agreement between the latter and the teacher. My daughter (and I) learned a great deal from the experience (both sides), and it was all positive.

Also I think the trial lesson is valuable for both brand new and seasoned students, especially if combined with observing other student's lesson.

August 5, 2017, 4:14 PM · Lieschen, I could not agree more. Take a look at this link:


The violinist plays better than most (all?) 3-year-old violinists do, but he is not "good" at violin, at least I do not think. The intonation is cringe-worthy in some parts (even to my less-than-steller ears), the tone quality is questionable, he has tapes, at times you can see him counting out loud, and Rieu has to conduct much more obviously presumably so the 3-year-old knows where the beats are. The quality of his playing is less than that of the orchestra behind him. It is cute and the audience loved it, but imagine the negative reaction such a performance would get if a 14-year-old beginner who is not "cute" played like that, forget about a beginner in their 60's.

August 5, 2017, 6:37 PM · The kid was not there to play music. They only wanted him to amuse the audience.

Cuteness was his performance. Not music.

Edited: August 5, 2017, 6:54 PM · As an adult learner, I think that what helps best is being "realistic" from the part of both parties (well, all parties). By that I mean that the process of adult learning and teaching should be seen for what it is: , a process that is to be enjoyed for what it is and the results that may be achieved.

as such, I do not see the relevance of comparing myself or having ,myself compared by anyone to a child virtuoso. i would add, neither should I feel sensitive or vulnerable should that comparison be made. it is simply not pertinent. i would just take it verty light heartedly.

i am not doing this for a career-minded end. much more relevant would be my own process of learning and refining in order to bring me closer to understanding music and musical performance. from that sense, it is a personal and humble world we adult learners inhabit, but ever so rich and rewarding nonetheless.

now whether a teacher wants to teach an adult or a child, that is up to them to decide and relates to their own purpose. the teachers I've had have never been condescending. they were always far too concerned with analysing my playing that with analysing the utility of my playing :o)

August 5, 2017, 7:14 PM · I know that from the point of view of an adult "late beginner" standards should be realistic, but I disagree that realistic should mean "low". One step at a time of course, but there's no telling what the future lies ahead. From my point of view, it is far from chasing unicorns that an adult can learn mostly anything, though he/she must be open to undertake "what it takes" to play at a high level.

In short, too many players regardless age look down on themselves on the basis of being "realistic". It is not realistic that you will be the foremost of violinist in the world, much less that you will be recognized as such, but it IS possible-if not "probable"-that you can get to play the violin really, really well, barring strong physical impediments.

"I would never be able to play this or that" should never be in your mind. You do not know that-unless you are aware that you will never put the kind of work that whatever piece or technical fluency may require, of course. Working wisely, patiently, and hard with a good tutor can help you achieve so-called miracles. Never say never to great violin playing-at least not just because of this "age" factor.

This for me us important, because if you never have high standards for yourself, you will never work as hard to get there-which also applies to all ages and every playing level, IMO.

Edited: August 5, 2017, 7:29 PM · Who equated being realistic with meaning having "low standards"? Can one not be realistic and have high standards within the realm of the possible?

Let me put it this way..
Being realistic, for me, means not being delusional. Being realistic means focusing on one's process of learning without nurturing illusions, regret (for not havi g started earlier), disappointment (for not having -yet-played paganini). All that is actually counter productive. High standards just means practice well, in as much time as you have (hence the realistic aspect here) and as efficiently as we can.

August 5, 2017, 9:11 PM · Being 60 and just starting, I may not be headed to Juilliard but who cares. In fact, when comparing the number of students who are young and taking an instrument class, to the number accepted to Juilliard, it isn't a likelihood your student will get there. Juilliard only had 855 enrollments in 2015.

Anyway, I can see me being 60 may offer a different challenge than someone 50 years my younger, so. In fact, just today I fashioned a lens on my violin's tailpiece so I can see the bow at the strings. But teachers, even if all I'm doing is giving playing violin a chance, don't take that away from me (or anyone else) because you have reservations I won't be with it long. After all, there is also a possibility that I may be with it forever- well, a longer while.

Edited: August 6, 2017, 12:09 AM · I'm here in the beautiful Victoria, B.C., Canada. I've never heard any violin teacher turns down a student because the person is an adult. I guess we have different mentality here. Our local conservatory is full of pro-oriented kids but also has programs open to all ages. I just finished a three-week summer string academy/boot camp and have made friends with teachers, kids and their parents. This is how we feel: we want to play the violin and make music. No matter what stage one is at, we are all on the same path of learning to do as well we can. What's that got to do with age?

Regarding allowing another student to watch a private lesson, it depends on the students. My teacher once had a very talented young student (who went to Curtis and is now a soloist concertizing around the world) whose lessons were often scheduled right before mine. When I showed up early, my teacher would tell me to watch her teaching. I am pretty sure he was fine with that. I found it was very beneficial, as to see how my teacher was teaching someone at a much, much more advanced level was an eye opening to me at many level. Because of this experience, I would be happy to let other student watch my lesson if anyone wants to. It would be like playing in a masterclass, where everyone benefits, especially the one who plays.

August 6, 2017, 8:57 AM · Adults may not stick to it, but from what I've observed, they've stuck to it longer than children. Children don't practice. They are inundated with homework and other extracurricular activities. They end up taking the Summer off and going on long vacations with family and coming back with no practice. They quit or get bored easily. The risk that any student won't stick to it is just as high across all ages. So, to say we won't accept an adult student because they don't stick to it is a little silly. When I taught for a very short while, I had all the adult students for entire time. But children came and went. I only kept a few of the same students who were younger because they'd often move, take off for the Summer, or have to choose between sports and music.
August 6, 2017, 9:47 AM · I live in Australia : About 50% of violin teachers I have ever contacted said they do not teach adult students. No reason was ever given. In the capital cities it is not too hard to find somebody to teach you but in the smaller regional towns it can be very difficult. There are heaps of piano and guitar teachers though !
August 8, 2017, 9:37 AM · I don't believe adult students are inferior to children. Talent is a small thing that may help you progress faster, but dedication and passion are the key things that keep you going. I also think that young children tend to be less studious than adults because children are less mature, though older kids are an exception. Furthermore, fractional instruments do not sound as nice as full-size ones and that may be part of why you'd question a 3-year-old's tone quality, even though bowing is part of the problem.
Edited: August 8, 2017, 10:14 AM · On the other hand, it's hard to deny the fact that children learn differently than adults and they can develop so fast at the speed that adults usually can't even begin to try. Such kids have the potentials such as winning prestigious competitions, becoming international concertizing soloists or concertmasters in big orchestras, all of which do have age limits. That said, unless you are the most sought-after teacher in town, how likely one can get such young students on a regular basis?
August 8, 2017, 10:27 AM · Idk Yixi, what you're saying seems immediately true, but when I think about it, I find that prodigious adults are about as common as prodigious kids. The main difference being that an adult already has a career, a family, and many other responsibilities. So they just don't have the time or mental energy to dedicate to the craft in the long run as compared to the kid.

I find that if taught correctly, adults learn about as well as kids do. Occasionally I get a young adult that does extremely well in a short period of time, and occasionally I get a young child that does extremely well in a short period of time. Although I do find it rare that older adults have the capacity to learn quite as quickly as young adults and children do, but there shouldn't be any surprises there, given the effects of diminishing neuroplasticity. They can still do very well given enough time, but they tend not to have the "Explosion" of initial progress.

What I will say is this, though: in the case of less-talented people, such as those with very bad motor coordination issues: kids have a WAY better chance of overcoming these in-born obstacles than adults do. Something about the openness of their mind to new neural pathways allows them to rebuild eventually, whereas an older adult with pre-existing motor coordination issues will have to work extremely hard to get a similar result, and may simply never achieve the same result regardless of effort (and before everyone gets all fussed up, keep in mind that most of you don't have the motor skill issues that I'm talking about....basic difficulties and frustrations while learning the violin are NORMAL, and are not in the realm of what I'm mentioning..... think of it as the difference between "I think gluten is bad for me" vs "Gluten will kill me if I eat it").

August 8, 2017, 11:17 AM · Erik, what you said is not inconsistent with what I was saying; I wasn't talking about talent per se, I was talking about the external opportunities (competitions, top-notch music schools, etc.) exist for the young talented violinists but don't for anyone over a certain age. This could be the fact to drive certain teachers' focus and their teaching practice.

The good news is that adults are way more resourceful than young kids. Imagine if the situation is reversed and for some reason we can't find good teachers to teach kids. Wouldn't the situation be worse than it is now? I'm not suggesting turning down adult is a good policy; it's a poor and irrational one in my view. I only try to hint that strength/advantages adults have might be overlooked.

BTW, what is "Idk"? "I don't know"?

August 8, 2017, 11:22 AM · Getting back to the original question: different aged students require different teaching skills. I don't teach three-year-olds. I've tried; I'm not good at it; the student would do better with one of several other teachers in town who do specialize in very young children.

So am I being discriminatory in turning down preschoolers? Isn't this the other end of the same issue?

August 8, 2017, 11:32 AM · Yixi, I think that institutions need to start thinking about ageism as well. Competitions, summer programs, and schools should do away with them and come up with another way to try define their targets.
August 8, 2017, 11:34 AM · Hmmm Mary I suppose I never considered it as a case of them not feeling adequate to teach adults. That's an interesting possibility. I guess the only thing I'd prefer they do, then, is explain this to the adults whom they turn down, so the adults don't walk away with the impression that perhaps they shouldn't try. And I'm also pretty bad at teaching anyone under 5!
August 8, 2017, 12:29 PM · I think the only reason why a teacher should turn down a particular age group is because they have tried without success to teach them. Furthermore, they must also explain that their personality is simply not suited for teaching this particular age group, rather than saying "oh, you're too young/old to learn violin."
Edited: August 8, 2017, 1:32 PM · @Mary Ellen, I hear you. Not all discriminations are bad, of course. After all, without discrimination we can't see difference. Also, I certainly respect the fact that, in a private studio, a teacher has very right to choose who to teach or not as they see fit. That said, I still wonder it's wise to turn down someone because of older age without exception.

The discouragement to older students is permeating everywhere and sometimes is subtle, can be in a form of a compliment, like this comment I recently received from a well-meaning teacher in a summer string academy at the local conservatory: "You didn't start at age under 10, yet miraculously you have accomplished so much!"

This comment kept coming back to haunt me during my practice sessions days after the event. I wondered if where I am now is a miracle, how far can I push further from now on? Fortunately, my own teacher treats me like all her young pro-oriented students by imposing on me the similar expectations and demands she has over them. Or I would have quitted long ago.

So this is it. Teachers, we adults don't need charity or special treatment. The very least you can do is not to further the stereotype of "you are too old for such and such".

August 8, 2017, 1:08 PM · Ella and Erik, maybe this is better than telling the students not to try, but you still have to consider the students individually. What happens if you come across an exceptionally mature four year old that already can read? What if you come across an adult that works from home with flexible hours, has no kids or spouse, and can practice consistently? Then, you can decide, perhaps only if the students outside of your age range fit the stereotypes that you say your personality doesn't work with, to turn them down.
Edited: August 8, 2017, 1:22 PM · I repeat something I posted on a very similar thread about a year ago:

I'm currently accepting students of all levels and ages. With enough experience one CAN make some meaningful generalizations while keeping in mind that individuals will vary and have their respective unique qualities. I've worked with adults that I have enjoyed and those that I haven't enjoyed. In my experience, adult students are often nervous even after innumerable lessons and are often very self-judgmental. I can deal with that though I'd prefer not having to, and have had some success at alleviating such aspects.

But the kind of adult that drives me bonkers - and this is certainly not every adult - is the 'know-it-all' that has been mentioned - although I've had this with some teens, too. There is the type of adult who is disrespectful and has the kind of attitude that all but says "I'm hiring you, so I'm running the show. I'll practice as much or as little as I want if at all and take up only what I want. Hiring you as a teacher is no different from my hiring a contractor to build me kitchen cabinets." That kind of student won't last long with me.

Now a teacher does need to realize that an amateur adult has different needs than a youngster and that respect is a two-way street. But that said, I hold to the quaint, old-fashioned notion that more - not all or only - respect should flow to the teacher. There's the type who will say "I just want to learn vibrato, or a particular piece and don't tell me if I'm out of tune or if my bow is skating all over the fingerboard because I don't care." Again, an adult will have different needs and goals. And there ought to be good communication that is encouraged by the teacher and that concerns should be voiced by the students. But they need to accept that in any case there is such a thing as playing the violin properly or improperly and there are many interlocking aspects that go into proper playing. I think that if I go to the dentist I have a right to express concern about too many x-rays. But imagine if I said "just examine one tooth because that's the one that hurts." That just won't work. If they are the type that know best, why even go to a teacher? Teach yourself and see how far you get. [EDIT]

Edited: August 9, 2017, 9:33 AM · If an adult wishing to learn the violin wants to find a suitable teacher one way is to look nearby for a well-established violin dealer serving a largish area, and speak to them for advice.

That is what I did some 10 years ago. The owner of the violin shop I visited produced a 4-page list of violin teachers in and near the city, with comments about the specialities of each (the standard taught to, whether for exams or competitions, music genre, etc). He high-lighted the names of four teachers he reckoned would be suitable for me. The first one I chose turned out to be THE one.

The other point I would like to make about teaching adults as distinct from teaching children is that children tend to do what Teacher tells them without question (Teacher hopes!). However, teaching an adult is likely to be a tw0-way process, the teacher being prepared to explain the whys and wherefores of certain aspects of technique and answer questions from the pupil, and the pupil perhaps having his or her own experience of music in other areas which can be shared with the teacher.

August 8, 2017, 2:20 PM · I'm sure there are exceptional three- and four-year-olds but I am not going to waste the time and money of the many in an attempt to find the few. Let the young children go to teachers who enjoy that sort of teaching and are good at it, and let those teachers reap the rewards of coming across the occasional exception.

I don't see why a violin teacher is required to be all things to all people. Would you take your grandmother to a pediatrician?

And for the record, I do teach adult beginners, when one contacts me and when I have room in my schedule. But I understand why others might prefer not to.

August 8, 2017, 2:57 PM · Lieschen said, "Competitions, summer programs, and schools should do away with [age restrictions] and come up with another way to try define their targets."

Many things use age limits in a way that attempts to target students at a certain level of accomplishment, at a level of fairness that groups students of similar age with one another. (Although locally, there's a competition that uses repertoire ranges instead, which in some ways is more fair, in that it encourages teachers to choose repertoire that kids can play well, and eliminates the syndrome of "kid badly plays a really hard piece of music, but they win anyway because it's so much harder than what everyone else played".)

Many things are also trying to keep a peer group. That's especially true for camps and whatnot, where it might be very uncomfortable for participants to be with students at a significantly different age range. A parent might not mind a 40-year-old man being in the same masterclass as an 8-year-old girl (or 16-year-old girl), for instance, but might feel very differently about that man sharing a dorm with their daughter.

Finally, many competitions, summer programs, and schools are specifically aimed at a pre-professional track. Most are aimed at making a difference in the life of a young musician at a particular time in their career, and they are restricted with the notion that there's a particular sort of help they give and they want it to be targeted at those that can most benefit from it.

There's also an enormous difference in stuff aimed at a pre-professional, and anything aimed at an adult amateur. Most adult amateurs are looking for non-competitive, supportive, non-threatening, gently-critical environments that help them stretch and grow. They are not looking for the often-competitive and sometimes-harshly critical environments that pre-professionals usually seek out.

That's why, I think, most camps/programs/etc. for adult amateurs are based around chamber music. There's just not enough amateurs who are looking for a more competitive environment for very high-skill players, to financially support programs for them.

August 8, 2017, 3:06 PM · For my own record, I always give intro lessons to see if a student is a good fit, regardless of any factors. And as long as they feel that I'm a good fit, I will then give them 100% of my effort. I've taught very old adults, very young students, autistic students, students with motor skill impairment from brain damage, and other less-abled students. Also, left handers that insisted on being taught left-handed, etc... With that said, having such a generally unfiltered student base definitely requires more energy from me, so I can see a teacher wanting to preserve their energy for a demographic that has historically worked better for them. There is nothing wrong with specializing, as long as the teacher is honest about why they specialize (some might claim they don't teach adults because their potential is lower, rather than simply admitting they're not competent/comfortable teaching them).
Edited: August 8, 2017, 3:22 PM · I think that the precise reason teachers of exclusively pre-professional students don't think adults are worth it is because the personell of pre-professional track limits itself rather inflexibly to younger people. It is a bit of a catch 22. Most of what Lydia describes are the effects of implicit bias. Society tells us that it is dangerous to spend time in close quarters with those who are not close to your age, and it won't change until we counter gut feelings. Until an institution with a big name ( be it a competition or other program ) goes against the grain to begin to fundamentally change the culture, and we begin to check the box of adult learners making it into professional ranks of any sort ( not necessarily soloist level ), we will continue to get lots of adults scratching their heads at why a teacher won't take them.
August 8, 2017, 4:17 PM · I understand that there are exceptions to rules. If I could give intro lessons for every single new student I get, then I don't need to set age restrictions because I can use the intro lessons to determine how well student and teacher fit together. If intro lessons were not an option, then I might have to set age restrictions if necessary because I have difficulties teaching most people in a particular age group. On another topic, I believe everyone should play violin the standard way unless they have a specific disability (e.g missing left hand, fingers or arm, single-sided cerebral palsy, etc) that forces them to play left-handed (bow in left hand, violin in right).
August 8, 2017, 4:26 PM · wandering a bit off-topic...

Lieschen Müller, I can vouch wholeheartedly for Apple Hill. I've been going for the past three summers (in fact, I just got home from camp yesterday) and it is exactly as the quartet players told you - you are grouped by ability and not age. I've played in groups with other adults (I'm 53), middle schoolers, high schoolers, (heaven help me) conservatory students, grad students, postgrad...it's challenging, fun, and eye-opening all at the same time. I learn a lot more from playing with younger people than I think I would at some of the adults-only camps I have heard about.

And on that note...Yixi, the boot camp you mention sounds pretty cool too. I've not heard of any other all-ages programs besides Apple Hill. Can you give me some info on it?

Edited: August 8, 2017, 10:15 PM · Karen, here is the site for the summer string academy at the Victoria Conservatory of Music here in Canada.

Summer programs designed for chiefly young students don't have to be competitive. During the summer academy I mentioned above, there were pro-oriented students and there were less advanced players. There were some sort of technique competition in the end of each week that winners got chocolate or cookies, stuff of that just for fun. Even so, no one is perceived as a competitor against the other; all were just there to learn, perform and most of all, having fun and making friends.

The program is reasonably priced, well-run and you'll learn tons, unlike most other chamber workshops that I attended, which often are more expensive, all one gets is chamber coaching and a lot of self-organized sight-reading time, no individual lesson nor solo performance at all. Funny thing is that I was the only adult during two out of three weeks of in this summer program. I know quite a few keen chamber and orchestra players and we traveled far and wide to attend chamber music workshop but won't come to conservatory program because adults players are generally reluctant to play among the kids. Any suggestion that we can do to change that?

August 8, 2017, 6:04 PM · I go to a music school, and most programs are not age-oriented in terms of admissions (at least as much as I know.)
August 8, 2017, 6:38 PM · Lieschen, adults that are realistically on a pre-professional track likely will not have difficulty finding teachers. Examples include:

(1) Adults who have some formal music education at the university level and want to be performers, but need more work before they can win an orchestra audition

(2) Adults who might have been on a trajectory to enter conservatory, but instead went on to another degree / profession, and now want to switch into music as a career

(3) Adults who have become accomplished enough that they want to career-switch, and will put in the concentrated work to bring their playing up to a level where they can

Most such people will be in their 20s and 30s, but I don't think there's necessarily an age limit there.

I think the key is "realistically pre-professional". (We could probably argue that many teenagers who think they want to go into music aren't actually at a realistically pre-professional level, either -- but most of those students also aren't studying with teachers of genuinely pre-professional students)

August 8, 2017, 6:50 PM · Yixi, thanks a lot for the info. The program looks really interesting. If you don't mind answering some more questions about it, I will message you (if that function still works on violinist.com).

As to your comment about getting more adults to play music with younger people: I wish I had an answer beyond letting other adults know about how fun and educational it is, or saying "just try it" :-)

Edited: August 8, 2017, 7:37 PM · The Baltimore Symphony has BSO Academy for a week every summer, in a program that encompasses side-by-side orchestra with the BSO, chamber music with a BSO player-coach in every group, chamber orchestra, group masterclasses, and individual lessons. Attendees are a mixture of adult amateurs (at intermediate level and above) and music educators. (My experience is that the best players were amateurs, not pros.)

The Buffalo Philharmonic has Fantasy Camp for a week in the summer. This has side-by-side orchestra with the BPO, and chamber music coached by BPO players. Attendees are all adult amateurs.

My local community music school has chamber music and chamber orchestra programs (as well as non-classical things, like jazz groups) that mix teenagers and adult amateurs. This seems to work pretty well.

Note that programs for adult amateurs often need to cover a broad range of possible ability levels, which is challenging in and of itself. I did a BSO violin workshop earlier this year, for instance, and I suspect that the BSO coaches (all title chairs) must have had a heck of a time trying to accommodate the range (everything from a self-taught adult beginner, to me).

August 9, 2017, 11:23 AM · Karen, the private message function only works if an email address is provided in the "contact" field of a profile, which is not the case with every member.
August 9, 2017, 1:26 PM · Thanks, Ella.
August 9, 2017, 1:51 PM · Karen, either pm me or ask questions publicly is fine with me.
August 9, 2017, 2:44 PM · "The Buffalo Philharmonic has Fantasy Camp for a week in the summer.."

"Fantasy Camp?"
What's English for "Gulag?"

August 9, 2017, 4:33 PM · At least their orchestra hasn't gone the way of the buffalo ...
August 10, 2017, 5:07 AM · I think English for "Gulag" is "Medowmount"! ;-)
Edited: August 10, 2017, 9:33 AM · I am happy to take on adult students ... but, as mentioned above by others, per my experience they often quit after a few months of lessons either due to work load issues or they just realize how difficult this instrument is and give up... but, I know all this going in when I accept an adult student. It's an occupational hazard I accept, but realize that others do not, and that's OK... I will say that I took on an adult student a couple years back who had played some earlier in her life... She was doing well and making progress, but after a year or so with me she decided to study on-line with another performer/teacher... I gave her my blessings advising her whoever she studied with, if they are a real experienced musician/performer/teacher, would like me demand learning all her 3 octave scales and arps.... 3rds, prepared and fingered octaves, 6ths, 10ths, etc However, after a few months of lessons with the on-line teacher, he got fed up with her no doing the above and stopped teacher her... The disturbing thing to me is that she considers herself an 'artist' and is now teaching... she has basic issues like the pointed straight bow pinky (something I was trying to get her to correct - it's a huge peeve of mine), and she only plays at what I would consider a community orchestra level... I don't think she should be teaching... blind leading the blind... oh well...
August 10, 2017, 10:50 AM · Gregory, I also used to be bothered by the "blind teaching the blind" but I eventually realized that 95% of the time, the people who are satisfied - long term - with a low grade teacher are simply low grade students. The students who would do well are also the students who are willing to search to find an excellent instructor, and they quickly see through the guise of lesser teachers.

August 10, 2017, 10:54 AM · And Timothy, I've never gotten a student from anything except my online reviews, my website, word of mouth, and my analog violin shaped sign that I've stuck in the ground. I didn't make this clickbait to get students :)
August 10, 2017, 1:48 PM · Not every violinist needs to be a virtuoso to teach. Community orchestras are full of public-school music educators and private music-teachers. Some people can do a great job setting up a beginner, and maybe teaching into the early intermediate level, while still having many shortcomings in their own playing. Students switch teachers when they need more than the teacher is able to give.
Edited: August 10, 2017, 2:36 PM · Some teachers don't even need to be a virtuoso to be able to teach very advanced students. I bet many of Galamian, Delay, and Lipsetts students are/were better players than them. But these people I am sure, while probably not ever the most exceptional players, got to a fairly respectable level, probably at least studying the most difficult standard repertoire, before turning to teaching exclusively.

Then there is the opposite phenomenon, where sometimes an exceptional player cannot verbalize at all what they are doing, and might travel way too much to really be an effective mentor to their students.

August 10, 2017, 4:39 PM · Not being a virtuoso is one thing (I'm certainly not one), but not knowing basic, proper technique is quite another. I think there are varying "levels" of good teachers, each specializing within a certain range of repertoire, but if the first "level" of teacher leads the student down the wrong path initially, then the 2nd "level" of teacher has to work backwards with the student in order to get them on the right track again, and that can be detrimental.

And besides the issue of basic technique, I think that as a general rule, a teacher should be advanced enough to be able to know which direction they're going to lead a student in. If they've only gotten to Suzuki book 4 themselves, for example, then it will be more difficult for them to properly calibrate the trajectory of a hopeful student as opposed to a teacher who has gotten through book 10. That's not to say there's nothing the first teacher can teach a student, but I feel that the farther a teacher themselves has gotten, then the bigger of a picture they can see when visualizing where a student is going to go.

On the other hand, a teacher who is TOO advanced may have difficulty relating to the plights of the brand-new beginner and will run the risk of being too impatient or jumping concepts too fast.

I should add: I absolutely agree that great players often don't make great teachers.

So, I think the theoretical "best" situation for a new student is to find the best beginner-teacher, then the best intermediate teacher, then the best advanced teacher, and so on and so forth.

August 14, 2017, 2:45 PM · (apologies for dredging this up again)

Yixi, I do have questions about the boot camp you went to, but I don't want to ask in this thread because the number of replies left is limited (although it seems the thread itself has petered out). I can't PM you because your profile does not allow it. But you can PM me if you like :-)

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