giving up teaching private lessons
For those of you who teach private lessons, have you ever considered giving it up?
One of my goals for this year was to rebuild my studio after the pandemic, but the more I think about it the more I consider just not trying to get more students. I have taken great pride over the past few years in teaching simply because I love to teach and not because I need the money (though it is a perk!). I'm starting to feel that that love has worn off.
I would definitely admit that this comes from the mild dread of teaching the same Suzuki book 1 material for ump-teenth time. The lack of diversity in content is killer. It seems that every time I get a kid a decent way through book 1 or into book 2 they decide to move on to a different activity. This is often because of sports or clubs.
I also feel bad for my students because my town is a sort of musical desert, with few options for young musicians looking to play in ensembles and make friends. There are more opportunities for band kids, but even then our options pail in comparison to other places. Kids ditch violin for team sports where they can be with other kids and be social. I've considered trying to fix this, but it just isn't possible with a day job.
Have any of you guys been here? How did you cope? What did you decide?
Thanks for being my violin emotional support group!
Can you gang up with a more full-time colleague to create a Book 2+ ensemble for kids to stay together and be motivated to learn?
I have a friend who studied with Suzuki as a child and went on to the Paris Conservatory after Matsumoto. Fine violinist. I once-and only once!-asked him how many times he had played Twinkle Twinkle in his life (he is in his 70's) and the look I got was not one I ever want to see from him again.
I taught some violin students from the time I was about 30 until I was about 74 (I also added cello students when about 12 years before I quit teaching). It was always an avocation not my main work.
Hi Michael, I understand how you feel about how the beginner material can become monotonous. For that very reason I've been arranging alternate material around the Suzuki book 1 and 2 level in order to create a little more variety. I'd be happy to share them with you freely. I have arranged piano accompaniments to go with them, but my intention was that they might be tuneful and enjoyable even without the accompaniment. It's entirely up to you, but if you're interested, let me know.
Let me point out that Suzuki is not the only "system" for beginners. There is at least one other in Colourstrings
Michael Pacheco, I have been in your situation, and I think it's normal for any teacher to evaluate what they're doing. For me, I did spend some time in a music "desert" a few years ago- anything to motivate my students had to come from what I came up with. It was a small town where the people practical, hardworking, and frugal. So, I supplemented a lot with fiddle tunes (guitar playing family members loved this), different styles of music, and pieces they could play for special occasions. They needed a more of a practical reason to play than just learning a piece to perform in a recital. That helped. It added variety and motivated them to play more.
You can find on you tube, piano accompaniments of some concertinos as Kucler, Mikolic,Curci,,Rieding ,ecc..I have a good audio setting ,so i use the musicals bases to vary my teaching
Jake, I asked a Colourstrings teacher how she coped with the considerable number of boys who cannot distinguish brown from green, or blue from purple. She hadn't realised why some boys got confused by the colour coding.
Adrian it was the only other method I could think if aha
Surely there are many other programs/methods to teach violin ? I have had three violin teachers and none of them used Suzuki or Colorstrings etc.
I teach university chemistry, and I have a research lab where I provide individualized instruction to undergraduate and graduate students. I am unusual among my colleagues in that I prefer to teach laboratory technique to each student myself, until they get up to a certain level of proficiency. Others who have similar positions will gasp upon hearing this, but the plain fact is that I have never been especially well-funded (partly because I would prefer to be in the lab with my students rather than in my office writing proposals), so therefore my group has always been fairly small.
In defense of the students, why should they want to continue when the "love has worn off"?
In defense of the students, why should they want to continue when the "love has worn off"?
I think we have to play to youngsters to show them the beauty and vitality of the music we love, however simple.
Responding to Rebecca Brown, I totally understand what you are saying. As for me, I started the violin at age 5 because my parents said "pick two instruments" and I had already had a year or so of piano "lessons" from my dad, and my oldest brother was playing the violin (he soon entered middle school and gave up the violin for the trumpet).
I was interested in George's suggestion of the O'Connor Method. I see no reason why it shouldn't work. Well, that's not true. Actually I do see a reason, and I'm sad to admit that. I am genuinely worried that in some quarters, fiddle music or anything that smacks of "low culture" is looked down upon by parents and that this prejudice rubs off on their kids. I once felt this prejudice myself, and I find myself wondering where I learned it.
To Emily's points of having to exhaustively teach note by note, I wonder if this is rooted in the student not having been taught to deliberately learn to look for patterns. (I suppose some students don't have the intellectual horsepower to do so, but it probably helps if it's an explicit set of instructions rather than something that we hope that the student will eventually intuit.) There might be an issue with overly high repertoire difficulty, too, making it hard for the student to see the forest for the trees.
When I was teaching (and had switched to the Suzuki books) I always introduced "Devil's Dream" sometime before a student got past Book 1. It is a lively piece, requires good right/left hand coordination and gives a beginner a sense of accomplishment. If I recall correctly, the notes are within the range of "Twinkle."
I am not a teacher, but have lately become a de facto tutor to two string buddies who have joined me in learning the blues. After 75 years of classical music, I could no longer be enthusiastic about it due to my cat's illness and death...I jumped into a blues streak. Lydia is so right when she writes, "A switch in style represents new intellectual stimulation (and some new technical skills, too)." Sorry I waited so long to meet and enjoy learning this new (but very old) style. Perhaps teaching a variety of music styles could alleviate a 'loss of love'.
Giving it up - no, I enjoy what I do for the most part (yes there are burdensome aspects but what job or career doesn't). Sure, I need to eat but also am not interested in another kind of day job / gainful employment.
If you don't want to do it, then you should give it up. Full stop.
I also can sympathize with the frustration. Only about a tenth of those that start continue long enough to get to the point of being able to play section 2nd violin in a community orchestra. 1 in 100 will get to pro. level and half of those won't actually come in first place at a pro. audition. What was equally frustrating for me was when I had a small student string orchestra. I would lose people to the organized school sports teams. They, (or their parents) would make time for several practice sessions per week, and a game or tournament on weekends, but one afternoon orchestra rehearsal per week was too much. Never mind that music can last for a lifetime. The frustration of lessons at the College level was that I spent most of my time on preparing the student's next "jury" audition instead of focusing on distinct technical tools.
I think Lydia's comment about Scottish fiddling is interesting. I wonder if the satisfaction students get from learning to fiddle, is that the pieces can be complete in themselves? Concertos need an orchestra, or at least some sort of accompaniment to have the complete sound that was intented.
After the last several comments, I'm ready to turn the table. How about students who don't want to learn? Expecting a 7-year-old to place value on what might possible in their early twenties if they get good on the violin is totally unreasonable. But if a student doesn't want to learn to play the violin for its own sake -- because they enjoy the sound of the instrument or the types of music that are played on the violin, etc., then maybe teachers should set them free. I realize that's a whole different "can of worms" (as compared to an entire Diet of Worms) and maybe better for a different thread, but I think in many cases the rationale is the same -- teachers keep on teaching and they keep accommodating students who lost interest years ago but whose parents are keeping them on the bus, simply because another week of teaching and another student in one's studio generates more income. The most important feature of a successful, happy violin studio is a waiting list.
Paul, I totally agree and you made some good points.
Michael, you seem to me to have a good handle on your situation.
To Rebecca's point, I think that fiddle music not only tends to sound complete in and of itself (having a cello or guitar or piano accompanying the violin is a bonus, but it's not vital), but you can also listen to or watch accomplished professionals putting a personal interpretive spin on the music that gives it a certain get-up-and-go.
If you want to accompany fiddle music on the piano, you have to learn how to do it. I know a great fiddle player and teacher who also plays great piano and I have been trying to learn her approach every time I hear her, which unfortunately is only once a year -- at camp. By the way music camp is a great place for kids to get introductions to other genres, improv, etc., because often the camp faculty includes specialists in those area who have been hand-picked because they are pied pipers of their trades.
This is the perspective of an adult beginner who has a learning disorder and was married to a special ed teacher for 20 years. I don't know how to teach violin but I know a fair bit about learning styles. If an instruction method suits a child's learning style, they will be more successful and therefor more motivated than if it doesn't.
Amrita, That's interesting because the Suzuki method was originally never intended to produce professional musicians or soloists. It has become something entirely different than originally intended and I think this has happened as it has become Americanized and sort of become industrialized. I'm just grateful that it is only one of many methods.
Amrita, I would say it's the teacher. A "Suzuki" teacher (quotation marks are deliberate) who tries to produce soloists is going to end up producing kids who think they're on the soloist track, get hyper-competitive, and quit when they don't make it into conservatory. That's the exact opposite of what Suzuki intended. That teacher would have the same effect on students using any method.
The town I lived in before moving to the SF Bay Area 26 years ago had a marvelous Suzuki School with several teachers. The leader of the school was also the violist in "my" string quartet, principal violist in the community orchestra and a very competent pianist and organist.
I think whether the Suzuki system is "intended to produce soloists" depends on the teacher using it.
I don't think the Suzuki Program has given us a generation of axe murderers. Some kids were unhappy campers for a while as their parents dragged them to violin lessons. Other parents make their kids read books! Can you imagine that?
When I saw that "Suzuki was intended to produce soloists" I about died laughing. We could probably start a whole new thread on why that statement is wrong. Any teacher who really believes that should read up on the history of the method. I did recently get a transfer student who has only played in her school orchestra for 4 years. She reads notes well, but we are starting back in Suzuki book 1 because it will expose somethings that she hasn't learned yet. She is perfectly happy to do so but keep saying "wow, it's just so wierd playing by myself!"
Suzuki himself said many times that his intent was to help develop better humans through the study of music. Professional musicians and even soloists coming out of his “method” (he didn’t like that word either) are a byproduct.
A teacher who specializes in starting beginners with Suzuki or any other method and thinks they will "produce soloists" is deluded (unless by "soloist" they mean someone who performs a solo in church). The chance that any beginner will become a soloist is astronomically small--struck by lightening/win the lottery--small.
I was going to comment on Andrew's post until I realised I may have misunderstood it. I think he's saying that soloists may begin in Suzuki, but then they find better alternatives. If they start in Suzuki, I suppose it's because it's ubiquitous over there. It is comparatively rare in the UK, and maybe the Americans can't imagine a world without it.
As a parent who is supervising 2 kids learning violin, I can attest to the fact that most parents who "subject" their children to music lessons are not planning to make them into soloists. Like Mary Ellen paraphrased from Suzuki, the intent of music learning is to help develop better humans. Effective violin practice is a cerebral activity and requires focus, attention to detail, self-awareness, logical thinking, among other skills. If you are a teacher on this forum, think about how you can bestow these qualities in your students. Teaching twinkle is mundane. Teaching twinkle effectively to each child is one of the most intellectually challenging yet interesting pursuits.
I suspect there is a misunderstanding involved here. To my understanding, Essential Elements is intended to support public-school string teachers who are teaching "orchestra" to groups of beginners. The books need to be more textbook-like, and cross-instrumental, in order to facilitate learning when little or no individual instruction is occurring. The repertoire, I think, is meant to be played together in a school orchestra setting.
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