I do not like my Violin Teacher but...

October 29, 2017, 2:17 AM · I cannot seem to find a new one. The symphony pays a very low salary of only $15,000 a month so there are not many violin teachers here. I've been with this teacher for a while now but he is negative and lazy. He tells me that his 4 year old student can play better than me ( I am a University level student).Once he told me that I suck and I should just pray instead of practice. He also tells me I am good enough and that I do not need to play a such a high level and talks too much during lessons. I have called other teachers and email them but for some reason they will not answer. I think maybe it's because I am an adult? (im 20) . I'm thinking of online lessons? idk....I do not feel like I have improved my playing at all the past year ....

Replies (33)

October 29, 2017, 2:18 AM · $15,000 a year*
October 29, 2017, 4:21 AM · That to me doesn't sound like a good teacher for you! I think online lessons are a great opportunity for students around the world, to pick their teacher based on preference and not locally. I also think, that with instruction videos you can learn a lot.
Back when I was your age I learned a lot from books, like from Carl Flesch (the bible for every violinist/teacher), Galamian and so on.
But a good teacher will always make you progress the fastest!
October 29, 2017, 5:41 AM ·

On line lessons might be a good call for someone like you: you don't need your hand held, just pointed in the right direction. Good luck

October 29, 2017, 6:21 AM · How did you approach the other teachers? If you said negative things about your current teacher in those messages, that could be the reason you're not getting a response. The way to do that -- in future -- is to say as little as you can. Just say, "I'm interested in discussing violin lessons with you. I'm a university student (botany! or whatever) who is serious about the violin. Perhaps I could purchase a trial lesson if you could find room for that in your schedule."
October 29, 2017, 6:38 AM · Hi Alena,

Your present violin teacher does sound a bit callous but it is probably just the way he is. My own uncle used to yell at me such things as you have a tin ear Jeffrey because I did not have perfect pitch like him and not a child prodigy playing concerts at eight years of age but a child dullard. Maybe your teacher thinks he can goad you to practice more and improve faster with this manner but I certainly cannot condone it after having experienced it myself,but if you can see the bright side it does teach us to toughen our thin skin.

You could place an ad on your local Craigslist looking for a better teacher and there are two categories you could try, musicians and lessons.

Edited: October 29, 2017, 6:41 AM · I was thinking along similar lines as Paul. I find it very hard to believe that a metropolitan area large enough to have a professional symphony of any kind has very few violin teachers. If the symphony salary is $15K/year, then there are likely to be quite a few local professional violinists happy to teach students simply to keep the wolf away from the door.

The other possibility is that the OP's teacher is the concertmaster or someone else with power and just the mention of his name puts other potential teachers off.

Never badmouth your current or past teacher to a prospective new teacher. Not saying that's what the OP did--we don't know--but it's general good advice. If the question comes up, simply say that you have learned a lot but feel it is time for a change.

Edited: October 29, 2017, 7:55 AM · A teacher should have high expectations and standards but shouldnt make fun of you. What do you mean lazy? Is he/she unprepared and does not have a plan for you? Do you have goals and have you shared them with your teacher? Do you practice the required amount necessary for your level?

Your teacher might be the only one in town who is capable and willing - as you said you're playing at a university level and not every professional can teach at that skill level.

Online might be the way to go. Self study can help too. I'm guessing you are located in an out of the way place far away from other cities and symphonies or you just can't get to them. Attending special workshops and summer camps/ retreats can help too.

Edited: October 29, 2017, 3:31 PM · Whoa! You see how nice people are here. Perhaps I'm not so nice, because I would drain that swamp and get a new teacher. There is no excuse for a teacher to ever say anything like that to a student, ever. If that's his personality, let him express it to someone else other than you.

I do agree with the people who have responded, don't turn into the slug you're getting away from. Bad mouthing him to a prospective teacher will paint a negative picture of you. Instead, put that behind you and move on. Otherwise, you risk coming off as someone who can't be taught because you think you're too good. Also, like any creative endeavor, a thick skin is something you need to work on. Not everyone will like or appreciate what you're trying to do.

October 29, 2017, 12:34 PM · You're paying this guy; he effectively is a business. Most of us are not normally in the habit of tolerating this kind of behavior from people that we are paying.

Some teachers can be a bit on the sharp or sarcastic side. I don't mind this, but some students are sensitive. But your teacher appears to have crossed the line into unhelpful personal insults and I don't see why you should tolerate it.

October 29, 2017, 3:57 PM · It sounds like Simon, Jim and Lydia have given great advice.....consider all of their points and move on tactfully. No one should have to hear that! Good luck!!!
October 30, 2017, 8:40 AM · Alena, with music teachers, sometimes you have to be a little persistent - They aren't always up on all the technology. I would try calling and emailing a few more times. Some teachers may be a little wary of adults, but usually if they see that you are committed, they get the picture.
October 30, 2017, 11:56 AM · You said you were a university-level student; have you tried reaching out to the faculty at your university? Even if it were not for them actually giving you lessons, they would be able to give you a sense of direction in where to go to find teachers and ways to contact them.
October 30, 2017, 12:01 PM · Praying instead of practicing! At least he has a sense of humour!
Edited: October 30, 2017, 12:37 PM · I wouldn't tip a bartender who said negative stuff about me. Sometimes we teachers forget who is paying whom! Even with a good teacher and good student, sometimes the chemistry just isn't right, and you need to move on. 20 y.o. is adult, but definitely not out of the student age range. The cut-off age for technical improvement is more like 25 or 30. "Resign" (actually, fire) your current teacher before looking for the next one. In the meantime, acquire some of the classic violin pedagogy texts, and orchestra excerpt collections. One of the useful things I did, between teachers, was to play through the Flesch Violin Fingering book, (1,000 excerpts!); the english version is a little hard to find. jq
October 30, 2017, 1:01 PM · I'll note that in my early 40s now, with weekly lessons and inadequate practice (call it 30 minutes a day), I'm still making steady technical improvements. That's everything from the technical tricks that underlie particular Paganini Caprices, to significant changes in my tone production.
October 30, 2017, 1:15 PM · I don't believe in a cut-off age for technical improvement. The *rate* of improvement may slow but usually that's more a function of available practice time.
October 30, 2017, 1:17 PM · Agree with others re: how to approach finding a new teacher. Don't put up with a teacher whose behavior in lessons are not motivating for you outside of lessons. Some folks dig on having the "tough love" approach to learning, some don't. Since you do not, it's time to move on.

Yeah, I'm not quite 40 but if I missed the imaginary cut-off age for technical improvement I might as well give up now!

October 30, 2017, 3:38 PM · Alena, these are not appropriate things for a teacher to say to you -- at any age or level. I would leave the current teacher immediately and look for other options.

I agree with Mary Ellen -- improvement may slow but is always possible. Certainly at 20 you shouldn't be thinking along those lines. Stay positive and focused, solve problems as they arise and you can make great progress.

October 30, 2017, 6:14 PM · Its not just about money and being a business. You dont have to expect regular decency just because youre paying the person money. Really, what that teacher is telling you is destructive and viscious. You do not need that, no one does. Maybe youre gaining technically from the lessons in the short term, but in the long term you might be doing your psyche harm.
October 30, 2017, 9:19 PM · All,-- yes, you are right about that. Technical improvement can happen at any age, it just gets harder and longer, and the priorities of normal adult life interfere with practice time and energy. I was thinking that at the advanced, professional level, the late starter has a hard time competing with those best players that started when they were 7 y.o.
October 30, 2017, 10:12 PM · The late starter probably never reaches that advanced, professional level. But say they start at 20. At age 40, on modest practice and regular lessons, they are probably still methodically getting better at the intermediate level, and will continue to improve little by little.

The best players in childhood have a high probability of remaining the best players in adulthood. But most people who begin in childhood tend to stop taking lessons at the end of high school, or the end of college, and many of them will still be intermediate players at that point, or perhaps playing at an advanced but not professional level. Later starters may be able to advance beyond those people simply by persisting at getting better by taking lessons over the course of decades.

October 31, 2017, 12:23 AM · There are many threads about the difference in potential between the adult beginner and the young beginner. About the flexibility, time, energy, etc. I believe that the main difference is that of walking the amateur and the professional (or the aspiring professional) road.

An amateur, one that loves the instrument but is not planning to live from it, is similar regardless of the age. The kid that takes violin lessons along with French and other extracurricular activities will not be so much different after 10 years from the adult who spends similar amount of time to practice. The learning curve will be different but as average I would bet in being similarly placed.

The big difference is the professional aspiration. The student that dreams (or is encouraged) to enter a conservatory, to join an orchestra and to make violin the tool to sustain himself and a family has the motivation but also the fear that supports the sacrifices necessary to get to the top level. He or she has to face many tests that make or break.
It is not the same to play and practice for personal development or because in 3 months you are facing a group of judges that will decide if your last 10 years go to trash or not...
The breath of the wolf in the back makes great runners...

October 31, 2017, 11:33 AM · Trigger warning, Tim!

On the subject of being persistent, here is an interesting article in today's New Yorker. It's not really about finding a teacher, but that's a small part of the article.


October 31, 2017, 11:41 AM · Tim here is the uncut version:


October 31, 2017, 11:42 AM · After thinking it over and reading the comments here, I have to say that I agree with Doug Bevan. It's an abusive environment. Get out.
Edited: October 31, 2017, 2:51 PM · Alena, there have been many red flags about your teacher well prior to this. Over the last year or so, these include suggesting you only play scales for a year and telling you not to listen to the older generation of violinists.

Alena, as noted in her previous post, lives in Honolulu. It appears that the sole professional symphony has a combination of a core plus per-service members, but even the core is part-time, and the season is only half normal length. I imagine that there ought to be a *ton* of eager violin teachers, given that they can't be living on their symphony pay. Plus, the cost of living in Honolulu is outrageous. In that environment, the violinists (I count 27 on the website's roster) probably teach every single hour that they can. Not being able to find a teacher seems odd.

Although given that Alena, with 8 years of playing and apparently not yet at an advanced level, says that she herself is teaching 20 students, may suggest that supply and demand for teachers is out of whack.

October 31, 2017, 2:54 PM · I think at least some of the Hawaii Symphony musicians do not actually live in Hawaii but rather commute from the mainland for the workweeks.
November 2, 2017, 11:32 AM · @Timothy- "I wouldn't like this one. Who would?"
Edited: November 2, 2017, 11:43 AM · @Timothy- "I wouldn't like this one. Who would?"

I hope that wasn't the student's violin. I'm not mean or big, but I'd kick his --- if it were my violin.

@Paul Deck
"October 31, 2017, 11:41 AM ยท Tim here is the uncut version:

I should have read further back. Did you see the next video where the kid smashes his violin... I guess some notes are hard to swallow.

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