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PianoPiano: I'm not a professional performance student but have been lucky to get lessons with university professors (on piano, fortepiano and harpsichord). Not sure how famous and/or well-established your teacher is, but I don't think that justifies her lack of professionalism (I'm completely with BruceD here). My teachers were (and my current teacher is) famous, well-established and busy professors, but they never gave me a suboptimal treatment. If I felt my teacher was not spending his or her attention wholly on me during a lesson, I would look for another.

I'm not a material for a concert pianist. I just like to play for myself, family or some very close friends. I like to work to play better and that's why I work with teachers. My current teacher is famous for not getting private students but somehow took me in with a minimal lesson fee (since I'm a poor grad student). I LOVE the lessons with him. I am probably not as good as other performance students he has, but it doesn't bother either of us. I analyze, practice, learn a piece with him until both of us are happy with the performance (opposite of what you and your teacher have been doing). My teacher explain things in simpler terms for me when necessary (since I don't have much knowledge in music theory). I'm not afraid of asking him any stupid questions -- one time I asked him what he usually would do to warm up and he spent 30 minutes showing me various exercises he does.

Am I ever going to be as good as he is? No. But it doesn't bother me. I enjoy my "musical growth" with his lesson and dare to think I can perform a couple pieces better than he did in his recordings. Still, he has so much to teach me and I'm grateful for his teaching, which makes me look for another lesson. And after every lesson, I'm more pumped and excited about the playing, the music and everything thanks to him!

I know I'm very lucky to have my teacher. And I also know that you feel lucky to study with your teacher. But do you really think sticking with your teacher would be best for you? Could you be better of by studying with another teacher, perhaps not a professor, who would give you the full attention and spend time and energy studying one piece to satisfaction? I'm not trying to convince you to look for another teacher though. It's ultimately your decision. I just wanted to let you know that you would be a lot happier about playing music when you have a teacher to be happy with.

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I myself don't do any of the "un-professional" things that this teacher does, and I would expect the majority of my students to quit me immediately if I did.

But not all the people worth studying how to play the piano with are nice people, and not all of them act in a consistently professional manner. It is possible and sometimes desirable to make a calculated decision to learn a great deal from an inconsiderate or even a bad person. I have done so, for a relatively short period of time, and I haven't regretted it for a moment. It sure gives me stories to tell...


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But not all the people worth studying how to play the piano with are nice people, and not all of them act in a consistently professional manner. It is possible and sometimes desirable to make a calculated decision to learn a great deal from an inconsiderate or even a bad person. I have done so, for a relatively short period of time, and I haven't regretted it for a moment. It sure gives me stories to tell...


That's where I seem to be landing here...and I can't help but think of the story of the three bears (okay, I'm a teacher who works with little kiddies)
my last piano teacher was ______ this teacher is too________, my next teacher will be just right! smile

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None of my piano teachers have been hot. <evil grin>


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Originally Posted by Horowitzian
Gyro, I strongly suggest you pursue studies with a teacher. You may be pleasantly surprised at what one can learn from someone much better than yourself. If a well respected professor of piano is willing to take on an adult student, it is an opportunity not to be missed!

Granted, I don't think a true adult beginner — i.e. has not played before — could expect to take on Carnegie Hall, but it's a fallacy to think that they are incapable of becoming competent pianists.


I recently took this opportunity (38 yrs of age). My teacher is a professor at the university I am an adminstrator for. She is an incredible player (she gave a recital last night that was just wonderful). My hope is just to learn as much as is possible...knowing full well that many don't get the chance I received.


Last edited by I'll be Bach; 11/20/09 09:07 AM.

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Originally Posted by PartyPianist
You can only really hone interpretation skills by attempting large numbers of works to understand how everything ultimately "connects". That's my tupenny worth!


I might not put it quite so strongly, but I generally agree with this. I certainly believe in the educational benefits of a large repetoire.

To the OP: you may be fortunate that your teacher is taking this approach. If you try to polish each piece you learn (spending enough time on it -- you mentioned 8 months -- so that you can perform it as well as you've ever performed anything else) you will not have the time to study much music. Of course, some pieces should be polished, because you'll want to have some pieces that you can play to the best of your ability, and because certain forms of improvement accrue only through polish, but it's possible that your teacher is trying to enrich your experience through familiarity with many pieces.

Also, while I agree that that it's a little rude to check emails or take calls during a lesson, I wouldn't make too much of it. Good piano teachers are not very common; if you've found one, it's worth putting up with a few quirks.

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You should stick with this teacher if you're learning a lot (which seems to be the case). See it as a challenge to overcome the anxiety that you feel towards these scrutinizing ears and eyes of your teacher. Once you manage to do so and feel better, no demanding audience will scare you as much anymore. It's good to have teachers that create challenges. Don't feel too "inferior" for this teacher. Unless the teacher is impolite or disrespectful, keep yourself pushing with his/her expertise and demanding attitude.
I know the feeling all too well, but in hindsight I was glad that I had a similar teacher once.

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PIANOpiano, you (like a number
of people on this forum) have
apparently signed up with this high-end
university instructor--as opposed
to a neighborhood teacher--because
you want to take your playing to
the advanced level, that is, the
level of a person who enters
a conservatory out of high school.
Indeed, you are even willing to
pay her "well above what she
initially asked for." And you're
willing to put up with your current
frustration in hopes of "the payoff
later."


But if this "payoff later" is playing
at conservatory level, then your
thinking is fundamentally flawed.
You could not enter a conservatory
out of high school, didn't have
the talent for that. So how
are you figuring that you can
reach that level of playing now,
still lacking the kind of talent
it takes for that? You can
never play like a talented conservatory
student. You simply lack the
kind of talent required for it.
To give an analogy from sports,
you could take tennis lessons
from Roger Federer, pay him
a lot of money for his valuable time,
but you will never be able to play
at his level, since you simply
lack the talent for it.

To give further perspective, consider
the audition repertoire for the
top conservatories: a difficult
WTC piece; a complete Classical Era
sonata; a substantial Romantic
Era piece, like a Chopin Ballade;
a fast concert etude; and an
impressive modern piece. A
conservatory candidate will have
that polished and memorized in
a couple of yrs. How long would
it take you to do the same? You
could not prepare such an audition
repertoire in a lifetime of effort.

Nevertheless, high-end university
teachers take students like you,
for the extra income it brings them.
What are they to do with such
students, so full of "passion and
enthusiasm," and so lacking in
ability? They humor them, so to
speak. They stay away from
the really difficult stuff, like a
Chopin ballade or etude--it
would be embarassing to
try to teach such pieces to
students like you, because
after years of struggle you
still wouldn't be able to play them
(conservatory students routinely
work up such pieces in a a few
months)--and stick with a carefully
sifted repertoire of "advanced"
pieces that fall well under the
fingers and can be played by anyone
with a lot of hands on coaching.
Your teacher is apparently giving
you quite difficult pieces, but
then is not requiring that you
perfect them--because you wouldn't
be able to perfect them before
the next ice age.

If this sounds grim, there is some
good news. You can play at the
advanced level in the sense that
anyone can work up any piece, no
matter how diffcult, if he's willing
to use repetition over a long
time. For example, a conservatory
student could work up a Chopin
ballade or etude in a couple of
months. You will never be able to
do that, but you could work it up in
a couple of decades, maybe, and then
in the end be able to play it as
well or better than the conservatory student.

For example, I have less talent
than you, and I've worked up to
playable level some very
advanced pieces, the Chopin op. 14,
the A min. mazurka op. post. (the
difficult one with the middle
section in octaves), and the Trois
Nouvelles Etudes no. 1, by
repetition over many years.

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Originally Posted by PartyPianist
You can only really hone interpretation skills by attempting large numbers of works to understand how everything ultimately "connects". That's my tupenny worth!


This is just what I was thinking. I've been with my teacher for about three months. She is the first piano teacher I've had in 30 years, so I've asked myself many of the same kinds of questions the OP is asking as I adjust to what it means to take lessons at this point in my life and piano development.

We've been tackling a few pieces, and even some brief segments of pieces, as a way to work on my interpretation, my phrasing, my control. As she sees it, my feel of and for the music is excellent, but my ability to really execute what I feel is lacking. So, rather than polish a single piece beginning-to-end, we're working on short things one after another and then moving on. (Although "moving on" doesn't mean I can't still spend practice time on it if I want to. )

At first, I wasn't sure I was making progress, but after a few weeks, I could feel the difference in all of my playing. Polishing one piece would give me a nice one piece, but I think what she's doing is building a foundation that'll help me with everything later on.



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Why are we beginning to presume that this teacher is crass and unprofessional because of a sentence or two in one of PianoPiano's posts? I would need a bit more evidence before I lowered the boom on a potentially prominent and respected piano professor at a top conservatory.

Someone suggested earlier that communication was important. This is true. If PianoPiano has questions about why pieces aren't being worked through to a higher degree of polish, then she needs to ask those questions and express her interest.

I said earlier that a successful relationship between a teacher and an advancing adult student is a partnership. In a partnership people have an understanding of the goals and of the methods used to achieve them. If PianoPiano has not fully articulated her goals to the teacher then much of the information needed for a successful partnership remains off the table.

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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Why are we beginning to presume that this teacher is crass and unprofessional because of a sentence or two in one of PianoPiano's posts?
The part about the teacher checking emails and taking calls during lessons. Unless you think PP was not telling the truth or grossly exaggerating the occurence of this behavior?

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I would not presume that PianoPiano is fibbing. Nor do I have enough information to know that the teacher is seriously shirking. I have never observed these lessons.

If a teacher takes a call on occasion, that's one thing. If s(he) initiates calls and/or spends substantial amounts of time clearly diverted, then that is another. If PianoPiano is convinced that this teacher is not paying attention then she should move on.

This brings me back to the teacher as colleague and collaborator rather than as high and mighty purveyor of wisdom. An adult student needs to have clear lines of communication with their teacher so that the two of them are on the same page with regard to the student's goals and the teacher's methods.

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It's time for a talk with my teacher. I'll keep you posted... and, btw to Gyro, I never stated that I wanted to be a concert pianist or even play like a conservatory or university piano student. I just want to improve...and I am improving. People have told me this. My teacher has told me this. (okay, I admit I've had fantasies of entering a competition someday!) I am very comfortable performing. My issues are ONLY with this teacher! I think it's the formal climate of the lesson. IDK. Also, the method is different for me. For me, to stay engaged- I have to love the process- and the process here is too fast and not as gratifying. I am in need of bringing a piece (that I love) or two to perfection while I work on learning many pieces (her agenda) ... and I'd like to clarify my goals...and just have a discussion with her. I'd like to talk about the possibility of doing a recital, too. This was mentioned initially- then never again. Therefore I need to clarify. I also want to clarify with this teacher that I learn slowly- and, therefore, I'd like to slow down the pace even just a bit! (I work full time and can only manage so much practice per day- as I become exhausted!) I am going to think about this for awhile - but I imagine I'll continue with this teacher for a few more months and revisit my feelings- or have another discussion with her then. Perhaps the end of the academic year is a good time to move on or renew my commitment to her.

and- yes, she is on her computer a lot- but does get up to demonstrate things to me and teach me, too. It's always a brief thing- I'm never sitting around while she checks email. (only once) and phone calls maybe once every three lessons she takes a phone call interrupting my playing- then I stop and just sit there. However, I accept this. I know it's rude. It's part of the situation and since I feel so lucky to be there I accept it. HOWEVER, I am keeping my eye out for my next teacher as I'm not really sure I can keep this up for years here.

I look forward to my discussion- it all comes down to communication! Everyone here gave me much to think about and consider! Do you want me to let you know how it goes? (I won't have a lesson now until after Thanksgiving.)

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As an adult amateur who works (at least) full time I have the same tug-of-war between wanting to experience a much wider range of the piano rep and wanting to polish up my pieces.

When I hear others...advanced amateurs or college performance majors...discuss all the rep they learned (whether they performed it or just learned it 'good enough' to move on) as kids...Clementi, Scarlatti, Mozart, Bach...then on up into the Romantic stuff...I feel so far behind. I didn't have very good teachers even tho I took lessons starting from second grade so I just didn't learn/play very much music. I don't think I've ever learned (to performance) a piece by the first 3 of the 4 I mentioned...which is horrifying!!

And now, as a member of an adult piano club I play my pieces polished and memorized...but I play only a couple them a year!

I'm not satisfied with the current situation...there's just so much out there I want to play and I'll never get to most of it. The list of "real" pieces you've learned in your lifetime should number more than the paltry few I've managed in 13 years of lessons as a young person and 1 1/2 as a middle aged returner.

I keep wondering if I should back off from insisting on memorizing my pieces but since I had such ISSUES with memorization as a child I want to overcome that.

Let us know how it goes.


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Originally Posted by P I A N O piano
.

and- yes, she is on her computer a lot- but does get up to demonstrate things to me and teach me, too.



My! That would be a No Go situation for me..One thing I appreciate about my lessons is the complete focus on my music making, any physical tension or lack of concentration etc..

Best of luck yo you. WHat really matters is your perspective of the situation really..

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PianoPiano - “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”

I teach at a private conservatory of music. I have a big beautiful room with two pianos. I have been there for 10 years and I am happy there and so are my students. The last teacher in my room was a "master" performer with a doctorate in music. He was fired. The reason he was fired was because he was unable to communicate to his students, he was only interested in his paycheck and his students kept quitting.

I am an accomplished pianist but I don't have his resume. I teach beginning as well as university level students. My students stay, they learn, they perform and they remain excited about music.

PianoPiano, you deserve to be listened to and treated fairly. It doesn't matter that you are an adult student and that you aren't at a higher level. I would never dream of taking phone calls, working on a computer - and I don't tolerate interruptions unless it's an emergency.

It might be interesting for you if you post your question on the Teacher's Forum. I think you would get a lot of interesting comments over there as well.

good luck to you,
Valerie




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Originally Posted by ProdigalPianist
I'm not satisfied with the current situation...there's just so much out there I want to play and I'll never get to most of it. The list of "real" pieces you've learned in your lifetime should number more than the paltry few I've managed in 13 years of lessons as a young person and 1 1/2 as a middle aged returner.

I keep wondering if I should back off from insisting on memorizing my pieces but since I had such ISSUES with memorization as a child I want to overcome that.
If you think of ALL of them as "my pieces", it makes it too hard. Choose your special ones carefully, and play lots of others just for the experience. One-night stands with pieces of music are morally acceptable. smile


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Originally Posted by P I A N O piano
It's time for a talk with my teacher. I'll keep you posted... and, btw to Gyro, I never stated that I wanted to be a concert pianist or even play like a conservatory or university piano student. I just want to improve...and I am improving. People have told me this. My teacher has told me this. (okay, I admit I've had fantasies of entering a competition someday!) I am very comfortable performing. My issues are ONLY with this teacher! I think it's the formal climate of the lesson. IDK. Also, the method is different for me. For me, to stay engaged- I have to love the process- and the process here is too fast and not as gratifying. I am in need of bringing a piece (that I love) or two to perfection while I work on learning many pieces (her agenda) ... and I'd like to clarify my goals...and just have a discussion with her. I'd like to talk about the possibility of doing a recital, too. This was mentioned initially- then never again. Therefore I need to clarify. I also want to clarify with this teacher that I learn slowly- and, therefore, I'd like to slow down the pace even just a bit! (I work full time and can only manage so much practice per day- as I become exhausted!) I am going to think about this for awhile - but I imagine I'll continue with this teacher for a few more months and revisit my feelings- or have another discussion with her then. Perhaps the end of the academic year is a good time to move on or renew my commitment to her.

and- yes, she is on her computer a lot- but does get up to demonstrate things to me and teach me, too. It's always a brief thing- I'm never sitting around while she checks email. (only once) and phone calls maybe once every three lessons she takes a phone call interrupting my playing- then I stop and just sit there. However, I accept this. I know it's rude. It's part of the situation and since I feel so lucky to be there I accept it. HOWEVER, I am keeping my eye out for my next teacher as I'm not really sure I can keep this up for years here.

I look forward to my discussion- it all comes down to communication! Everyone here gave me much to think about and consider! Do you want me to let you know how it goes? (I won't have a lesson now until after Thanksgiving.)

I definitely think a discussion is in order. I am on my computer during lessons because I type up a student's assignment sheets and print them out. That way I have a copy of what I gave them. However, I generally will make a comment or two in between pieces. Sometimes I type during so I don't forget an important point, after which I teach them the practice method I'd like them to do. But I am always listening.

Also, I only use cell phones (no land lines) and so I turn my phone on vibrate. If your teacher has a land line phone, she should set it to go to voice mail during lessons and check in between. When someone calls during a lesson, I can see the phone light up so I know someone has called, and in between lessons I can check to see if it is a student who is canceling or something. Anything other than that really is not important enough to disturb a student's lesson and they can just leave a message. I used to answer my phone during lessons because I thought it might be an urgent matter, but then realized that most of the calls I get were ones that could have left voice mail if I let it go.

I do not check email during lessons. Ever. Nor do I chat online or text message.

It sounds as though your teacher may be doing things and possibly not realizing that these should not be done on your paid time. I would definitely bring these up as concerns.

Also, it sounds as though your teacher is giving you a lot of things to work on because she thinks you can handle it. I've been known to give too much to some students, because I'm trying to find that delicate balance between 'challenging' and 'too much'. I rely upon my students to let me know if they have too much/too little to do, but I will sometimes ask them if I suspect there's a problem. Communication is key here, and so I'm sure telling your teacher will help this area.

If not, then you have a decision to make. Personally, I wouldn't be happy with a teacher who is unwilling to make changes to accommodate my needs (and also to make changes with regards to extra-musical activity during lessons).


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Originally Posted by david_a
Originally Posted by ProdigalPianist
I'm not satisfied with the current situation...there's just so much out there I want to play and I'll never get to most of it. The list of "real" pieces you've learned in your lifetime should number more than the paltry few I've managed in 13 years of lessons as a young person and 1 1/2 as a middle aged returner.

I keep wondering if I should back off from insisting on memorizing my pieces but since I had such ISSUES with memorization as a child I want to overcome that.
If you think of ALL of them as "my pieces", it makes it too hard. Choose your special ones carefully, and play lots of others just for the experience. One-night stands with pieces of music are morally acceptable. smile

I agree here as well. There are pieces that I will work to performance level, but many more that I will sight read, tinker with, learn an important skill on, etc. Perhaps later on I could always bring one of these latter pieces back to bring it to performance level should I wish to.

The important thing here is to expose yourself to a lot of music and different composers. How many pieces do you have to memorize before you can prove to yourself that you can memorize pieces? The answer should be 1. Anything after that is redundant as far as proving anything goes. Memorize the gems that you may want to perform at your piano club, and leave the rest in the books. They're not going anywhere! smile


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PIANOpiano, I'll give it to you
unvarnished. By the end of high school,
the handwriting is on the wall for
any player, that is, he's essentially
reached the level he's going to
be at for life, and no amount of
training or hard work is going to change
that substantially.

This "improvement" you're experiencing
now is essentially just polish
on your playing, which you can
get from a high-end teacher like
this, the "swagger" that rubs
off on you simply by association
with such a fine player. It is
not improvement in the sense that
you're increasing the level of
your playing. That level was set
permanently by the end of high school
and can't be changed significantly.


Based on what you've said, you
should be satisfied with
this teacher. She's polishing
up your playing, and you get to
associate with a high-end player.
With any other teacher it would
be the same: further polish, and
association with a much better player.
But in no case is the level of
your playing going to rise significantly.
That level was set by the end of high
school and cannot be changed by
any amount of instruction from
any teacher, or any amount of hard
work.

Nevertheless, you, or anyone else, can
play any piece he wants to, no
matter how difficult. But not
like a conservatory player, that is,
worked up in a few months. With
you, it's going to take many years to
work up what a talented player
does with ease.



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