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#1557262 - 11/14/10 05:08 AM Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding  
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william swanson Offline
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My daughter is 12 and has been playing classical piano for 5 years. Her teacher at this time is from Russia and a graduate of the conservatory there. Although my daughter practices every day a few hours and tries her best, it is never enough for her teacher who complains she is always missing and not correcting wrong notes and is not paying attention to the music that is written. The teacher has mentioned that if she doesn't change he may not teach her any longer. I wonder if anyone can tell me if this strict and demanding approach is normal in Russia for those piano students hoping to become pianist one day.

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#1557265 - 11/14/10 05:13 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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I don't think the teacher's approach makes much difference - though I can't help thinking terrifying children is not going to be very productive in the long run. We're really talking locus parentis here. If you'd treat your daughter that way then I suppose it's OK.


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#1557307 - 11/14/10 07:43 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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OK for you maybe but not OK in general. I certainly hope you wouldn't treat your daughter that way yourself.

#1557321 - 11/14/10 08:52 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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i have a refugee student who fleed her strict Russian teacher. She is extraordinarily accomplished and plays beautifully. I don't think I will make as much progress as that former teacher but the student is very happy. She cries when she relates stories about the teacher.

myself would love a teacher like that but for a child????

i don't know.


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#1557427 - 11/14/10 11:44 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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WS,
Do you disagree with the teacher's style or the contents of his teaching, or both?
It is not clear if the problem is that he is gruff and / or discouraging or if you disagree with his assessment of her playing and effort??
Have you had an opportunity to speak to him?
More importantly, what does your daughter think?
If your daughter is learning a lot from him, think twice before moving on. A very good teacher, if that is what this man really is, is not easy to come by.
However, if he is verbally abusive and if your daughter no longer enjoys the piano because of her lessons, then I would consider more active intervention.
If your daughter has an interest in developing her skills towards a professional future in music, then she needs to (gradually) adapt to the fact that the piano, and music in general, is a very demanding field and one should pursue very high standards.
This is of course "internet" advice. We don't know enough about your situation.

#1557432 - 11/14/10 11:46 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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itsfreakingmeout Offline
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I dont think its a Russian 'standard'...my piano professor was from Russia and he was very laid back.

#1557448 - 11/14/10 12:08 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Some teachers demand "the best" from their students - others demand "fear". You will have to judge (in conversation with your daughter of course) whether the teacher is demanding and strict in a healthy useful way, or in a cruel pointless way. You will probably get the same answer by trying to figure out "is this driven by a quest for excellence, or is it just to boost the teacher's ego by making the student look small?"


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1557456 - 11/14/10 12:21 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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The following is MY OPINION ONLY (that is, I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings):

I think of Miss Olga fondly. I don't think she was Russian (proper), but rather from one of the other "iron curtain" countries. She was strict, to be sure, and not "cuddly", but she expected and GOT the absolute best from her students.

I would do some soul-searching on your part and figure out if this teacher's approach bothers you more than it actually bothers your daughter. Honestly, if she really IS practicing a couple hours every day, and has been playing five years, and she DOES walk into her lessons still missing notes, IMO they need to be pointed out. A teacher at that level is not there to help a student read what's on a page. All that should be DONE before-hand (and depending on the level, in the FIRST WEEK the student takes on the piece).

All that said, I tend to agree with every post above me: Don't treat your daughter that way yourself. Figure out if it's style or substance you're disagreeing with. Have a good conversation with your daughter to find out if the teacher is inspiring fear more than discipline. The kind of criticism she's hearing now is absolutely NOTHING compared to what she will experience as a professional. And this is all internet advice.

As to your actual question: I don't know if it's a standard in Russia. The "old-school" Russian teachers I've known have all been very demanding, but with quite a grand (if not unique) sense of humor.

#1557473 - 11/14/10 12:42 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Originally Posted by william swanson
My daughter is 12 and has been playing classical piano for 5 years. Her teacher at this time is from Russia and a graduate of the conservatory there. Although my daughter practices every day a few hours and tries her best, it is never enough for her teacher who complains she is always missing and not correcting wrong notes and is not paying attention to the music that is written. The teacher has mentioned that if she doesn't change he may not teach her any longer. I wonder if anyone can tell me if this strict and demanding approach is normal in Russia for those piano students hoping to become pianist one day.


I don't think that Russian, American or Chinese should be the issue. I think the point is that there are good teachers and bad teachers everywhere. It is ok to demand from students and try to motivate them on one hand but there's ways of doing it. Creating a feeling of "its never enough" and "complains she is always missing" sounds awful to me. It would just make the kid associate music with a bad experience in the long run and sounds to me like the successful recipe for making someone quit piano ! Any teacher should remember this is a kid we are talking about, you want to give positive feeling about the music experience, install confident, give positive feedback and encouragement, and especially with a kid that really tries and practices and try her best. If I were you I would consider talking to the teacher about it or start shopping around for other teachers. I think that the teacher should know music and know teaching. going to a piano lesson shouldn't be a waste of time, playing & fooling around, but there are ways of passing knowledge and I don't think that intimidation is the best one.



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#1557481 - 11/14/10 12:51 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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I was training a classroom music teacher once. He prepared the room with signs saying 'don't unplug this' 'don't pull this out' - I made him spend his lunch changing them to do's. That was years ago, he's still a good friend.


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#1557509 - 11/14/10 01:37 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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I think Scotpgot has some good points.

Maybe the question to ask is: is she missing notes and not correcting them? Is she paying attention to the music? Does the teacher have valid points?

It's always difficult for a teacher in such a situation. I'd be more wary of the teacher that tolerates mistakes and inattention to the music to preserve their monthly paycheck at the expense of the student's proficiency, rather than the teacher who really does want to produce good students and must be harsh to achieve results. When sugar and spice doesn't work, a little pepper can achieve results sometimes. Remember, a student can be a reflection of the teacher - for good or bad.

I've known many people who have flown from teacher to teacher in search of the perfect instructor that spares their feelings and lets them do whatever they want. Are these students worth listening to? Not usually.

This is one of those times where people must search their hearts to find out why they are doing something, and what they want to achieve out of it. It would be wrong to automatically assume the teacher is in the wrong, because we have family members and our emotions involved.

#1557542 - 11/14/10 02:37 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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like somebody mentioned above, a big part of it depends on what your daughter feels. but i think part of it also depends on what you want your daughter to get out of it, because at the end of the day you're still the parent.

a few hours a day seems like a lot if you just want her to have fun. if you want her to have something for college applications, maybe time will be better spent on other activities. if you think she has a talent and music runs in the family, then a few hours a day seems fair.



#1557612 - 11/14/10 04:20 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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I don't know for sure, but there are quite a few accomplished Russian pianists who might be the product of such strict methods, but such methods are not for everyone (they surely wouldn't be for me for example).
Such methods can be productive in some cases and destructive in others...



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#1557642 - 11/14/10 05:13 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Originally Posted by william swanson
My daughter is 12 and has been playing classical piano for 5 years. Her teacher at this time is from Russia and a graduate of the conservatory there. Although my daughter practices every day a few hours and tries her best, it is never enough for her teacher who complains she is always missing and not correcting wrong notes and is not paying attention to the music that is written. The teacher has mentioned that if she doesn't change he may not teach her any longer. I wonder if anyone can tell me if this strict and demanding approach is normal in Russia for those piano students hoping to become pianist one day.

Does your daughter's teacher ever teach her how to practise? I studied under a teacher who was very harsh and had similar complaints about me, but he never actually taught me ways to correct things. The thing with such teachers is that in general, they are very selfish and only concerned about results rather than development. They only want the students who can win them awards and will take all the credit when these results are achieved, and are often willing to go to great means to get someone there. Is that important to you or your daughter? Sometimes it might be worth it to study under someone like this if your goals match theirs and you can brush off the personal attacks easily. I remember protesting to my teacher that I was trying my best, and he replied that my best was like someone else's worst. Actually, in the competitive world today, it's a pretty realistic statement - but it was hard for me to swallow as a kid.

Keep in mind that there are great teachers who can get results without doing emotional damage to the student.

#1557652 - 11/14/10 05:32 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: Frozenicicles]  
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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles

Keep in mind that there are great teachers who can get results without doing emotional damage to the student.


I totally agree. Your daughter is practicing several hours a day at age 12?! She deserves a teacher that is demanding and professional, but respectful and tries to get to know her individually. I have a son that just turned 10 that probably averages close to an hour most days. He has an amazing teacher that never lets my son leave without saying to him both positive things and things he can work on. I consider this teacher to be extremely picky and demanding. But when he asks things of children, he asks them in a very respectful way. He asks kids what they think. He gives out very specific things to work on telling us exactly how to practice them. I can't imagine how demeaning it would be to a young girl that age to hear only negative remarks week after week while working so hard. That is sad.

I would find a new teacher before this one decides to drop your daughter as a student.


Amateur musician, piano and violin parent
#1557796 - 11/14/10 08:44 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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I'm afraid your caption told me a lot. I doubt if many people would consider a twelve year old a "young child," certainly not a twelve year old who is committed enough to be practicing several hours a day. I was expecting to read about a terrorized five year old. Your daughter sounds like she is already a committed musician and deserves a strict teacher, one who has enough respect for her potential not to tolerate carelessness, certainly not one who ignores consistently wrong notes. Do you think your daughter is actually feeling persecuted or just letting off steam?


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#1558040 - 11/15/10 03:56 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Much of the time these 'rough' teachers are just being lazy. They try to get results using force of will when in reality there's always another way. Ultimately it does neither any good.

#1558046 - 11/15/10 04:31 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: -Frycek]  
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Originally Posted by -Frycek
I doubt if many people would consider a twelve year old a "young child," certainly not a twelve year old who is committed enough to be practicing several hours a day. I was expecting to read about a terrorized five year old. Your daughter sounds like she is already a committed musician and deserves a strict teacher, one who has enough respect for her potential not to tolerate carelessness, certainly not one who ignores consistently wrong notes.


This post captured my thoughts exactly.


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#1558153 - 11/15/10 10:41 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Very sage advice above--the reason I respect the people on this board so much.

I had a teacher when I was about that age who never failed to compliment my playing, even when I knew it was lacking. Almost every time I took my hands off the keyboard after playing a passage, I'd get a positive comment from him. I soon learned I couldn't trust him to give me the help I needed to improve my playing. Perhaps he was doing his best not to discourage me in any way, but I knew I was not getting the instruction my mother was paying for. Now I can't remember a thing I learned from him.

That's the downside of the other extreme. That said, a serious student should have his or her own motivations, and the teacher should be busing and building on those. Threats, coercion and humiliation don't fit into a teaching program until the student is able to perceive them as extreme motivating factors for getting over his or her own blocks.

David


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#1558154 - 11/15/10 10:43 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: David T]  
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Sorry-- "teacher should be using"/not busing


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#1558216 - 11/15/10 12:51 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: David T]  
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Originally Posted by David T
Threats, coercion and humiliation don't fit into a teaching program until the student is able to perceive them as extreme motivating factors for getting over his or her own blocks.

David

Different people, different motivations. I have seen loads of good advise up there but I am going to put my two cents on internet advice (I like the term, thanks to whoever used it first!)

You can be demanding, strict and very good at what you do without need to resort to humiliation, coercion, etc. Having to resort to that kind of behavior only shows your lack of human skills. Not greatness in anything.

As you can imagine I respond very badly to that kind of behavior...That person looses my respect. Maybe it is great at piano, but that is worthless for me.

But I don't intent to be a pianist. You, and your daughter, are the only judges about what is best for her.

I quoted to position the context, not because of anything else. I found the words very disturbing and I wanted to give my opinion not about the person but about what I understood. (Politically correct me wink )

Best regards.

GFA.


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#1558238 - 11/15/10 01:26 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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WS needs to return if this general discussion is to become more productive.

Many good points raised by "both sides." Since we have so little information, these different "sides" can all be correct.

Nastiness and ego fanning does not make for good teacher. I think we can all grant this. But we do not know if the teacher is engaging in needless needling, or is instead merely noting things that ought to be improved by a serious student. Only the OP can tell us more about this teacher's technique, his or her bedside manner, and how the daughter reacts. Only the OP can tell us to what extent the daughter understands the game, and to what extent the family has prepared the ground for her so that she takes the right message from criticism instead of simply feeling abused. We know so little.

I agree with the observation that a serious twelve year old is not a panicky small child. They can take genuine constructive criticism. On the other hand, treating a twelve year old exactly like a graduate student is not a recipe for happiness. There are maturity differences that any decent teacher (who is not into ego-fanning) should appreciate.

#1558998 - 11/16/10 01:52 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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My 9 year daughters' teacher is also very demanding and strict. Not even a single second is wasted in her class.

But without that teacher she would never achieve the current standard in less than 2 years time (currently grade 5 ABRSM).




#1559007 - 11/16/10 02:01 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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It's probably a cultural thing but students & teachers from the East (which include ex-USSR) expect instruction, discipline and obedience rather than chiding, encouragement, just-do-what-you-can etc. You can see the differences in the classrooms of schools. A Chinese (or Russian) parent would not be pleased if his/her child didn't get corrected for every single mistake they make, and wouldn't settle for anything less than mistake-free playing.

No wonder there are so many Chinese children who can play Chopin etudes aged 8, and so many Russian winners of international competitions while still in their teens (e.g. Grigory Sokolov won the Tchaikovsky aged 16).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
#1559036 - 11/16/10 02:59 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: itsfreakingmeout]  
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Originally Posted by itsfreakingmeout
I dont think its a Russian 'standard'...my piano professor was from Russia and he was very laid back.


Yeah... I got to work a little with Dmitry Paperno and he was laid back, too. Very "insightful", though. He was also very funny! But I was never actually a private student of his, so he may be different in the actual studio.

I know another Russian teacher who isn't very mean... He means business, but he isn't mean. He's actually a little eccentric, but some of his students are remarkable.

As for the original post, I would say this teacher is probably overbearing... But if your child is really practicing a few hours a day and not correcting wrong notes, it's never a bad idea to step back and examine how she is practicing.

Just in general, that's a good idea for all of us pianists to do on a very regular basis!

I hope all works out.

#1559087 - 11/16/10 04:41 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: suniil]  
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Originally Posted by suniil
My 9 year daughters' teacher is also very demanding and strict. Not even a single second is wasted in her class.

But without that teacher she would never achieve the current standard in less than 2 years time (currently grade 5 ABRSM).



My son who just turned 10 plays slightly above that level. I'm all for demanding teachers. I left a teacher for my son that wasn't demanding enough. I just think students should leave their lesson feeling empowered to succeed, with the appropriate tools and not like a dismal failure. The OP knows his daughter's mental state going in and coming out of lesson. It may just be a personality conflict. Every teacher and every child is different. What may be empowering for one kid, might be a disaster for another. Absolutely, the teacher should be correcting wrong notes. Does she give positive strategies to correct trouble areas?


Amateur musician, piano and violin parent
#1559090 - 11/16/10 04:44 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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Everything depends on the expectation. If you take a piano lesson from a teacher who graduated from, say, Moscow Conservatory, most like he or she will be very demanding, because it was the way they grew up. They did not grow up taking lesson from a lovely old lady in their neigborhood. They took lesson from top teachers who are demanding.

My teacher graduated from Moscow, Juilliard etc, he won big competitions around the world. He is laid back toward his students, I think he learned if he were nasty in the US, he would not be able to keep students.

Bottom line, there are nice Russian teachers,,,,but they do have the tendency to be demanding.

#1559860 - 11/17/10 10:52 PM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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This strict and demanding approach is very good sometimes. If it's hurting your daughter's confidence and esteem it's not good but if it's motivating her to do better things than it's great!

#1559931 - 11/18/10 01:41 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
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You state of your daughter's teacher: "...it is never enough for her teacher who complains she is always missing and not correcting wrong notes and is not paying attention to the music that is written."

That rings true to my ears, so let's run with it for a moment...

If a student of mine is unwittingly repeating wrong notes then it is my unalterable duty to make the corrections. It would be unprofessional not to do so. Too many piano students avoid actually reading the score before them, and instead make a habit of memorizing very quickly - but inaccurately. Is that the case with your daughter? If so, her teacher should already be prescribing and supervising a daily routine of sight-reading to compliment her ongoing studies in theory and ear-training.

You also ask, "I wonder if anyone can tell me if this strict and demanding approach is normal in Russia for those piano students hoping to become pianist one day."

The short answer is, "Yes". That is not an endorsement, just an acknowledgement of reality.

If your daughter is studying the piano as a pleasant recreational activity, then perhaps a less demanding teacher would be appropriate. But if there is the presumption that she will be a professional pianist, then that is a very serious matter, and a demanding teacher is not only necessary, but the least of your worries...

I recommend you read a few legitimate biographies of famous pianists (not frothy promos written by publicists) as well as a few books on child prodigies before considering a life for your daughter as a professional pianist. You need to be armed with a good deal of knowledge before wandering down that rocky road.










#1559940 - 11/18/10 02:06 AM Re: Young childs piano teacher is very strict and demanding [Re: william swanson]  
Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,913
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member
david_a  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Nov 2009
Posts: 2,913
There are teachers who use the threat of dismissal as a kind of motivational tool. It is, like a lead pipe to the head, blunt but effective.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
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