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#1860019 - 03/11/12 04:20 PM Changing piano teacher  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 17
MiguelSantana Offline
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MiguelSantana  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 17
Oporto
Hello,

I am currently studying in a music University that has a rule according to which it is not possible to change one's teacher. As you may understand for obvious reasons, this is not positive at all: it is of my knowledge that many students are either unhappy or incompatible with their teachers, and therefore are desperately needing to change. As a result, we are writing a letter to the piano department in order to extinguish this stupid rule. For this, we are looking for testimonials of people who have changed their teacher, and to whom it was a decisive and crucial move. Any testimonials and/or examples of known pianists are appreciated.

Thank you very much!!

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#1860119 - 03/11/12 07:52 PM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
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BruceD Offline
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BruceD  Offline

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Victoria, BC
I am not sure that anecdotal information about people who have changed their piano teacher(s) for whatever reason will have much impact on a University's rules and regulations. The situations would have to be analogous to have much use in the way of evidence, wouldn't they, and many - if not most - of us have not studied music at University. Most who have changed teachers have had change as an option which, it appears, you do not.

How do you feel that such anecdotal evidence will be helpful to your cause? Perhaps your university has such a rule to prevent students from flocking, en masse to the most popular teachers, leaving the less popular ones without students.

That said; good luck!

Regards,


BruceD
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#1860167 - 03/11/12 09:08 PM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
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gooddog Offline
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Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted by BruceD
Perhaps your university has such a rule to prevent students from flocking, en masse to the most popular teachers, leaving the less popular ones without students.
I think Bruce is correct. We have a similar rule in high school for the same reason. Students and their parents are not allowed to "teacher-shop". It is highly unlikely that your campaign to force teacher changes will work.

Often the best teachers are the most demanding and have the most to offer but they are not liked because the class is not easy or fun. In retrospect, these same students often look back and realize how much they achieved with that "hard teacher".
Originally Posted by MiguelSantana
...many students are either unhappy or incompatible with their teachers, and therefore are desperately needing to change.
It would be helpful to know why these students find these teachers incompatible. It is extremely rare for a teacher's pedagogical style to be a mismatch with a student's learning style. Good teachers adapt and I would hope that any teacher who is at the university level, knows how to reach everyone.

I speak from the teacher's perspective when I say that students don't like teachers who have high standards of excellence. Often the popular teachers are liked because they are easy graders or are less demanding of their students. Sometimes popular teachers treat their students like children and unpopular ones treat them like responsible adults. If you are not used to that, it can make you quite miserable.

Perhaps you should look upon this as an opportunity to learn to look for the positive in every situation. Your teacher may have more to offer than you are seeing. Gossip among students can poison your ability to assess your situation clearly. Teachers who make their students intellectually uncomfortable are often the best people to learn from.


Best regards,

Deborah
#1860286 - 03/12/12 02:15 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 17
MiguelSantana Offline
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MiguelSantana  Offline
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Oporto
The situation where a student changes teacher because he is too demanding is certainly not this one - we are at University level, and all of us WANT to learn piano the best way possible. We are not talking here of high school students that are forced by their parents to learn music, or to whom this is only a hobby, and want to go through conservatory with the least effort possible. I am talking about changing teacher because he will say, class after class, that everything is excellent and that we have to find our own way. Many times, students have only 15 minutes of lesson because there is nothing left to say. What is happening is actually lack of excellence standards and the search for those.
I do believe that the rule has been created to prevent students from changing from the worst teachers to the best, leaving the first ones abandoned. It is quite unpleasant to see an empty class, but if those teachers are that bad, they should not be working at an University in the first place.
The search for testimonials is a way of making the document more concise and more valid. We have a long fight ahead, and therefore we need all the means to make our point more valid.

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#1860315 - 03/12/12 05:35 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Jan 2010
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GlassLove Offline
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GlassLove  Offline
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Michigan
Do the faculty at your university get formally evaluated on a regular basis and are the students part of that evaluation process? If you are genuinely dealing with an incompetent teacher or perhaps a competent one who has lost her/his passion for the work they do, it ought to show up in the evaluation data provided by students over the years. Have you asked to see these data if they do indeed exist? My guess is that the first step in your process should entail establishing the fact that your university has faculty who should be switched away from, that is, there are people who are failing to prepare students well.

When I was in graduate school, I had a teacher exactly like the one you described above. Eventually, this teacher was no longer allowed to teach graduate level courses and they weren't given graduate students to mentor. These two decisions were informed, in part, by student evaluations of their teaching/mentoring. Everyone in the department could see that this person's students couldn't perform up to the very high standards held by the department and that their program's reputation was being damaged by this fact.

In the meantime, might the other faculty also recognize that this teacher (or these teachers) are substandard? Shouldn't they care about the reputation of their school. They might be easier to "bring on board" if you frame the issue in that manner.

Best of luck to you with this!!!!


Christine










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#1860326 - 03/12/12 06:50 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Mar 2010
Posts: 325
albynism Offline
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albynism  Offline
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Argh reading this makes me angry because I was in the same position as you when I was at university, although in a non music related degree. I remember a girl cried to the head of department begging to get a change of class, it was a rather dramatic measure from her but in the end they let her change class. I don't recommend going that route lol! I don't understand how these sub-standard teachers pass the interview and get the job! Sorry I'm not of much help but I agree with the above posters that filing a complaint would be the better way to go, after all you have paid a lot of money for a degree the least you can get is a decent education!

#1860414 - 03/12/12 10:20 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
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Pogorelich. Offline
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Deborah - I'm sorry, but it is not rare that a teacher style will be a mismatch with a student's learning style............ It happens so often at music school.

And no, changing this policy will not make all the students go to one popular teacher. Most teachers only take a certain number of students, no higher. Also, some are very picky about who to admit into their studio.

That is a stupid rule the OP is talking about, I wonder what school would actually enforce such BS.

Good luck! Don't give up!



"The eyes can mislead, the smile can lie, but the shoes always tell the truth."
#1860425 - 03/12/12 10:46 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
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Kreisler Offline
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Iowa City, IA
If they're not going to let you change teachers, then change schools. That will send a pretty clear message about how students feel.

Much of the advice given so far is good. The rule is annoying and probably the result of political problems in the past. It's also unlikely you'll be able to get the rule changed, and even if you do, it will probably take effect too late for you to benefit from it.

That being said, if it's testimonials you want, I'm afraid I have bad news for you. I've never changed teachers, but I know people who have, and while it sometimes works out in terms of lessons, it often creates a tense situation between the three parties involved.


"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#1860531 - 03/12/12 02:51 PM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Jun 2008
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gooddog Offline
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gooddog  Offline
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Seattle area, WA
Originally Posted by MiguelSantana
The situation where a student changes teacher because he is too demanding is certainly not this one - we are at University level, and all of us WANT to learn piano the best way possible.
That sounds like an ugly situation. Have you tried speaking directly to the teacher, requesting criticism?


Best regards,

Deborah
#1860554 - 03/12/12 03:40 PM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: Pogorelich.]  
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MarkH Offline
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MarkH  Offline
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Seattle, WA
Originally Posted by Pogorelich.
...it is not rare that a teacher style will be a mismatch with a student's learning style............ It happens so often at music school.


I think this is because interpreting music is so much more subjective than some "hard" field. In science, for example, the "teaching style" variations will be more about how the information is organized, what details are given more weight, and how tests are organized (ie. pure mechanical things), but the information will still be the same. There's little to no arguing about how the sliding filament theory of muscular contraction works and how you would correctly write an essay describing it, for example. It's all factual (as we currently understand it at least).

In contrast, in music interpretation, opinions vary so much (from teacher to teacher and from teacher to student)! Furthermore, I think how we make interpretive decisions in music involves much more than using facts we've learned - fundamental philosophical bents that we may have from our very early years may inform our choices. Just take the example of Beethoven's fingerings. There was another teacher at my university who absolutely insisted that his students MUST use ALL of Beethoven's fingerings in his sonatas. To him, this was obvious, because Beethoven was a genius full stop, but to others like me, that's silly, because Beethoven was a great pianist and sometime teacher and knew that people's hands come in different shapes and sizes. I think this argument is not about fingering at all, but about one's flexibility in response to dogma. In any situation like this, both ideas are likely based on some sort of "fact", but it doesn't matter who's "right", you have to defer to the teacher if he's a stickler for some pet idea, even if the core idea behind it irritates or revolts you.

Hence, a personality match in piano lessons is very important.

Back to the actual issue at hand, I think you're getting great advice. The department is unlikely to make any major changes, which are likely to hurt feelings and cause political backlash, unless there's a major crisis on hand whose outcome could potentially be equally as bad. If all of the students of professor x are threatening to transfer to other schools, that might be a sufficient scandal to make the school restructure things. But if professor x's students merely write a letter saying that they're unhappy, the most that's likely to happen is an administrator pulling professor x aside to say "hey, make them happier."

#1860839 - 03/13/12 02:15 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 17
MiguelSantana Offline
Junior Member
MiguelSantana  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2012
Posts: 17
Oporto
Thank you very much for your advice! It is indeed a very delicate matter. We believe that it will be possible to change this rule because it is a new one. The problem is that the department head is one of the incompetent ones... Anyway, we do not have any evaluation data in our school, and people get the job because they are all friends with each other, they are very famous over here, and therefore have much power in the music community. Yes, I will speak to the teacher directly, but there are colleagues of mine that have exhausted their patience, have done everything they can, and need to change teacher NOW.

#1860937 - 03/13/12 08:10 AM Re: Changing piano teacher [Re: MiguelSantana]  
Joined: Oct 2004
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Varcon Offline
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Varcon  Offline
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Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,931
Mount Vernon, Georgia 30445
I had a similar situation. A conservatory teacher had been highly recommended by my teacher, and others, so I worked and got a scholarship to study with him. He was continually on the road with masterclasses in various parts of the country and when he was there for lessons and I played something he rarely commented on it but said,'
What's next?' or went to his shelf and pulled something out and I was to bring that next time. Often it was something he had edited.

I would have maybe three lessons in the space of two days before he headed out again--sometimes two in one day. It's difficult to have two lessons on the same day.

I complained and was switched to another artist teacher who was there and consistent with lessons and actually helped with fingering, phrasing, etc.

But I had become disenchanted with the school and left.

So--you might be quite right that you have an incompetent teacher and need to resort to drastic measures to change or, go to another school.

No need to waste time if you are not getting what you are there for.



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