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#1248586 - 08/13/09 03:44 PM Teacher played poorly
Kanadka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 34
Loc: Canada
Hi,

I've been lurking for a while on this forum and it's truly great.

I'm looking for a teacher and I'm meeting with a few to find a good match. Yesterday I met with one and as a part of an interview I've asked him to play something for me. Now, I didn't expect "Fantasie Imprompty", but I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to listen to something nice, to be motivated, that one day I can play like this. But this gentelman was surprised by this request, told me that he doesn't really remember anything. Started to play something, then forgot how it goes. Went to get the notes, found something and then made so many mistakes that I couldn't even get the melody line.

Am I too picky? Is it normal? I absolutely don't expect my teacher to be a concert pianist. I'll be just fine if he would've played "The entertainer" from the back of my book. Is it a realistic expectation that a teacher will be able to play any piece from level 1 book without preparation? After 15 years of teaching experience?

I've searched on this forum and I saw that not too many people ask a prospective teacher to play. Yes, I also felt a bit uncomfortable with it, but I don't understand why not. Is it such an unreasonable request?

Other than this he is a very pleasant man, made me feel very comfortable and I probably would study with him if not for this.

Please let me know what you think. Your help is greatly appreciated. I don't know anybody who plays piano so other than my internet search I really don't know how to find a teacher.

thank you

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#1248588 - 08/13/09 03:48 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Picky? No way! He should have been able to play something. I'd move on and find someone who can inspire AND teach you piano. thumb
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1248591 - 08/13/09 03:53 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: eweiss]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Hey, well done! Keep working through 'em. And welcome to PW!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1248604 - 08/13/09 04:24 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: keyboardklutz]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I always expect to play for my prospective students. They should know that I practice what I preach.
_________________________
B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano

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#1248610 - 08/13/09 04:33 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota



Originally Posted By: Kanadka
Is it a realistic expectation that a teacher will be able to play any piece from level 1 book without preparation? After 15 years of teaching experience?
Yes that is absolutely reasonable. Did you ask him to play something from book 1? I can't believe a teacher wouldn't be able to do that. Part of our job is to accompany sometimes (duets, rhythm issues etc...) without getting any practice time before hand. It is possible that since he wasn't expecting that request he was caught off guard. Personally I go through stages where I practice like a maniac and other stages where I barely have time to touch the piano at all.

Originally Posted By: Kanadka
I've searched on this forum and I saw that not too many people ask a prospective teacher to play. Yes, I also felt a bit uncomfortable with it, but I don't understand why not. Is it such an unreasonable request?
I have never had a student to ask me to play prior to lessons. I choose to play for my students at different times, for various reasons. I think it's absolutely reasonable to ask that, but I don't find it common. I don't know why. I think that people do a lot of assuming in these situations. I have never asked any of my kids' coaches or private teachers to show me anything either. They come with recommendations, and for me that's a better indicator than their abilities.

Originally Posted By: Kanadka
Am I too picky? Is it normal?

Picky? No. You have to go with what feels right to you.

I'm not sure about what you're asking about normal? For him to not be able to play or for you asking him to. He should be able to play. You should be able to ask him to.
_________________________
It is better to be kind than to be right.

Professional private piano teacher since 1994.

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#1248614 - 08/13/09 04:38 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Minniemay]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Welcome to the forum, Kanadka. I agree with Ed; while it would be unreasonable to expect a prospective teacher to play a specific piece on demand, he/she really ought to be able to play SOMETHING. Keep looking.

p.s. as to whether it's an "unreasonable" request, I think it depends in how the request is made. Saying something like "Before I agree to take lessons from you, I insist that you demonstrate that you can play the piano competently" would (obviously) be unreasonable. But phrasing the request like "Would you feel comfortable playing something for me?" does not seem unreasonable at all. The prospective teacher could always say "no," and then you could decide for yourself how important it is to you to hear your teacher play.

This topic has come up before, and the reaction from the teachers here is usually mixed. Some resent being asked to "prove themselves", as it were; others don't mind and/or make it a habit to play for their students. I suspect a lot depends on the tone of the conversation.
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Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1248616 - 08/13/09 04:40 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
verania5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Michigan
My instructor is an amazing player, but he can't play any of the pieces I'm working on smoothly - because he doesn't play them regularly. That is acceptable. Even if they can't play a certain piece to concert quality they should at least be able to give you an idea of how it sounds and guide you through difficult parts by introducing exercises and technique. To not be able to play *anything* that is a head-scratcher!
_________________________
Steinway M & Yamaha P120

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#1248626 - 08/13/09 04:57 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: verania5]
EDWARDIAN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/16/09
Posts: 89
Loc: New York, USA
Welcome to the Forum! smile

I don't think you're being picky or unreasonable. Maybe the gentleman was taken off guard, but one would think he'd have something he could play for you, or at least be able to play from the Level One Book! I see a red flag on the horizon.

If you really like him, perhaps ask him to return with something he'd like to play. If that's too awkward, I'd try the local music store & school district for references of teachers.

Good luck!

Joan smile
_________________________
Joan Edward

Private piano teacher, 20+ years
EDWARDIAN45@hotmail.com

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#1248635 - 08/13/09 05:09 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: EDWARDIAN]
Kanadka Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 34
Loc: Canada
Thanks for all your replies. It's very helpful.

Of course I didn't demand he'd prove himself. I honestly just wanted to enjoy a nice piece of music. I wanted to be inspired. I didn't ask for any specific piece. I think it was more in the lines of "could you please play something for me, maybe your favourite piece, or anything you like". He did mentioned that he plays himself in the recitals he organizes for his students and often plays duets.

verania5: I'm an absolute beginer. Don't you think the teacher should be able to sight read and play smoothly any piece form level 1 book?

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#1248653 - 08/13/09 05:47 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10733
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Even if I am taken "by surprise" by a request to play something, I can easily pull out something that I can do well with the music in front of me. I am not a concert pianist. The fact that he was challenged to even do this means he most likely did not reach a very high level of playing himself. Especially since it is rare for a beginner student to even be able to recognize that there are mistakes is quite telling!
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11
__________________________________________________

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#1248669 - 08/13/09 06:24 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Some of the best players can't teach to save their life. So this is not necessarily a bad
thing, in my opinion. If this teacher inspires you, that's all that really matters.
Would you rather have a great player who makes you feel awful and eventually
causes you to quit playing? There are a lot of teachers like that. I had three just
like that. I would give this teacher a tryout. He might be just the thing for you.

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#1248673 - 08/13/09 06:41 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Gyro]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1250
Loc: California
Even if he didn't have a standard classical piece ready at performance level, at least he could have improvised something with some nice chord progressions.... I too would look elsewhere.
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Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
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#1248685 - 08/13/09 07:06 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: dumdumdiddle]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
In the process of an interview, I generally demonstrate the progression the student will be making over several years. I only started doing this recently, basically because of comments on this forum. Previously, I just started in teaching the student a sample lesson. I find that this sort performance makes the student/parent a lot more comfortable, even though it's totally superfluous. In years past, I resented the request, primarily because I had very limited time and really couldn't keep "show pieces" up to snuff.

If you think about it for a minute, musicians are among the very few who are constantly asked to demonstrate non-teaching skills to validate their teaching abilities. What you should really be asking is for references and go listen to students of this teacher to find out how they are doing. You are, after all hiring a teacher, and that is the skill you really want to confirm.

_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1248693 - 08/13/09 07:20 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Johnny-Boy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/06
Posts: 661
Loc: PA
Of course; if the piano teacher has good teaching skills, one would think that they can back it up by playing well. Otherwise, it would be kind of like saying "do as I say, not as I do".

John smile
_________________________
Stop analyzing; just compose the damn thing!

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#1248694 - 08/13/09 07:24 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Johnny-Boy]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
It's almost like asking a guitar teacher to play something and the only thing he/she could play is "Smoke on the Water." And played it badly.

Adios muchachos! 2hearts
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1248697 - 08/13/09 07:29 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Johnny-Boy]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Let's not make excuses for a piano teacher who cannot play anything on the piano when requested to play something. I cannot think of any redeeming value in making excuses for this person. I think you have received a loud and clear message from the person themselves that they are unprepared to teach you in a way that would help you meet your goals. Playing the piano should be second nature to any piano teacher.

A piano teacher might feel they don't have the time to do an interview before accepting a student, but the best thing we can learn about each other - teacher - student - parents - is that we have a sense of confidence in the teacher and that he or she can do what we would expect of him or her as a musician.

I'll take the hard line if no one else will. We know that occasionally we will be put on the spot to "play something for someone" and we had best be prepared and impressive.

You can do much better in searching for a piano teacher!

Please consider using www.learningmusician or www.getlessonsnow. You enter your zip code and your instrument - piano - and names and profiles of information will surface for anyone registered with these music teaching directories. Then you make contact with them if you are interested in interviewing with them.

You can also enter your zipcode in google with the words piano teacher. This has worked for many people who are googling me at Betty Patnude or my zip, 98374, or piano teacher with their local zip codes.

Good luck!

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#1248724 - 08/13/09 08:07 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17698
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I think part of the tension that arises when such requests are made is that there may be a discrepancy between what the student is hoping or expecting to hear (a nice piece played competently, more as an inspiration rather than a "test" of the instructor's skill), versus the instructor feeling put on the spot ("OMG, I've got to play the Waldstein at concert level." eek )

But, yes, I agree with you, Kanadka, that ANY teacher worth the name should be able to sight-read a Level 1 piece.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1248738 - 08/13/09 08:38 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Monica K.]
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10297
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Quote:
Let's not make excuses for a piano teacher who cannot play anything on the piano when requested to play something.


Well, that's something I can agree with.

and yet I can sympathize a bit with John when he says:

Quote:
If you think about it for a minute, musicians are among the very few who are constantly asked to demonstrate non-teaching skills to validate their teaching abilities.


Part of the issue is whether playing ability and teaching are positively correlated, however imperfectly. If there is some correlation, then asking a teacher to play does provide some information to the student.

Frankly, I think there is something useful in hearing a musician-teacher play, and the question the OP asked was pretty benign. The teacher got to choose, and yet could not produce a single piece with which to demonstrate their own skills. I'm NOT a teacher and if asked to play I could most certainly bang out a few pieces creditably, even with my meagre levels of practice. I'm sure I could convince (fool grin) some beginners into thinking I was quite competent.

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach. But as a student, absent clear evidence that this teacher obtained great results I would choose to put my hard-earned money on a different horse.

And as we move up the levels from beginner to advanced student, this issue would take on more and more salience.
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#1248764 - 08/13/09 09:08 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Piano*Dad]
Little_Blue_Engine Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/30/09
Posts: 1233
Loc: Ohio, US
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
[quote]

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach. But as a student, absent clear evidence that this teacher obtained great results I would choose to put my hard-earned money on a different horse.


It's possible his talent may lie more in the teaching of music and conveying ideas than performing music itself, but unless you've seen or heard of his students making wonderful progress then I wouldn't count on it. I agree he should have been able to play something.
_________________________
I'll figure it out eventually.
Until then you may want to keep a safe distance.


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#1248770 - 08/13/09 09:13 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Piano*Dad]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach.


I disagree. If a teacher cannot play something, how can they possibly have understood it? If they have never experienced something, they are not in a position to make the fine adjustments that might be required.

As a teacher. repeating something that you have been told about but never done, is about as much use as giving someone a book- and telling them to read what it says. If they haven't even tried different methods, how do they know which works best? If they cannot do the approach they teach, why should anyone trust what they heard off someone else and decided to repeat? Good teachers provide feedback on whether something what the student is doing is working- they don't merely recite stuff about something they have never achieved and move on. Only those who have experienced it, are going to be in a position to supply the adjustments and knowledge that is required. How can you 'fix' problems in others, when you couldn't figure out how to get it working in yourself? To regurgitate something you heard, without the ability to do it yourself, is not teaching in any sense.

Teaching is all about monitoring progress and helping to make any necessary adjustements through proper understanding- not reciting a couple of blanket statements that you heard elsewhere.

PS. There's a story about Neuhaus worrying about teaching Gilels in the 6th rhapsody. He said he was worried because he couldn't have played it so well, but he still had plenty to say about the music. However, if we're talking about someone who never even learned to play the piano to a basic standard in the first-place, how would they even have anything to say about the music? There's a certain basic level of understanding that has to be reached.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/13/09 09:20 PM)
_________________________
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#1248776 - 08/13/09 09:22 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Piano*Dad]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
In further support of my statement: "Let's not make excuses for a piano teacher who cannot play anything on the piano when requested to play something", may I say that the first teacher is possible the most important teacher a student will have. If there are errors of omission or ineptitude on the teacher's part, it is certainly going to impact the student and potentially in a negative way.

To not be able to play anything for a potential student and to flounder around and be evasive is just the wrong advertising for all teachers. We are as successful as our weakest link, I believe and much haphazardness frequents are profession because people lacking development of musicianship skills are teaching without having enough development and accuracy to do a creditable job of it.

Every hiring for employment has discerning steps to determine that the applicant has met the expecations of the employer, is capable of the task, and is being offered a wage or salary in compensation. When hiring a piano teacher most people ask "Where are you located"? "How much do you charge?" And, that is the end of the qualifying questions.

I think finding a good teacher candidate should require much more inquiry of their teaching and professional experience, reputation, comparing services to others available in your community, and some attempt to guarantee that you are investing your money, your child, yourself, your time and efforts with this teacher to provide a good, reliable music education for the student.

Ask questions! Get answers! Make decisions! Get referrals!

A teacher who cannot play for others just does not fit the job description regardless of what excuse they would give you about why they can't or don't want to. If asked, we need to be able to rise to the occasion.

Our job is to share out love of music making and to develop fine musicians. A piano teacher who can not "perform" is sadly impotent to display their ability or talent to you, leaving one to think that there is no ability and there is no talent.

I think it would be risky to go with a teacher with these problems when one could find a teacher who teaches well and plays magnificently.

No offense intended, but teaching is a profession not a hobby or just a way to earn extra money. Expertise should be part of what you get when you pay the tuition toward music education.

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#1248777 - 08/13/09 09:26 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach.


Good Grief! How on earth can it be "perfectly fine" for a "teacher" to be unable to play the techniques of beginner music?

I am Flabbergasted.


Edited by rocket88 (08/13/09 09:31 PM)
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1248790 - 08/13/09 09:51 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Betty Patnude]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
Playing the piano should be second nature to any piano teacher.


Exactly. I fully expect to play both at the interview lesson, and at any and all lessons beyond.

At the interview lesson, one of the question areas is "what type of music does the student like?"

If they like Classical, then fine...I will play some, but not all, of several selected pieces, from a Clementi Sonata to a Chopin Waltz to Rachmaninoff Prelude...and I carefully watch the student's reaction to each piece.

A recent post on another Piano World Forum discusses the dearth of interest in Classical music today...but when I play as described above to new students, many whom I might otherwise assume do not like classical will then say that they do like Classical, and that they want to learn it, if what I just played is Classical!

So that gives me insight about the student, and gives the student direction.

If they want something else, It is usually popular music or Jazz.

In either case, I will launch into a boogie-woogie, which about 98% of the people really like. Plus a blues shuffle, or a bluesy "Georgia on my Mind", or some Gospel....And then I explain that to play like that, and to read music, the place to start is with some simple classical level 1, and I will play a bit of that, and explain that is where they likely will be in a few weeks.

People like that. It encourages them.

Not only does all of this help gauge students, but also demonstrates that I practice what I preach. One teen boy student said he liked that I was not a "phony" for that reason. Pretty important at that age.

Playing for your students is also good business. It has helped build my studio, because I frequently hear that students want to learn to play like I do. (usually the boogies and the blues).

And when they hear that I play in a band (I give them my website adress, and have photos on the wall of the band playing), those who aspire to play in bands know they have someone who can help them prepare for that.

Its all good.


Edited by rocket88 (08/13/09 09:58 PM)
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1248802 - 08/13/09 10:16 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Nyiregyhazi]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10733
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach.


I disagree. If a teacher cannot play something, how can they possibly have understood it? If they have never experienced something, they are not in a position to make the fine adjustments that might be required.

As a teacher. repeating something that you have been told about but never done, is about as much use as giving someone a book- and telling them to read what it says. If they haven't even tried different methods, how do they know which works best? If they cannot do the approach they teach, why should anyone trust what they heard off someone else and decided to repeat? Good teachers provide feedback on whether something what the student is doing is working- they don't merely recite stuff about something they have never achieved and move on. Only those who have experienced it, are going to be in a position to supply the adjustments and knowledge that is required. How can you 'fix' problems in others, when you couldn't figure out how to get it working in yourself? To regurgitate something you heard, without the ability to do it yourself, is not teaching in any sense.

Teaching is all about monitoring progress and helping to make any necessary adjustements through proper understanding- not reciting a couple of blanket statements that you heard elsewhere.

PS. There's a story about Neuhaus worrying about teaching Gilels in the 6th rhapsody. He said he was worried because he couldn't have played it so well, but he still had plenty to say about the music. However, if we're talking about someone who never even learned to play the piano to a basic standard in the first-place, how would they even have anything to say about the music? There's a certain basic level of understanding that has to be reached.


Great points. However, playing devil's advocate here, I teach voice as well as piano. I teach male students. While men and women have the same anatomy, men use theirs differently than women do. It is harder for me to teach men when it comes to covering for example, because I do not cover like they do. However, I know what to listen for, and I know what to tell them to guide them to it. I also can play recordings of men doing it to help them be able to listen for it as well.

When you are talking about being at an advanced level of playing piano, then I think it is not as clear-cut. I can learn from colleagues who perhaps don't play as difficult repertoire as I do, but still have a lot of suggestions to offer. When you're in the beginning and intermediate levels, however, there's so much foundational stuff that needs to be covered that unless you know how to do it yourself (and if you knew, you'd do it, right?) you won't be addressing that in your students.

Also, I think that good teachers of piano have themselves loved the instrument enough to achieve a degree of playing at least to early advanced (for those beginner teachers) if not farther. I would also think that they loved it enough to continue playing it for their own enjoyment, even if they stopped progressing.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11
__________________________________________________

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#1248817 - 08/13/09 10:28 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
It makes me very sad to think making musical progress might come to an end. The potential is there for it to be a lifetime journey. The greater the quest, the greater the pleasure of it, I think.

I say this because after a 12 year absense from piano, I started again with my love of the piano at the age of 27. After 38 years of teaching, I can say I'm grateful that I was able to act on those feelings at that time - or, what would have become of me? I have no idea.

The quest's other name, I think, is "passion".

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#1248833 - 08/13/09 11:04 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

Great points. However, playing devil's advocate here, I teach voice as well as piano. I teach male students. While men and women have the same anatomy, men use theirs differently than women do.


That is a good point, Morodiene. However, I think the more accurate analogy for this discussion is if you were a voiceless mute who was "teaching" singing. That would be analogous to a piano teacher who could not/would not (same difference) play.

Or a swimming teacher who could not swim...or a typing teacher who could not type...it is patently ridiculous.

That a piano teacher who cannot play would be a topic of discussion is a sad commentary of how dumbed down our society has slouched.


Edited by rocket88 (08/13/09 11:21 PM)
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#1248846 - 08/13/09 11:26 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: rocket88]
Ferdinand Offline
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Originally Posted By: rocket88

That is a good point, Morodiene. However, I think the more accurate analogy for this discussion is if you were a voiceless mute who was "teaching" singing. That would be analogous to a piano teacher who could not/would not (same difference) play.

Or a swimming teacher who could not swim...or a typing teacher who could not type...it is patently ridiculous.

That a piano teacher who cannot play would be a topic of allegedly intelligent discussion is a sad commentary of how dumbed down our society has slouched.


I think it depends on the definition of "can't." Agreed, it's absurd for a person who himself has not learned to play to try to teach. But a person who has learned to play at an imtermediate level, and is out of practice and has no active repertoire, might be capable of doing some useful teaching. (Even though at the moment it is requested, he "can't" play.)

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#1248854 - 08/13/09 11:42 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Ferdinand]
rocket88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
Originally Posted By: rocket88

That is a good point, Morodiene. However, I think the more accurate analogy for this discussion is if you were a voiceless mute who was "teaching" singing. That would be analogous to a piano teacher who could not/would not (same difference) play.

Or a swimming teacher who could not swim...or a typing teacher who could not type...it is patently ridiculous.

That a piano teacher who cannot play would be a topic of allegedly intelligent discussion is a sad commentary of how dumbed down our society has slouched.


I think it depends on the definition of "can't." Agreed, it's absurd for a person who himself has not learned to play to try to teach. But a person who has learned to play at an imtermediate level, and is out of practice and has no active repertoire, might be capable of doing some useful teaching. (Even though at the moment it is requested, he "can't" play.)


But why choose such a teacher when teachers who are able to play are available? (of course this is all hypothetical)...

When I was a teenager, and wanted to study pop music, my mom found such a teacher who, given what I know now, very likely had Parkinson's disease, or something similar.

He simply could not play...his hands shook so much. He had books and sheets of music, but I learned NOTHING from him because he could not show me the rhythms and melodies.

From that experience, I determined that I always want at the very least the functional minimum best, not the second or third cannnot do it or whatever "best"...life is to short for inability to do what is necessary. Playing is part of teaching, IMHO.

I cannot believe that this is actually a topic of discussion.


Edited by rocket88 (08/13/09 11:52 PM)
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#1248859 - 08/13/09 11:56 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Johnny-Boy]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
Of course; if the piano teacher has good teaching skills, one would think that they can back it up by playing well. Otherwise, it would be kind of like saying "do as I say, not as I do".

John smile


I know two teachers who are now incapacitated by strokes, who were fine performers. Students still flock to them, because of what they can offer. I think their primary teaching method is do as I say, not as I do.

Of course, I do agree that teachers should be able to play, I just don't think it should be the over-riding consideration many of you do.
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#1248861 - 08/14/09 12:01 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
rocket88 Offline
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John, are those students beginners or advanced? I would think that such a teacher could be very helpful for intermediate and onward students, as a mentor/teacher, but not for beginners.

I assume that the OP is a beginner.
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#1248862 - 08/14/09 12:03 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
sotto voce Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
[...] If you think about it for a minute, musicians are among the very few who are constantly asked to demonstrate non-teaching skills to validate their teaching abilities.

I've been mulling over this statement, for the most part to ponder what other kinds of teachers are in the "very few" this applies to—and whether it wouldn't be a good idea for such a demonstration of teachers' proficiency at non-teaching skills in their area of specialization to be de rigueur.

Isn't the fact that teachers generally are rarely called upon to stand and deliver themselves the reason for the old canard that "those who can, do; those who can't, teach"? Wouldn't knowing that a teacher can walk the walk as well as talk the talk go a long way to erasing such an unfortunate presumption?

I am very much reminded of my experience with foreign language teachers in secondary schools. I'm sure I'm not alone in recalling many who were not proficient in the languages they taught. Sometimes that meant that inaccuracies were taught, which may not have been of consequence to students who were only there to fulfill a requirement anyway. Those with more serious interest would certainly be impacted by, for example, terrible pronunciation, because some things (like unsound piano techniques) are so much harder to unlearn than to learn.

Steven
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#1248944 - 08/14/09 07:42 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: rocket88]
AJB Offline
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What an amazing thread.

My first teacher, quite a few years ago, was of the do as I say, not as I do school of teaching. I never heard her play anything at all - and she was completely unable to motivate or inspire me. Over the years I have both taught people music and had numerous teachers. When working at ABRSM diploma level I engaged a teacher who talked a good game, and had excellent theory knowledge, but was unable to demonstrate the pieces or passages I was working on. He did not last long as I found a teacher who could sight read and play far better than me anything at all that I was working on or aspired to. She is a working concert pianist and her insight into music is inspirational. That is what we want from teachers - to be inspired. if that feeling does not emerge very early on - then the teacher is probably not for you.

I am astounded that there can be working teachers out there who cannot sight read level one pieces sufficiently well to impress a beginner. Quite astonishing.

I teach guitar to advanced students and if I were unable to play whatever it is they are working on, they would, quite rightly in my view, be entitled to regard me as less than inspirational.

Adrian
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#1248972 - 08/14/09 09:15 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
I cannot think of any redeeming value in making excuses for this person. I think you have received a loud and clear message from the person themselves that they are unprepared to teach you in a way that would help you meet your goals.
It's a bit soon to jump to that conclusion. Give the guy a chance to prove himself. He plays in the recitals and accompanies in duets, he must have something to offer.

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
What you should really be asking is for references and go listen to students of this teacher to find out how they are doing. You are, after all hiring a teacher, and that is the skill you really want to confirm.
Precisely. Listening to his students is a far better indicator of his teaching abilities.



Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: Johnny-Boy
Of course; if the piano teacher has good teaching skills, one would think that they can back it up by playing well. Otherwise, it would be kind of like saying "do as I say, not as I do".
John smile

I know two teachers who are now incapacitated by strokes, who were fine performers. Students still flock to them, because of what they can offer. I think their primary teaching method is do as I say, not as I do.
Perfect examples. smile

Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Of course, I do agree that teachers should be able to play, I just don't think it should be the over-riding consideration many of you do.

Exactly. You will get a much more accurate picture of what kind of teacher he is by hearing other students play, than you will by hearing him play. As many, many others have said, a player can't necessarily teach. There are wonderful teachers that are better at teaching than they are at playing. If I were choosing a teacher I would want to understand what he was teaching. Just because he can play it, doesn't mean he can get across to someone else HOW it should be played.
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#1249011 - 08/14/09 10:25 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Ebony and Ivory]
Kanadka Offline
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wow, thank you everyone. Reading this actually helped me to understand what I was looking for - a teacher who still loves music and plays for the love of music. This person undoubtedly will be able to play a piece they love. But let's say in case they were taking a summer of playing and don't have anything in memory, I'd still expect them to pick up a level 1 book and sight read something from there.

I can see how someone could be a better teacher then they are a musician, but don't forget we are taking about beginning level here. I need not only theory, I also need some inspiration. Sure I can listen to Yundi Li on YouTube. But with a teacher - wouldn't you want to be inspired to be able to play "like this" some time - the pieces on your level!!! to make them sound beautiful. How the heck can it be explained in words if the teacher cannot play.

On the advanced level it might work, thus teachers who cannot play themselves, or hockey coaches who do not play. But not at the beginner level I think.

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#1249017 - 08/14/09 10:34 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: rocket88]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach.


Good Grief! How on earth can it be "perfectly fine" for a "teacher" to be unable to play the techniques of beginner music?

I am Flabbergasted.


I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that it would be fine if the teacher couldn't play the beginner techniques s(he) was teaching. But if the teacher could not play at an advanced level that would not be the kiss of death for their ability to teach and to motivate beginners.

As John has noted (again), the ability to play at the highest level is often oversold as an absolute necessity for being a good teacher, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels.
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#1249019 - 08/14/09 10:36 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: sotto voce]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Steven, I believe you're quite correct in your observations.

What I find unsettling is the mindless belief by parents that hearing you play is somehow an indicator of your teaching skills. What ever you do, don't look on the wall at photos of my students who have won national competitions and awards, never mind the list of students who have gone on to major conservatories and become topnotch artists. Pay no attention to the certifications I've earned. Rather, base your decision on how inspiring my interpretation of Maple Leaf Rag is.

Speaking of demonstrations, I wonder how the AFT and NEA would react if communities demanded open houses where teachers would demonstrate, on an annual basis, mastery of their subject matter. Could be an interesting event!
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#1249022 - 08/14/09 10:41 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
childofparadise2002 Offline
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Kadadka,

From an adult student to another adult student: take your time to find someone you can trust. Adult students sometimes don't take themselves seriously--we are not learning to become concert pianists, right? So why do we need a first-rate teacher? Well, the fact is the overwhelming majority of kid students also don't learn to become concert pianists, they also learn just for fun. And to have fun, it's useful to learn it well. When I looked for my first teacher, my attitude was "well, pretty much any piano teacher can teach me". Soon I found that my first teacher wasn't a good match for me, I stuck around for a while because he was a nice guy and it was hard for me to tell him that I wanted to leave. So take your time to look around, educate yourself about what qualities a good teacher should have, and take yourself seriously.

In terms of sight-reading, again, as an adult student and the parent of a kid student, I think anyone who can't read level 1 pieces really shouldn't be teaching.

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#1249023 - 08/14/09 10:43 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Just a side thought - in another thread, which is discussing pianos vs electronic keyboards for students, brought to mind that a criteria which should be at least as important as the teacher's playing ability is the quality of the studio's instruments. I don't believe we've discussed this much, if at all.
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#1249024 - 08/14/09 10:43 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
Barb860 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Kanadka
Thanks for all your replies. It's very helpful.

Of course I didn't demand he'd prove himself. I honestly just wanted to enjoy a nice piece of music. I wanted to be inspired. I didn't ask for any specific piece. I think it was more in the lines of "could you please play something for me, maybe your favourite piece, or anything you like". He did mentioned that he plays himself in the recitals he organizes for his students and often plays duets.

verania5: I'm an absolute beginer. Don't you think the teacher should be able to sight read and play smoothly any piece form level 1 book?


Perhaps I am missing something here. Did you ask this teacher to play something from the level 1 book?
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#1249034 - 08/14/09 11:07 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
bitWrangler Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Steven, I believe you're quite correct in your observations.

What I find unsettling is the mindless belief by parents that hearing you play is somehow an indicator of your teaching skills. What ever you do, don't look on the wall at photos of my students who have won national competitions and awards, never mind the list of students who have gone on to major conservatories and become topnotch artists. Pay no attention to the certifications I've earned. Rather, base your decision on how inspiring my interpretation of Maple Leaf Rag is.

Speaking of demonstrations, I wonder how the AFT and NEA would react if communities demanded open houses where teachers would demonstrate, on an annual basis, mastery of their subject matter. Could be an interesting event!


Actually I assumed from the majority of responses by teachers here that reality is quite the opposite, that the playing abilities of the teacher are rarely ever openly questioned. I know that out of the four serious piano teachers we've had that the teachers ability to play was never a factor in choosing them and that beyond simple accompaniment (and I mean 6yo first timer twinkle type stuff) we've only actually heard one teacher play.

I must say though that knowing our kids current piano teacher can play well and therefore can demonstrate her points, not just explain them, makes me feel a lot better. There have been countless times where we've said "play it for us" (or she's just simply played it herself) to get a better idea of a particular point. For our son who is still in the beginner stages it's not a big deal at all, but for our daughter it's hard to imagine making the same level of progress if that wasn't the case.

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#1249044 - 08/14/09 11:20 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: bitWrangler]
Morodiene Offline
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In all fairness to the teacher in question, perhaps he made a bad judgment call in choosing his piece to perform. We do not know what he played, only that he was not prepared to play it and he played it poorly. Perhaps he simply chose a piece that was technically too demanding to be able to play well without preparation, and he can in fact play quite well?

Also, John, to address your question about the quality of piano int the teacher's studio, I think this says a lot about the teacher. However, I know that some teachers in institutions get the bottom rung instrument because they are new to the school. In that case, I wouldn't judge the teacher by that (but I'd definitely address that issue with the director). Not every great teacher will have a Steinway grand, either. If they are new or run a smaller studio, they may not be able to afford an excellent piano. They should however, have a decent instrument in good repair and well-maintained (including tuned).
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#1249046 - 08/14/09 11:21 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
Betty Patnude Offline
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I have been reading about piano teachers being good teachers but unable or unwilling to "perform" for an interviewee. Some think there are other indicators of success as a teacher (John had a long and thrilling list) and yes, these are excellent examples of a "professional" teaching environment.

However, I think what the interviewee is asking for is to hear and see an example of the teacher's musicianship for the enjoyment of it. It seems to me to be more of an enthusiasm that they are thinking, I can't wait to start lessons with this teacher! What does this beautiful piano sound like when played by a professional musician? :They are looking for a visual and aural and kinesthetic experience at their interview not just information about you and a business agreement. They want to hear the music because it would be a catalyst to them. They may need the emotional and musical experience to cement their decision.

You know in the movies how the music fits the scene and you hear something magnificent and appropriate at the high moments? That is the effect they are looking for. To not be willing to do this for them or to be unable to play well enough they may take two steps back from the "rapture" they were looking for in you.

I hope this makes a little sense. We know as teachers that we have to communicate to the student in their learning style in a language they easily understand, and that we can build from there to increase their knowledge. But, there has to be a connection with them so they feel, see, hear, verify that the decision to start lessons with us is going to work for them.

There are probably lots of adult students circling around studios out there uncertain of making a decision - maybe they have even have interviewed and still are uncertain as to getting started. Maybe for them this is the missing ingredient that didn't happen at the interview. Playing the piano for our interviews demonstrates our musicianship - we can tell people how great we are or we can show them. Which do you think is the better example that will make a difference to them? Of course, it would be a great sales tool to be able to demonstrate that we can teach them, tell them, and show them our capabilities and capacity.

Part of the interview IS a marketing situation, isn't it? There needs to be agreement and closure on the decision to move forward together. Being aloof is not going to cut it if you think of interviews as recruitment and confirmation ventures in our search for good students to work with. I think we need to strut our stuff in the interview so there is no doubt in their mind that we are who we say we are as teachers and musicians.

And, what do they say about the first impression being the strongest? Let's not forget there is a "psychology" to this, too. To me that means being social and easy to be with during the interview. One of our jobs is to remove and tame obstacles, I think. We can be our own worst obstacles in interviews if we don't understand the objectives and skills of conducting an interview.

There is certainly enough said here as food for thought if one will actually entertain the thoughts and not just quickly react to them and dismiss them. Stimulation is one of the things I enjoy most about participating in Piano World.

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#1249049 - 08/14/09 11:31 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Piano*Dad]
rocket88 Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad

I'm sure there are perfectly fine teachers out there who could introduce a beginner to the wonders of the keyboard, yet who cannot play the techniques that they teach.


Good Grief! How on earth can it be "perfectly fine" for a "teacher" to be unable to play the techniques of beginner music?

I am Flabbergasted.


I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that it would be fine if the teacher couldn't play the beginner techniques s(he) was teaching. But if the teacher could not play at an advanced level that would not be the kiss of death for their ability to teach and to motivate beginners.


Thanks for clarifying that.
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#1249053 - 08/14/09 11:40 AM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

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Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

However, I think what the interviewee is asking for is to hear and see an example of the teacher's musicianship for the enjoyment of it. It seems to me to be more of an enthusiasm that they are thinking, I can't wait to start lessons with this teacher! What does this beautiful piano sound like when played by a professional musician? :They are looking for a visual and aural and kinesthetic experience at their interview not just information about you and a business agreement. They want to hear the music because it would be a catalyst to them. They may need the emotional and musical experience to cement their decision.


Very well stated! I agree that this is probably the dynamic that is going on when beginners ask the teacher to play for them.
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#1249075 - 08/14/09 12:06 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Monica K.]
Piano Again Offline
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I used to teach cello. I don't remember anyone asking me to play before they signed up for lessons, but I certainly would have complied. I think it's a totally reasonable request.

It really bothers me how so many people decide they can earn a few bucks by teaching but don't really know how to either teach or play. Caveat emptor ...
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#1249125 - 08/14/09 01:11 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Kanadka
wow, thank you everyone. Reading this actually helped me to understand what I was looking for - a teacher who still loves music and plays for the love of music. This person undoubtedly will be able to play a piece they love. But let's say in case they were taking a summer of playing and don't have anything in memory, I'd still expect them to pick up a level 1 book and sight read something from there.

I can see how someone could be a better teacher then they are a musician, but don't forget we are taking about beginning level here. I need not only theory, I also need some inspiration. Sure I can listen to Yundi Li on YouTube. But with a teacher - wouldn't you want to be inspired to be able to play "like this" some time - the pieces on your level!!! to make them sound beautiful. How the heck can it be explained in words if the teacher cannot play.

On the advanced level it might work, thus teachers who cannot play themselves, or hockey coaches who do not play. But not at the beginner level I think.


As an adult student looking for a teacher, you're not necessarily searching for the same set of abilities in a teacher that a parent may be searching for. However, I suggest you seriously regard the import of teacher certification. A teacher with certification has demonstrated mastery - of playing and teaching. One without certification may be every bit as good, but you have no knowledgeable, independent corroboration of this. Even if you love his playing, you don't have anything to compare his teaching with. You may be progressing at one-half the speed you could have achieved with a better teacher. Certification is your starting point here. Teachers who have worked their butts off to earn certification are justifiably proud of their accomplishments, and you will find that certification posted prominently in the studio. If you don't see one, ask. You can also inquire where they studied, who they studied with, what degrees they earned, etc., You can also ask if they had a performance career, or if they play routinely in public. These are questions you should be asking teachers.

Just some suggestions to help you out here.
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#1249155 - 08/14/09 01:45 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Betty Patnude]
Kanadka Offline
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Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 34
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
However, I think what the interviewee is asking for is to hear and see an example of the teacher's musicianship for the enjoyment of it. It seems to me to be more of an enthusiasm that they are thinking, I can't wait to start lessons with this teacher! What does this beautiful piano sound like when played by a professional musician? :They are looking for a visual and aural and kinesthetic experience at their interview not just information about you and a business agreement. They want to hear the music because it would be a catalyst to them. They may need the emotional and musical experience to cement their decision.


Betty, beautifully said. This is exactly what I was looking for. Wish I could study with you smile

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#1249156 - 08/14/09 01:47 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Kanadka Offline
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Registered: 08/13/09
Posts: 34
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Just some suggestions to help you out here.


thank you, John, appreciate it

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#1249215 - 08/14/09 03:13 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
Morodiene Offline
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Betty,
I agree with what you've said wholeheartedly. I wonder, though, do you insist on playing for every student you interview? Or do you only play if they ask?
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#1249243 - 08/14/09 03:48 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
J Cortese Offline
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I'd expect a teacher to be able to do both well, and can't fathom the polarization of the two skills. This is why teaching piano for a living is work. A brilliant performer may stink as a teacher; and if a teacher can't actually play, I'd shuck both of them. Why? Think about what it means.

Wouldn't you want as a teacher someone who really likes to play? Someone who enjoys it, who tinkers with things, messes with their favorite pieces, HAS favorite pieces, sits down when they have some free time and just noodles around with something for a few hours on the weekend at least until they get it to their satisfaction? Hell, it's what I expect to do, and I work a ten-hour-a-day-job with two hours of commute time and need rather a lot of sleep.

If you asked someone to play something, and they had nothing to hand -- not even something casual, wouldn't that seem to indicate that, left to their own devices, the person you want to show you your way around this instrument just can't be arsed to do it themselves? I would expect someone who likes to play to actually do it and hence have a few things up their sleeve if you asked at any one time. I wouldn't treat them like an ipod, but if the guy wasn't prepared with anything, that means that he wasn't even bothering to sit at the thing and screw around in his own spare time.

How are you supposed to find your way around the thing if the person who is supposed to be showing you your way would apparently rather be spending their free time watching TV than playing?

And I don't have a problem expecting advanced skills in a beginner teacher, either. The teacher who started me out (and stayed with me the whole time) was extremely advanced but could also manage kids. What I expect is both sets of skills. This is rare and hard work, which is why every chump on the street isn't a piano teacher.


Edited by J Cortese (08/14/09 03:50 PM)
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#1249295 - 08/14/09 05:21 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: J Cortese]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
I'd expect a teacher to be able to do both well, and can't fathom the polarization of the two skills. This is why teaching piano for a living is work. A brilliant performer may stink as a teacher; and if a teacher can't actually play, I'd shuck both of them. Why? Think about what it means.


Yes, but are you willing to pay for the advanced mastery of these two skills? Don't expect to find said teacher at $25/hr!
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#1249302 - 08/14/09 05:34 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Betty,
I agree with what you've said wholeheartedly. I wonder, though, do you insist on playing for every student you interview? Or do you only play if they ask?


You got it, Morodienne! I kind of insist I hope it comes across as just wanting to share sound and rhythms with them today because I believe we have to put our interview and first lesson into musical terms they can understand. It acts as a valid connection between us and I think it's pretty exciting for a new family to get a sample of their new teacher. I actually enjoy all parts of the interview and first lesson which takes about an hour. I try to give them every reason to choose me as their teacher....but I also say if they seem uncertain or reluctant, that it is very important to me that they choose the teacher who they feel most comfortable with and have the most confidence in.

We win some, we lose some.

Thanks for that question!

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#1249306 - 08/14/09 05:42 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

Speaking of demonstrations, I wonder how the AFT and NEA would react if communities demanded open houses where teachers would demonstrate, on an annual basis, mastery of their subject matter. Could be an interesting event!


John, I wouldn't mind being known for my playing in public skills, or for a sightreading test, or giving a brief teaching class....it seems to be that could be a very exciting event....like a talent show.....or a competition to display competence. I would not recommend it being a "BONG" show though, remember that terrible tv show from years ago!

Your whole scenario has me amused. It would put many a teacher a twitter to be in the spotlight and having to answer up with a presentation to be proud of. Maybe that's just the extrovert in me!

We could also be performing one elegant or exciting piece in our own studio recital just to keep everyone informed that we can also sit on the bench and produce something marvelous on demand. The audience usually loves this part. Sometimes, I've started the program and ended the program with a piece just to make a statement without saying a word about where piano lessons can lead to for the long term student.

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#1249308 - 08/14/09 05:44 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: John v.d.Brook]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
I'd expect a teacher to be able to do both well, and can't fathom the polarization of the two skills. This is why teaching piano for a living is work. A brilliant performer may stink as a teacher; and if a teacher can't actually play, I'd shuck both of them. Why? Think about what it means.


Yes, but are you willing to pay for the advanced mastery of these two skills? Don't expect to find said teacher at $25/hr!


I can't recall what my parents paid, but we were not in possession of much disposable income. Whatever they paid my teacher, they got their money's worth.

ETA: Besides, paying bottom-dollar for a bad product isn't a bargain.


Edited by J Cortese (08/14/09 05:52 PM)
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#1249309 - 08/14/09 05:49 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Originally Posted By: Kanadka

Betty, beautifully said. This is exactly what I was looking for. Wish I could study with you smile[/quote]

Aw, that's sweet of you, but you would want to go through the interview process and be sensible about your decision in every way. I'm glad you are finding something to think about from all the postings in this topic. It is certainly an interesting topic! I've enjoyed participating here.

I appreciate your comment to me very much, thank you!

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#1249332 - 08/14/09 06:44 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Betty Patnude]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think we make the mistake of putting all piano teachers in the same category. The truth is, piano teachers specialize like many other professions. I doubt many divorce lawyers could represent the state in a murder case, and I wouldn't want a dermatologist to remove my appendix.

The difference is we don't have names for piano teacher specialties. Some specialize in young beginners, some work with groups, some work with classical repertoire, others popular styles, some focus on competition preparation, others just want their students to have fun.

If I was shopping around for a teacher to help me work up a classical solo recital, I'd want someone who could play classical solo recitals. If I wanted to introduce my 4 year old to music, I'd opt for someone completely different. If I wanted advice on developing a concert career, I'd want someone who's been there. And if I want someone to teach the fundamentals, I need them to know how to introduce dotted quarter note rhythms to someone for the first time.

Asking if a piano teacher should be able to play well is like asking if a doctor should be able to treat MS. Not all doctors can treat MS, that's why they have specialized neurologists.

However, it is perfectly reasonable to expect a doctor to know how to handle a patient with a complaint that fits their specialty. If a student wants a piano teacher to help them develop enough technique to prepare a Mozart sonata, then that teacher absolutely needs to be able to prepare (but not necessarily sight-read) a Mozart sonata.

This is one of those debates that gets boiled down to moot nonsense on the internet because it's based on a very artificial question: "Should a teacher be able to play the piano?" What kind of "teacher" are we talking about? What do we mean by "play" the piano? What kind of music?

I think once the original poster gets to a point they can define exactly what they want to accomplish with their lessons, it will be much easier to pinpoint the abilities and skills they should look for in a teacher.
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#1249333 - 08/14/09 06:45 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: J Cortese]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: J Cortese
I'd expect a teacher to be able to do both well, and can't fathom the polarization of the two skills. This is why teaching piano for a living is work. A brilliant performer may stink as a teacher; and if a teacher can't actually play, I'd shuck both of them. Why? Think about what it means.


Yes, but are you willing to pay for the advanced mastery of these two skills? Don't expect to find said teacher at $25/hr!


I can't recall what my parents paid, but we were not in possession of much disposable income. Whatever they paid my teacher, they got their money's worth.

ETA: Besides, paying bottom-dollar for a bad product isn't a bargain.


I find the topic amusing to a degree. My first teacher, whom I only heard play once, when she accompanied me on the Mendelssohn Concerto in the studio, sent several students to Juilliard. She also taught Irving Gilmore who eventually started the Gilmore Festival. Oh, another famous student she started was Thomas Schippers (probably before your time, but he ended up conducting the La Scala) The thought just never crossed our minds to ask for a playing demonstration. Perhaps it's a generational thing. Perhaps it's because actual live in concert piano playing is so rare these days.
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#1249361 - 08/14/09 07:36 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Morodiene]
Barb860 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1644
Loc: northern California
[quote=Morodiene]In all fairness to the teacher in question, perhaps he made a bad judgment call in choosing his piece to perform. We do not know what he played, only that he was not prepared to play it and he played it poorly. Perhaps he simply chose a piece that was technically too demanding to be able to play well without preparation, and he can in fact play quite well?
(end quote)



Thank you for cutting this teacher some slack-- Perhaps this is what happened. Have any of you been in a situation where someone just put music in front of you that you were not able to play, because it was too hard and/or hadn't learned that particular piece? A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.
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#1249367 - 08/14/09 07:49 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
Ebony and Ivory Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/14/05
Posts: 1179
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: Barb860
A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.


That's just RUDE!! Wow, I've never had anything like that happen. I would be so embarrassed, especially if I wasn't *allowed* to redeem myself with another piece.
I'm so sorry! frown
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#1249376 - 08/14/09 07:55 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13706
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: Barb860
Thank you for cutting this teacher some slack-- Perhaps this is what happened. Have any of you been in a situation where someone just put music in front of you that you were not able to play, because it was too hard and/or hadn't learned that particular piece?


I thought we had established that the piece in question was something from a Level 1 method book or syllabus suggestion.

I know I just wrote a big reply about how we shouldn't judge all teachers by the same standard, but asking a piano teacher to read a level 1 method piece is like asking a lawyer if he or she can use the word "legal" in a sentence. laugh
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#1249379 - 08/14/09 07:56 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3158
Originally Posted By: Barb860
A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.


If that happened to me, I would be glad that I was warned in advance, and thus spared the certain agony of having to deal with such a parent.
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#1249393 - 08/14/09 08:10 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: rocket88]
J Cortese Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/20/09
Posts: 357
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
Originally Posted By: rocket88
Originally Posted By: Barb860
A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.


If that happened to me, I would be glad that I was warned in advance, and thus spared the certain agony of having to deal with such a parent.


It would have been sweet to pop something from the WTC on the desk, and invited the parent to sit down and play. :-)
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#1249418 - 08/14/09 09:03 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kreisler]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7200
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I thought we had established that the piece in question was something from a Level 1 method book or syllabus suggestion.


I believe that K. said the teacher started to play something, then realized he needed the notes and went and got them, but blew the performance. Then K. said he would have been satisfied if the teacher had just played the rendition of 'Entertainer' from the end of the book.

Not exactly what many here are assuming.

Of course, the teacher probably could have played that piece perfectly, but most likely wanted to play something a bit more dazzling, and botched it. Of course, this has never, ever happened to any of us! laugh
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#1249425 - 08/14/09 09:13 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
Nyiregyhazi Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/09
Posts: 2464
Originally Posted By: Barb860
Thank you for cutting this teacher some slack-- Perhaps this is what happened. Have any of you been in a situation where someone just put music in front of you that you were not able to play, because it was too hard and/or hadn't learned that particular piece? A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.


With respect, perhaps she was not looking at it from the point of view of wanting you to 'prove' your skills to her? Perhaps she just wanted to hear what that particular piece sounded like when being played (but possibly did not appreciate the difficulty- how many amateurs or non-musicians really understand just how difficult a fugue is)? I wouldn't necessarily treat it as being 'tested' and feel that you have to make a compensation by playing something else. If they were simply interested in the specific piece, you can see why they might not be so interested in hearing another piece (even if most people would probably have been polite enough to go along with it). Perhaps they were just being a complete arse. You can never rule that out- but it's easy to misinterpret what is intended from such requests.

I've had a couple of students ask me to play through a few things from Final Fantasy games, in particular. Most have been relatively easy to fake my way through at sight, but I was recently asked to attempt one that was practically like Prokofiev, in the way the textures were written. I scraped my way through some, but in the end I was simply honest and said that it was too tricky to do any justice first glance. I don't think it's necessarily anything to be ashamed of, when something is beyond what you can manage. I think it's better to simply be honest about the fact that you can't just do absolutely everything without preparation, rather than feel you have to prove yourself by looking to demonstrate what you can do elsewhere.

I even had one student who wanted me to try and play through La Campanella. I tried a few passages, most of which were pitifully faked indeed, but I didn't mind. I felt no sense that he was judging me, but merely that he was enthusiastic and wanted to hear me simply 'having a go', even if I obviously couldn't offer the real deal. Poor as it was, he seemed to genuinely appreciate the fact I tried a few passages of a piece that personally interested him. If you approach it that way, rather than as a test of what you can do, I really don't think that many people are particularly judgemental.


Edited by Nyiregyhazi (08/14/09 09:46 PM)
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#1249459 - 08/14/09 10:10 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Barb860]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10733
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Barb860
[quote=Morodiene]In all fairness to the teacher in question, perhaps he made a bad judgment call in choosing his piece to perform. We do not know what he played, only that he was not prepared to play it and he played it poorly. Perhaps he simply chose a piece that was technically too demanding to be able to play well without preparation, and he can in fact play quite well?
(end quote)



Thank you for cutting this teacher some slack-- Perhaps this is what happened. Have any of you been in a situation where someone just put music in front of you that you were not able to play, because it was too hard and/or hadn't learned that particular piece? A student's mom brought in a J.S. Bach prelude and fugue, set it on my piano desk, and asked me to play it. I had not studied that one and was not able to sightread it. I told her exactly that, and offered to play her another from the WTC instead. She was not interested.


I would have said, "Certainly! But you first..."
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#1249995 - 08/15/09 08:03 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: Kanadka]
4evrBeginR Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/27/09
Posts: 1602
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Kanadka
Hi,
Am I too picky? Is it normal? I absolutely don't expect my teacher to be a concert pianist. I'll be just fine if he would've played "The entertainer" from the back of my book. Is it a realistic expectation that a teacher will be able to play any piece from level 1 book without preparation? After 15 years of teaching experience?


My old teacher told me that he knew many concert pianists who could not sight read music to save their lives. Not everyone could sight read well, but we are talking about advance music, not baby stuff. Every one should be able to sight-read several levels below their abilities. Even with my very modest abilities after only 4 to 5 years of lessons and being away from the piano for 20+ years, I could still sight-read level 1 music like "The Entertainer" like falling off a tree. Let's face it, it's in the key of C-major, tempo is moderato, and there are almost no ledger lines! I find that hard to believe.
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#1250011 - 08/15/09 08:46 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: 4evrBeginR]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5831
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: 4evrBeginR
Not everyone could sight read well, but we are talking about advance music, not baby stuff. Every one should be able to sight-read several levels below their abilities. Even with my very modest abilities after only 4 to 5 years of lessons and being away from the piano for 20+ years, I could still sight-read level 1 music like "The Entertainer" like falling off a tree. Let's face it, it's in the key of C-major, tempo is moderato, and there are almost no ledger lines! I find that hard to believe.
So do I, and I'm not excusing any teacher who couldn't do it. But as has been pointed out before, I think, the teacher in question didn't attempt The Entertainer and fail to sight-read it. He picked something else and stuffed it up. The OP did not say the teacher couldn't sight-read a level 1 piece. What he said was that he would have been satisfied if that had been what the teacher had chosen to play.
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#1254209 - 08/22/09 07:11 PM Re: Teacher played poorly [Re: currawong]
Surendipity Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/24/05
Posts: 129
Would you ask a famous senior ballet dancer to dance for you?
I don't think so, infact, I'm pretty sure you'd be shown the door.
As for piano, yes one can generally study and continue to play well into their senior years. As a teacher of piano being asked to play, one may need some preperation time, sometimes not. If a piece is placed infront of me, I would not play it directly because I am a teacher, I would firstly pull it apart, because that's what I do. Certainly I could just sight read it and present it note for rote.
But I must examine it first. And I would ask the student questions along the way.
Then I would play it. If I stumble and fall I would just continue, as I would expect a student to. If they wanted to hear anything else I would play a favorite piece of mine from memory or from the music. I may even play one I'm working on and ask questions to the student about certain areas to get them involved, if it's a beginner student I could ask them to try a couple of notes. I would also try a duet, simple and fun easy to teach on the fly. I would play something composed on the spot explaining a story or showing the cord changes, describing the dynamics.
I was faced with one prospective student who wished me to play a Bach on the spot.
To which I said, I do not know this particular one, I would need time to sort out the voicing. To which they were very unimpressed and they did not take me on as a teacher. Which is fine, I wished them well and hoped that maybe their next choice knew this particular Bach. I didn't feel insulted as much as I felt their ignorance.
I would hope if I go to the doctor he/she would look and test all the symptoms instead of just saying "oh, not feeling well, mm, I'll just cut off your left arm and you'll feel better in the morning"

If you want to ask a teacher to play for your enjoyment, state as such and ask them to play something they love to play. You'll get more inspiration if you hear their best not a test.

Most famous pianists also have their own repertoire and genre that they master and follow. Depending on the piece many music lovers will prefer one over another for certain pieces and genres. Glen Gould for Bach, Louis Lortie for Ravel, Murray Perahia for Schubert, Dick Hyman or Jelly Roll Morton for Honkey Tonk Ragtime and stride (The Finger Breaker) its just so hot!


Edited by Surendipity (08/22/09 07:17 PM)

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