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#953673 - 09/16/08 10:39 AM Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
BusyMom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/08
Posts: 28
Loc: Major US City
Hi,

My 9 year old daughter goes to a large music conservatory (preparatory division) in a major US city, where she takes private piano lessons, Music Theory, and Piano Duo. She is a highly talented music student. My husband and I are not musicians, so we rely on others for advice about her musical education.

Can I ask you a few questions, mostly conservatory related?

My first question is about her piano teacher at the conservatory. He’s a superb teacher, and a very nice man, but he’s not great with really young kids because his demeanor is too professorial. He doesn't compliment my daughter unless she perfects a song, and he does not make the lessons really fun, plus he works my daughter to death (lots of memorization, playing songs 6 times in a row, assigning 8 or more songs to practice in a week). Should I switch teachers for these reasons alone? It seems unfair to the man. Plus I don’t want my daughter and I to get bad reputations with the faculty at this school. My daughter plans to be there a long time because she wants to play in their youth orchestras when she gets older. And then I worry that a new teacher will be just as demanding and as serious as the current teacher. Are most music conservatory teachers like this?

My second question is about my daughter's Piano Duo partner. They seem to have matched her with a boy who does not play as well as she does, even though they told me the boy was better after the auditions. Regardless, the kids like each other a lot, and want to stay together, so I'm not going to complain or anything. I assume they will make the music easy enough for this boy to play. Will my daughter get much out of piano duo if she is with a mismatched partner?

Regardless of my complaints here, I am thrilled with the music education that my daughter is getting at this conservatory, and my daughter loves it there. I really like her piano teacher too, and wish she was happy with him, because I think she is so darn lucky to have him as a teacher. She wants to be a professional musician when she grows up, so the investment in this school (in time and money) seems warranted. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

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#953674 - 09/16/08 10:54 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7273
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Dear Busy Mom,

I will address only your first question. "He works my daughter to death." Really? You arrive with an ambulance every week after the lesson and rush her to the emergency room? She is required to memorize? She is required to play the music as written? She is learning too many songs? I wish I had this teacher as a youth! She is indeed fortunate.

This week, in my first class for my piano students, one of the topics of discussion was differentiating between art music and social music. It sounds like your daughter's teacher is attempting to make an artist out of her, while your interests lean more to the social aspects (words like "fun" are a clue here) of music.

So to your question: "Are most music conservatories like this?" Yes, and so are good teachers with studios outside of the conservatory environment.

Now let me add one additional comment - is the teacher surly or just shy of giving frequent complements? How do other students react to this teacher? It is indeed true that most teachers are better with some levels and age groups than with others, and he may well be a mismatch for your daughter, and the so-called problems are just because he is ill equipped to present what sounds like a standard curriculum to a very young student.
_________________________
"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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#953675 - 09/16/08 11:09 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Metaphysics Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/08
Posts: 49
Loc: Cohasset, MA
JVDB- WOW! Your answer or at least the tone of it exhibits exactly what I DON'T want for a teacher for my children. We have a conservatory with an excellent reputation very close by. However, we made the conscious decision NOT to send our 7yr old there for his first year or two. Instead, we hired a local piano teacher to teach in our home. The problem with your attitude and of many parents is the assumption is that if you are going to take(pay for) piano lessons as a young child, then you must want your child to be a concert pianist and eventually go to a performaning arts school, and then to college on full scholorship, etc, etc.

Sometimes, taking lessons doesn't have to be high pressure and can be fun. I and my children are very disciplined in whatever we do, but we also want the kids to just play around and enjoy their first experiences with everything. If they show a great aptitude and interest, then...off to the conservatory with them.

Meta

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#953676 - 09/16/08 11:28 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
I think you should leave well enough alone, both questions. It sounds like your daughter has an excellent piano teacher who will prepare her for the rigors ahead. And if she's happy with her duo partner stay out of it. The kids couldn't care less about adult politics.
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#953677 - 09/16/08 11:34 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7273
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
META, there are plenty of teachers who will teach your kids "just for fun." You can read all about them on posts here and in the ABF. As a parent, you should select your teacher based on the goals you have for your child. If you enroll in a conservatory, the assumption is that you're a serious parent seeking serious study for your child.

The tone of my letter, or that which I wished to impart (but perhaps missed the mark on) was one of incredulousness. Here is a conservatory providing her daughter precisely what most parents send students to conservatories for, and mom is upset because daughter is not having fun????

 Quote:
The problem with your attitude and of many parents is the assumption is that if you are going to take(pay for) piano lessons as a young child, then you must want your child to be a concert pianist and eventually go to a performaning arts school, and then to college on full scholorship, etc, etc.
I don't think this is a problem with my attitude so much as it's a matter of misunderstanding on your part. This is what my studio (business if you wil) offers. I tell my prospective parents this up front. There is no misrepresentation on my part. And, by the way, students who just wish to enroll in "recreational" music making can do so. It's a separate program, and it's offered up front.
_________________________
"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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#953678 - 09/16/08 11:37 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11506
Loc: Canada
Parent to parent: One thing is missing in the tale - Does your daughter appear terribly distressed, unhappy? If not not, perhaps there is not a problem.

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#953679 - 09/16/08 11:45 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10344
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Well, nobody has stepped up to the duo-piano part, so in a fit of irrationality .... I will. \:D

BusyMom,

You worry that her playing partner has weaker skills and that this will limit what she can accomplish in duo-piano playing. In fact, I would argue almost the reverse. The purpose of the duo piano lessons (I think) is to teach ensemble playing. The purpose of the solo training is to endow the student with all the requisite technical skills. The fact that the duo piano works might be a little simpler than what your daughter is actually capable of playing may be a blessing, since it will allow her to focus on the ensemble aspect of playing without getting that mixed up with the technical demands of solo playing.

Of course, if the skill mismatch is extreme that would indeed be a problem. If that is the case then you have a basis for complaint.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#953680 - 09/16/08 11:53 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
 Quote:
Originally posted by keystring:
Parent to parent: One thing is missing in the tale - Does your daughter appear terribly distressed, unhappy? If not not, perhaps there is not a problem. [/b]
I was just about to write the same thing.

From another parent... BusyMom, is it possible that your daughter needs to adjust her expectations (that is, if she complains)? 9yo kids know what it takes to be good at something, they work hard at school (or at least we hope). Maybe your daughter simply hasn't adjusted from "learning piano for fun" to learning it seriously, if the conservatory program is something new to her.

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#953681 - 09/16/08 11:56 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10344
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Metaphysics,

One thing to note. YOU chose to educate at home. BusyMom chose to send her daughter to the conservatory. That suggests different preferences, and John was replying to someone whose choices seem different from yours. Perhaps John's bedside manner was a bit gruff, but the likelihood is low that a conservatory teacher whose own training is high level (and whose students are high level as well) will stress the 'piano as fun' approach. I would expect most community teachers (whose student base on average is much less talented or motivated) to think of recreational piano first and to think of sending students to the concert stage almost not at all.

All,

BusyMom seems quite happy with the situation overall, and she thinks her daughter is happy as well.

 Quote:
Regardless of my complaints here, I am thrilled with the music education that my daughter is getting at this conservatory, and my daughter loves it there. She wants to be a professional musician when she grows up, so the investment in this school (both in time and work) seems warranted.
_________________________
Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#953682 - 09/16/08 11:58 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Metaphysics Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/08
Posts: 49
Loc: Cohasset, MA
JVDB- I see your clarified point. I guess the issue I have is with the general notion of signing up absolute beginners at conservatories or studios with the goal of turning them into piano vituosi. Holding this position on an enthusiast forum will probably be a losing proposition.

Well, I have to run to drop my 7yr old son off at his introduction to fourier transforms class and his baby sisters at their preraphaelite literature prepatory class. They're going to Harvard, you know.

Meta

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#953683 - 09/16/08 12:45 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7273
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
\:D

Oh, just one other point - this is a teacher's forum, not an enthusiast's forum. I'm beginning to sense we need a "Parent's Forum" so parents can discuss strategies on dealing with us "gruff" teachers!
_________________________
"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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#953684 - 09/16/08 12:59 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Let me first say that I am not a parent or a teacher.

I am an adult beginner who spent the first 6 years of childhood piano lessons with 'recreational' teachers of low expectations and abilities. It was worse than a complete waste of time. When I did end up with a better teacher I was far behind the other students and my parents just assumed that meant I wasn't very good.

What BusyMom's daughter's teacher is doing is exactly what is necessary to prepare a student for a career in music. The daughter is incredibly lucky.

I think it is cruel to take a child who has hopes and dreams of success and set them up for failure or embarrassment by thinking their dream can be achieved without good teachers and hard work. Talk to any number of "big ducks in little ponds" who got to college and found out that other people their age were playing a lot more advanced music than they were capable of.

Does she truly think the teacher is 'mean' or doesn't like her? Kids are often more perceptive than that...they might complain about "Mean old Mr/Mrs So-and-So" but they know the difference between someone who is just sparing with praise.

As far as "fun"...I think it is fun to play well. I do NOT think it is "fun" to play poorly or progress slowly, or feel let down by your ability to play what you want.

There is a huge difference between forcing a child to do something they consider misery and drudgery because mom and dad have big plans for them...and enabling and supporting, and occasionally enforcing (for instance, practice time), the dreams the child has for him or herself.
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#953685 - 09/16/08 01:09 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7273
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Nicely put. I should have used your approach in answering busymom. It would have been much more gallant.
_________________________
"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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#953686 - 09/16/08 02:06 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5396
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by BusyMom:
and he works my daughter to death (lots of memorization, playing songs until they are perfect [/b]
Here we go again...

If the piece is memorized incorrectly to begin with, then it is difficult to fix the problems. Then these teachers spend a year trying to undo what was incorrectly memorized in the first place.

When a teacher demands that a new piece be perfectly practiced and memorized by next week, it sounds like irresponsible teaching! I can ask a student to learn the notes and pay attention to fingering and rhythm, but definitely not memorize the piece in a week! Not even method book pieces! I won't ask for memorization until the piece can be played to my satisfaction.

Can anyone explain the value of memorizing pieces, especially when students are getting the music for the first week?
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#953687 - 09/16/08 02:21 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
Without further context, I would say that
you should switch teachers immediately.
It's easy for any teacher to just go
through the motions and assign a lot of
work and be demanding--but any teacher
could do exactly the same thing, so you
don't miss out on anything by changing teachers.
Also, a student who is not having fun
will eventually come to associate the piano with
something unpleasant, and when that happens
that's the beginning of the end.

This duo partner I don't see as problem.
What matters is your daughter's playing,
not someone else's playing. And this
thing about preferential treatment you
should completely put out of your mind.
Dwelling on something like that--even if
it were true--is of no benefit to you
or your daughter.

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#953688 - 09/16/08 02:32 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
BusyMom, I'm a parent of a daughter (younger than yours) who has just started her 2nd year at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I still clearly remember her first lesson there a year ago. The piano teacher was much more strict than her previous one. Her criticism and occasional scolding were making me feel embarrassed. I was afraid that my daugter wouldn't want to continue with her. To my surprise, she told me she liked her better than her previous teacher, whom she had liked a lot! A few weeks later, I could tell that the teacher liked my daughter, too. She had become one of her favorite students.

This teacher has the reputation of being the strictest one in the prep division. Every parent knows that if she's OK with your child's playing, your child would have no problem passing (actually, receiving a good grade in) the annual jury exam.

By the way, my daughter has no ambition of becoming a concert pianist. We don't even foresee music as her career in her future. She's seriouly studying a few other skills in addition to going to school.

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#953689 - 09/16/08 03:29 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
BusyMom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/08
Posts: 28
Loc: Major US City
 Quote:
Originally posted by MA:
BusyMom, I'm a parent of a daughter (younger than yours) who has .................... Every parent knows that if she's OK with your child's playing, your child would have no problem passing (actually, receiving a good grade in) the annual jury exam.
[/b]
What are "annual jury exams?" Will my daughter have to pass them at her conservatory too? I just assumed she received a written evaluation from her teacher at the end of each semester of piano lessons. I did not know that she had to perform in front of a group of teachers too, in order to pass.

I do know that her conservatory offers Certificates degrees for children, and the kids have to play in front of a jury in order to earn a certificate. My daughter does want to earn the Intermediate Certificate at the school.

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#953690 - 09/16/08 03:59 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
BusyMom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/08
Posts: 28
Loc: Major US City
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
META, there are plenty of teachers who will teach your kids "just for fun." You can read all about them on posts here and in the ABF. As a parent, you should select your teacher based on the goals you have for your child. If you enroll in a conservatory, the assumption is that you're a serious parent seeking serious study for your child.
[/b]
JVDB,

My daughter is a very serious student, so she belongs at a conservatory, even if she wants to have fun when she studies music. I just wish they had people on their staff with backgrounds in early childhood education, so they would know the importance of adding "fun" to the curriculum.

My daughter's last piano teacher was extremely warm and affectionate with her (she would hug and kiss my daughter all the time). I guess my daughter really misses that. I understand that this new teacher can't touch the children because of all the paranoia about molesters and all. But I wish he would be a little warmer towards my kid. How can I ask him to do that, without critisizing him?

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#953691 - 09/16/08 04:26 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7273
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
BusyMom, I confess to now being confused. What do you mean by "fun?" Warm and personal?

FWIW, many students who are exceptionally bright do not seem to need nor want a lot of the warm fuzzies which other students seem to thrive on. Others do. You've received some good advice here. I'd recommend taking some time to digest it and watch what is happening with your daughter.

By the way, the teacher, being male, may well want to give your daughter an occasional hug for a great job, but cannot because of conservatory policies. You might want to discuss this with him.

Good luck,

John
_________________________
"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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#953692 - 09/16/08 04:42 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11506
Loc: Canada
BusyMom - Is your daughter telling you that she wants fun and warmth? Or do you believe it is so because of how you know her in general? (parent of now-adult children writing)

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#953693 - 09/16/08 05:01 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11340
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by AZNpiano:


Can anyone explain the value of memorizing pieces, especially when students are getting the music for the first week? [/b]
Perhaps you have an aversion to memorization because you yourself have had issues with it. As a teacher, that can sometimes be a perfectly legitimate reason to not do something, but sometimes it can be a detriment to your students. I don't know which is the case, so I'll leave that up to you to decide.

I often will have beginners come back to me with a song memorized, if not all of them. I don't demand it, however. During the course of learning a piece, if it is well-practiced, it will naturally be memorized, even after a week (lengthy advanced pieces in exception here). That is because once they are out of the sight reading phase of learning a piece, they begin memorizing. The music becomes less and less of a necessity to play in the natural course of things.

Memorization is useful in many practice ways: being able to play for family and friends when books aren't around; really solidifying a piece in one's mind (I still have pieces from my childhood memorized!); truly gaining an understanding of the form of the piece, which is usually necessary to memorize; allows the pianist the ability to focus on nuances rather than simply getting the notes right.

I'm sure there are more, but children have an amazing capacity to memorize, and without knowing exactly what the teacher is asking of the student, what pieces the student is currently playing, etc. we can't know for sure if he is being unreasonable in his demands. Considering the fact that the OP stated their daughter was very interested in a career in music, I think this may not be a bad thing for her to be doing.
_________________________
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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#953694 - 09/16/08 05:11 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11340
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
double post.
_________________________
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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#953695 - 09/16/08 05:38 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
My daughter's teacher asks her student to memorize Chopin Ballades No. 1 in one week.

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#953696 - 09/16/08 05:40 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11340
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
 Quote:
Originally posted by MA:
My daughter's teacher asks her student to memorize Chopin Ballades No. 1 in one week. [/b]
And your point is? Are you complaining about your daughter's teacher? If that is too much for her, then perhaps you should find another one.
_________________________
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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#953697 - 09/16/08 05:54 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
keystring Online   content
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Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11506
Loc: Canada
.

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#953698 - 09/16/08 06:27 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4724
Loc: South Florida
I give "air hugs" to the little girls. I'm dead serious.

If I'm really excited, I'll say: "I'm not allowed to hug, but that was really great, and I'm really pround of you.

Then I hug myself and say: "Air hug!"

They get it. They understand very well the issue of "hugging and touching".

I do think being enthusiastic, warm, supportive, etc. is important.

But there is another side to this. If I'm not a bit "hard" sometimes, then my students believe they deserve praise for poor work or none at all, and I think that teaches the wrong message.

Just a couple thoughts…
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#953699 - 09/17/08 01:13 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5396
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by MA:
My daughter's teacher asks her student to memorize Chopin Ballades No. 1 in one week. [/b]
What???
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#953700 - 09/17/08 02:57 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
MA Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 302
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
Yes. No complaint. Just to let BusyMom know what some top conservatory teachers expect of their top students.

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#953701 - 09/17/08 10:43 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Consider yourself fortunate to have found a great teacher--I see a lot of students who even after a couple of years cannot read well. Most of the better teachers around here put most of their students in exams at least occasionally because it gives them an objective standard to measure their playing, receiving the certificates in the mail is really motivating for many students, and the exams test a variety of important musical skills.

Meri
_________________________
Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

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#953702 - 09/17/08 03:48 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2837
Loc: UK.
This all sounds very strange to me. If I understand correctly those who wish their children to study seriously will send them to a conservatory and those who want them to play for fun go to a community teacher. Is that right?

In Tamworth there is no conservatory. The nearest conservatoire is in the city of Birmingham. There is a junior school but you have to audition. They will only take gifted children who have already achieved high standards. The staff there would not dream of taking on a 7 year old from scratch. The only choice for parents to make is which private tutor to employ.

I wonder why this is different in the U.S.? Why would anybody want to make the choice between playing purely for pleasure and playing seriously? It sounds like if you want your kids to be any good then you must go to a conservatory. If you choose not to then they will never achieve much. Am I getting this wrong?
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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