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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 Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
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 Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
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: 11558
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: 10349
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: 10349
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 Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
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 Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
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 Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
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 Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
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: 11558
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 Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11421
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 Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11421
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 Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11421
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
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11558
Loc: Canada
.

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

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
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 Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
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: 2845
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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#953703 - 09/17/08 04:33 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7302
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Chris, I think unintentionally, you're reading something into this thread that's not here.

What most are saying is that students sent to a conservatory are attending because the parents wish a serious music education. The converse, that parents would send students to a conservatory, just to dabble, simply is out of the question. And the conservatories would give the student the boot quickly.

Perhaps we should use the term, preparatory conservatories, as technically, conservatories generally are for students who have completed secondary school.

However, there are many private studios which teach at the same level or even better as many preparatory conservatories. And as you point out, many communities do not have conservatories.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
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#953704 - 09/17/08 04:41 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2845
Loc: UK.
Thanks John but I am still confused. Are there conservatories which will take young children at the very start of their music education? If so, why would any parent choose to go anywhere else? It seems that if you are a private teacher in a town with a preparatory conservatory then it will be difficult to attract good students.
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#953705 - 09/17/08 04:47 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
One of my favorite authors on education wrote a fascinating article on the subject of "fun."

The gist of it was that we tend to describe the emotions of children on a linear scale. On the low end of the scale is "Boring" and on the high end of the scale is "Fun."

This represents the lives on children very poorly. It is very possible for fun loving kids to be serious, and for serious children to be silly.

Something we tend to forget is that there is room for many things in the lives of children. There is no point in being happy 100% of the time or having fun 100% of the time. It's not even human. However, it is important for the lives of children to have time for fun, time for work, time for play, time to be silly, and time to be serious. Ways to deal with boredom and being alone, and ways to enjoy the good times and make new friends.

I subscribe to a philosophy that says the point of teaching someone to play the piano is to train them to play the piano. In the case of our original poster, I'd say everything seems fine. I would only find a new teacher if your daughter if the lessons are unproductive or uncomfortable/unpredictable. This doesn't seem to be the case, so I'd stay with it, it'll be well worth it in the end. If at some point she starts dreading each lesson or stops growing musically, then it's time to make a change.

Tough or demanding is not, in and of itself, a good reason to quit, and I'll tell you why.

Whenever I meet someone new and they ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a piano teacher. What follows is a fictitious response that I have never heard:

"Oh my, I remember piano lessons. They were awful. My parents made me practice constantly, and all I have to show for it is that I can play a few Chopin waltzes and a couple sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven."


This, however, I've heard about a few hundred times:

"Ah...I used to take lessons when I was a kid. I wish I would've practiced more, it sure would be nice to be able to still play. My parents should've been tougher with me."
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

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#953706 - 09/17/08 04:47 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
 Quote:
Originally posted by Chris H.:

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?
In this area, there is also no "conservatory school" to go to. There are teachers in this area who claim to be superior because of their degrees and/or schools they got them from.

I'm in the process of fixing damage done by one such teacher, who has a doctorate from Juliard. I won't say more about him, because it would appear like character assassination.

When I start children, I have no idea what they will do years later. Many will decide after one year that they really don't like playing piano, and they will quit. This will happen no matter what I do. Partially it has to do with parents who allow their kids to start anything they want and quit any time they want. We all know what kind of problems those kids will have later.

(I'm not saying it's always a mistake to play for one year, then quit. I've done that with a few things. But it's done way too much, for reasons that are usually not the best.)

Then I have kids who enjoy playing the piano and like me. They have no huge drive to make music the center part of their lives, but some do play well (in my opinion) and I know for a fact some have continued to play, because a few have been in contact with me recently, from around the country—emails.

Finally, there are the rare suprises. These are the few students who start out with the idea of trying it, perhaps as one of many things they might try, but they make a connection, love it, and are dedicated.

Regardless, I believe that sooner or later that if playing seriously is not *also* playing for pleasure, playing will stop.
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#953707 - 09/17/08 04:52 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2845
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Metaphysics:
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. [/b]
Therefore these establishments must take on 7 year olds with no previous experience right?

I don't wish to offend Meta but it seems like making that decision could cost a child any chance of ever succeeding as a musician. The local piano teacher is for those who only want to play for fun and not take thigs too seriously. We all know that in reality this means they will not practice much and progress will be slow. The chances of getting into that conservatory in two years time would be slim.
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#953708 - 09/17/08 05:10 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
eromlignod Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/04
Posts: 379
Loc: Kansas City
I started at a conservatory at the age of eight (1972!). My instructors were all rigorous; that's what conservatory instruction is about. It's like college, not good-time, feel-good, everyone-gets-a-trophy stuff. Even as a child I appreciated this and knew I was very fortunate to be getting such excellent instruction.

My first teacher was a true conservatory instructor. She was stern, but she was one of few teachers that would take children at that time. After she retired, I got stuck with a series of grad students for a couple of years.

Finally, my dad made a brilliant move. I had several public recitals a year, along with students of other teachers. My father watched and listened very carefully to all the students and made note of which ones sounded the most proficient and polished. He began to notice that all of them studied with the same instructor. My parents immediately looked into getting me signed up with him and eventually did. He was my instructor for the rest of my consevatory years (sixteen total) and proved to be fantastic.

And you think piano's bad...you should see how conservatory ballet instructors treat their girls!

Don
Kansas City

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#953709 - 09/17/08 10:54 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13759
Loc: Iowa City, IA
 Quote:
Originally posted by eromlignod:
It's like college, not good-time, feel-good, everyone-gets-a-trophy stuff.[/b]
Unfortunately, "good-time, feel-good, everyone-gets-a-trophy stuff" applies to most colleges these days as well.

Upon starting a job at a mid-sized university here in the US (that boasts a music school with 400 undergraduate and over 100 graduate majors), a friend of mine encountered this quote:

"You'll be so proud of me - I actually got 3 hours of practice in."

"Every day?"

"Just yesterday. Are you really going to require us to practice every day?"
_________________________
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)

www.pianoped.com
www.youtube.com/user/UIPianoPed

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#953710 - 09/18/08 07:47 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Metaphysics Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/09/08
Posts: 49
Loc: Cohasset, MA
 Quote:
I don't wish to offend Meta but it seems like making that decision could cost a child any chance of ever succeeding as a musician. The local piano teacher is for those who only want to play for fun and not take thigs too seriously. We all know that in reality this means they will not practice much and progress will be slow. The chances of getting into that conservatory in two years time would be slim.
I guess I can't be offended if we are coming from totally different angles. The kid is 7, I don't have any pretense that he is going to Juliard or MIT or Harvard. The conservatory here does accept brand new players. Your point is exactly why I don't send them there. The culture there (teachers AND parents) is that the 7 yr olds going in are going there so they can be trained to be professional pianists.

I live in a Boston burb with a highly educated populace. I suspect that there are multiple high-level piano teachers that can do conservatory level teaching without the cultural issues (as I see them). I hope we found one.

I'm a physicist. I suspect that the majority on the board would cringe at the notion of me taking my son to a strict physics program at 7yrs old and having him "practice" his advanced physics with the intention of turning him into a career physicist. What about all the other career options out there? NO, HE'LL BE A PHYSICIST.

I think it is better to let them experience lots of things at a somewhat high level and then futher that with deeper training if they find they like it.

That said, my son spends lots of time in my lab and office and is enjoying *tinkering* with spare parts I have around. Should I stop this silly experimenting and make him work on something publication worthy? After all, he has to publish if he wants to be a successful physicist. It's absurd for physics and equally absurd for music but more socially acceptable, esp in affluent communities and on piano forums.

Finally, I don't think doing things without a career goal equals everyone gets a ribbon. How about if you don't care whether you get a ribbon and just want to learn to play the piano? If you only knew how little I cared whether my kid gets the trophy, gets into the conservatory, or gets into Berklee, Juliard, MIT or Harvard. My true goal is to make him so well rounded and well adjusted and educated that he can choose whatever he wants to do and wherever he wants to go. So far I see that he is on this path.

Maybe some of you should think about this approach before you try to pigeonhole your 7yr into being a career musician. What if he/she would have been a great mathematician or *gasp*salesperson.

Meta

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#953711 - 09/18/08 08:03 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Metaphysics:
I'm a physicist. I suspect that the majority on the board would cringe at the notion of me taking my son to a strict physics program at 7yrs old and having him "practice" his advanced physics with the intention of turning him into a career physicist. What about all the other career options out there? NO, HE'LL BE A PHYSICIST. [/b]


Several of my private students' parents are engineers. I'll be sure to tell them this analogy.

But back on topic of "preparatory conservatories." If parents do send their children to such a place, isn't it their intention that their children will grow up to be concert pianists? If so, that's their choice! It's like Olympics gymnastics. In some countries (China, for example) the talents are discovered young and rigorous training also starts young.

To follow your physics example--I think I've seen on TV news examples of children (geniuses) working in the labs. They are, of course, very rare.
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#953712 - 09/18/08 08:14 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
Unfortunately, "good-time, feel-good, everyone-gets-a-trophy stuff" applies to most colleges these days as well. [/b]
I'm not sure "everyone gets a trophy" is quite the correct analogy, because certainly not everybody gets a diploma. In fact, lots of people drop out of college, or switch majors, or change schools, etc. etc. etc.

In my experience, going to a large university, students are treated like numbers. We show up to class. We take a test. We get a grade. We never hear from the professor again. We are merely black dots on a scantron.

I remember trying to get professors to write me recommendation letters for grad school. I was lucky that Music Department is small enough so I have regular contact with my professors. I felt bad for my classmates (English Majors, especially), most of whom had different teachers for all of their undergrad courses.

My college experience left me with the impression that most professors just don't care about the students. Teaching is just something they have to do in between doing research and writing books. And if students want to get stuff done, they really have to go out of their way to get it done. Certainly not "everyone gets a trophy." We are left to fend for ourselves from a world of apathy and antipathy.
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#953713 - 09/18/08 09:22 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10349
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
 Quote:
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.
Chris,

I think Kreisler answered this, but I'll take a whack at it again. There are many paths to musical success. The pre-conservatory programs, where they exist, offer one route. But it is NOT the case that private teachers just do "fun" and pre-conservatories are "serious." In most places with sizable populations there are well-known private teachers who have a reputation for grooming Juilliard and Curtis prospects. I know that in my area there are at least two who routinely put students into advanced programs and onto the national stage (programs like From the Top, for instance).


Kreisler,

There are posters here (AJB, for one) who do not remember with any fondness their parents' approach to musical education. Some people forever resent their parents' seeming misuse of them to stroke their own egos (living through the child). I'm heartened that the most common reaction you get is the opposite one, but that may reflect in part the willingness of that sort of person to speak to you about it, while the other sort of person might be more reticent about bashing music (or their parents) in front of an instructor.

This is something I always have to keep in the back of my mind as I push and prod my own kids to try to achieve excellence.


Metaphysics,

I have some problems with your physics analogy. You know quite well that the science track to success in modern schooling follows a particular rhythm (to mix my metaphors!). It does not include intense training for young people. Music follows a different pathway, in part because of the way the brain develops. There are real advantages to serious early study. A student who tinkers until they are thirteen and then decides to 'get serious' is much less likely to succeed at the highest levels than one who gets serious at a much earlier age. This is not, however, an argument for throwing every seven year old into a pre-conservatory run be crotchety old men and women who wield whips over them. ;\)
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#953714 - 09/18/08 09:56 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
I think Kreisler answered this, but I'll take a whack at it again. There are many paths to musical success. The pre-conservatory programs, where they exist, offer one route. But it is NOT the case that private teachers just do "fun" and pre-conservatories are "serious."

Metaphysics,

I have some problems with your physics analogy. You know quite well that the science track to success in modern schooling follows a particular rhythm (to mix my metaphors!). It does not include intense training for young people. Music follows a different pathway, in part because of the way the brain develops. There are real advantages to serious early study. A student who tinkers until they are thirteen and then decides to 'get serious' is much less likely to succeed at the highest levels than one who gets serious at a much earlier age. This is not, however, an argument for throwing every seven year old into a pre-conservatory run be crotchety old men and women who wield whips over them. ;\) [/b]
Usually where prep programs are available are places where classical music is an important part of the local community, and in these communities there are usually many highly qualified private teachers as well. Serious and talented students have choices. This is vastly different from the prep programs in some other countries such as China (for example see Lang Lang's new book--I'm not advertising for it, but its description of music education in China is interesting), where serious and talented kids vie for spots in prep programs and once they get in they study there full-time (unlike the prep programs here in the US many of which are a couple of lessons a week), and if they can't get in these programs from an early age their musical aspiration might as well stop.

As for the difference between music and physics, it's also worth noting that one's understanding of physics cannot be without advanced math, that's why physics is not even a serious subject for study in elementary schools. As for math, well, plenty of parents that I know do drill their kids on math from a very early age. Some other parents think this is unnecessary. Neither choice is necessarily wrong, so we do what we think is appropriate for our kids and we respect different choices made by other people.

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#953715 - 09/18/08 10:47 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
double post.

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#953716 - 09/18/08 10:48 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 540
double post.

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#953717 - 09/18/08 11:47 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2845
Loc: UK.
Okay, I understand it now. It just sounded at first like parents who were serious about their childs education would not choose a 'non-conservatory' teacher.

Meta, just to clarify, I am a regular private piano teacher. I have some parents who tell me that they would like their kids to be serious musicians and others who want their kids to play for fun. I don't treat those kids any differently to begin with.

Playing for fun is largely an adult concept. What most adults would like is to be able to sit down and play the piano for their own enjoyment. They are not interested in becoming professional pianists. That is what they want for their kids too. What some fail to realise is that the ability to just sit and play takes a great deal of practice and dedication. Those who are able to do this could probably have made it as a performer in some way if they had wanted to. Also, kids have fun when they are doing well. They enjoy an activity when they know it is something they are good at and they can gain satisfaction from. Unless they work hard at it there will be very little enjoyment. This is why I don't treat playing for fun any different to playing seriously. The overall outcome will depend on what they do but you can't know this when they come to that first lesson.
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#953718 - 09/18/08 11:57 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2845
Loc: UK.
 Quote:
Originally posted by Metaphysics:
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 [/b]
This is where I think I misunderstood you. I am sure that you encourage your son to practice regularly and work hard at it. The progress he makes will be enjoyable and that interest will grow. Sadly, I know a lot of parents who can't see this. They expect their kids to show great aptitude when they only practice a few minutes every other day. They don't push at all and expect that the child will just love to go and play piano because it is a fun experience. When they struggle they will become bored of it and they are lost. That's a shame because as others have said those first experiences are so important.
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#953719 - 09/18/08 01:15 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11421
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
And something to point out, is that a very valuable lesson for kids to learn is that hard work *can* be fun when the results are worth it! Anyone, no matter why they are taking lessons, can work hard at a piece that they love and really feel a sense of accomplishment when they polish it. But that polish only comes with hard work and determination. Many things that are worthwhile in life require work, and the fun comes when you see yourself getting better and reaching the goal.
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