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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: 7355
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
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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#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: 2900
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: 13780
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: 4785
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: 2900
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.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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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: 13780
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 Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
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.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#953712 - 09/18/08 08:14 AM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5462
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.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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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: 10356
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: 542
 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: 542
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: 542
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: 2900
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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Pianist and piano teacher.

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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: 2900
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.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#953719 - 09/18/08 01:15 PM Re: Questions from a parent -- Conservatory related
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11800
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.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
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