Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you?

Posted by: Nannerl Mozart

Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 08:31 AM

I feel like I've grown out of my current singing teacher - like she ran out of things to teach... I mean it in the sense that, whenever something technical arises, I know how she's going to fix it. She is a very well qualified person with lots of teaching experience, a good reputation and lots of degrees and diplomas and certificates next to his name but I'm half way through my music degree and I know that it doesn't mean everything to have a degree next your name, even if it seems like a real relevant one.

I wonder if it's right for me to tell her I feel like I've grown out of her. When she picks up on a technical issue, I know how she thinks - I know what she is going to say next, I know how she is going to suggest to fix it. I have my other reasons for leaving but the primary reason is I feel like I've grown out of her. I think she'd disagree... so maybe I should talk to her, it's just in my personal experience, whenever I talk to teachers about leaving, I try to do it as politely as possible but it never goes down well.

I can't help but think I'd like to hear why students leave me. It's happened before and I never really feel hurt, sometimes I feel mystified but I always feel that my interest is in the best interest of the student - not me, so if the student wants to leave to learn from another teacher, I would gladly help him/her find a good one.

If your student wanted to change teachers... would you like to know about it?
Posted by: Minniemay

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 08:46 AM

Here's a bit of perspective: if you know how she's going to fix it, then why are you doing it? Why not fix it yourself? Perhaps if she doesn't have to keep reminding you of things you should already know and apply, you can move forward.
Posted by: Nannerl Mozart

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 09:49 AM

Minnemay, I stopped seeing her weekly and started booking lessons weeks and months before deadlines. I'd polish repertoire on my own come to see her and then find that she doesn't have much to add... she says it's great and she doesn't say anything more
Posted by: TimR

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 10:06 AM

I would say no.

Granted, to improve your teaching performance you need some feedback.

But asking a departing student for explanations is unlikely to give you useful information, and is likely to cause hurt feelings.

Instead you need a coach, like in that medical article I posted a while back.

Maybe it's worth posting again:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/10/03/111003fa_fact_gawande
Posted by: catpiano

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 10:52 AM

Personally, I wouldn't want my students to tell me. I understand that I'm not going to be the perfect fit for every single student and students do change teachers for different reasons. Usually if it's not a good fit I can feel it just as much as the student. I'm sensitive and would be offended if a student told me why he/she was switching. I would rather they just say that they decided not to continue, or to take a break, or whatever. Then, it's none of my business if they decide to go on to another teacher.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 02:17 PM

Honesty is the best policy.

Whatever you choose to do, don't lie. It will just make everything worse. And awkward.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 04:46 PM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Honesty is the best policy.

Whatever you choose to do, don't lie. It will just make everything worse. And awkward.


I agree.

But neither are you obligated to give a reason.

The corollary is that if you are the teacher, think twice about asking. You may be putting someone in a very awkward position.
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 05:48 PM

I think singing lessons, unlike piano lessons, become repetitious very soon. Once you've improved your breathing, pitch and diction (pure vowels, clean consonants), you've pretty much got it. I studied singing for several years, but at least twenty minutes out of fifty were complete repetition in the form of warmups. They served a purpose. Indeed, I learned to really listen to my sound and alter small things such as the shape of my mouth. But pedagogically speaking, it's boring for student and teacher. I think inasmuch as you've heard it all from your teacher, she's probably dying of boredom herself. Thank her and continue to practice on your own.
Posted by: Nannerl Mozart

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/11/13 09:46 PM

Candy woman I don't know if I agree. I find that with singing it's like with piano, most of my teachers got me to learn a set of scales and had me on a diet of something technical - Hanon, Czerny, Heller, etc... scales and arppegios. Some teachers bother to comment on what is wrong with the way I am singing and will break it down to the position of the tongue, jaw, mouth or pick on my posture or breathing or tone ...

I just feel like it's time for a change, but I wonder if a re-evaluation would be better. I mean there are lots of other reasons why I don't really feel like I'm learning much - she doesn't remember what she taught last week, she has the tendency to forget what repertoire I'm working on and I never ever feel like there is a sense of forward progression - she forgets what repertoire I'm working on, forgets the types of concepts she teaches...

Then again , I wonder if I am expecting too much from her - as a novice teacher I read articles, books, journals on music, learning and studio teaching, I ask teachers more experienced and qualified than me, I plan lessons and I take notes. I know that not all teachers plan lessons or take notes but the ones that don't plan normally can remember what was taught last week - or they have an effective system where they can remember...
Posted by: pianoeagle

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/12/13 09:57 AM

I wouldn't. It's better to break things off when you are completely ready (you already have another teacher lined up).
Posted by: Candywoman

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/12/13 01:55 PM

In every field there are people who are at the top of their profession, people who are average, and people who are below average. I don't know you or your lessons, but I think you need to find somebody at the top of their profession if you feel you still need instruction. It's better to have one lesson with them than four with the other types.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/12/13 04:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
I feel like I've grown out of my current singing teacher - like she ran out of things to teach... I mean it in the sense that, whenever something technical arises, I know how she's going to fix it. She is a very well qualified person with lots of teaching experience, a good reputation and lots of degrees and diplomas and certificates next to his name but I'm half way through my music degree and I know that it doesn't mean everything to have a degree next your name, even if it seems like a real relevant one.

I wonder if it's right for me to tell her I feel like I've grown out of her. When she picks up on a technical issue, I know how she thinks - I know what she is going to say next, I know how she is going to suggest to fix it. I have my other reasons for leaving but the primary reason is I feel like I've grown out of her. I think she'd disagree... so maybe I should talk to her, it's just in my personal experience, whenever I talk to teachers about leaving, I try to do it as politely as possible but it never goes down well.

I can't help but think I'd like to hear why students leave me. It's happened before and I never really feel hurt, sometimes I feel mystified but I always feel that my interest is in the best interest of the student - not me, so if the student wants to leave to learn from another teacher, I would gladly help him/her find a good one.

If your student wanted to change teachers... would you like to know about it?



Coming from another student's perspective, I definitely think you should leave. Whenever I have felt my lessons are no longer productive like they were, it's time to move on. A good teacher will understand that they can't teach you everything and should be happy for your progress. The reality is, however, that isn't always the case, and not everyone is capable of being professional and encouraging in this scenario.

You probably have a good idea of what your teacher's response would be. However, what is the alternative of not telling them? Not leaving, or just up and disappearing?

Now from a teacher's perspective, I often can tell when a student has lost interest or has stopped progressing. Often I will recommend their next step if it is the latter, but sometimes I wait for them to arrive at that conclusion. Sometimes telling a student it's ready for them to move on hurts their feelings and they read into it that you don't want to teach them anymore. So it's better if the student arrives at this conclusion on their own.

Either way, I would be happy for the student and would try to help them decide who would be a good next step for them. All teacher/student relationships end or become outgrown at some point, and I think this is a good thing as it means the student has progressed.
Posted by: Nannerl Mozart

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/13/13 06:48 AM

From my perspective as a novice teacher - if a student looked at changing teachers I would support it, like you said Morodiene. If I felt like they should look for another teacher, then I would be frank yet tactful about it - I would say something like "(insert name) you are very talented and you've been my student for x amount of years, I have watched you grow and I'm so pleased with all the progress you are making, I don't think I can teach you any further though, it's probably time that we started to look for another teacher that would make you grow and play to the next level. I'm here if you need me, if you want to talk about your teacher hunt or if you have any questions."

I was thinking of just telling my current teacher I'm going to take a break or just not calling him back when the semester starts again. I don't know. The new teacher that I'm trialing lessons with said to me that she was offended when one of her students left her and didn't tell her.

I wonder if I should even leave her, maybe a chat with her and a re-evaluation of what my goals are would be enough for him to change the way she's doing something or maybe not ...
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Changing teachers - would you want your student to tell you? - 01/13/13 08:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Nannerl Mozart
From my perspective as a novice teacher - if a student looked at changing teachers I would support it, like you said Morodiene. If I felt like they should look for another teacher, then I would be frank yet tactful about it - I would say something like "(insert name) you are very talented and you've been my student for x amount of years, I have watched you grow and I'm so pleased with all the progress you are making, I don't think I can teach you any further though, it's probably time that we started to look for another teacher that would make you grow and play to the next level. I'm here if you need me, if you want to talk about your teacher hunt or if you have any questions."

I was thinking of just telling my current teacher I'm going to take a break or just not calling him back when the semester starts again. I don't know. The new teacher that I'm trialing lessons with said to me that she was offended when one of her students left her and didn't tell her.

I wonder if I should even leave him, maybe a chat with him and a re-evaluation of what my goals are would be enough for him to change the way he's doing something or maybe not ...


Students become very attached to their teachers and this is sometimes a very hard thing to do. But at some point, you have to move on - you're not paying them to be your friend, and I'm sure they would love to stay in touch with you. You are not getting anything from the lessons anymore, and so chatting about it I don't think will help. It's not an issue of what he's doing, it's an issue of having learned all you can from him.

If I may also add, voice is particularly special in that one needs to eventually study with the same voice type as their own. You see that time and again with great opera singers, that they study with one person who gives them the basics, but for serious study, they move on to their same voice type (spinto, coloratura, whatever). This is really important, because the ability to mimic what the teacher does makes things go much smoother than say, a man who has to describe what it would feel like having never felt that sound himself. And men and women sing differently, so this is really crucial.

I had moved to FL partially to study voice with my teacher more intensely, so I was taking lessons 2-3 times per week and sitting in on others lessons whenever I could. But this summer it became very clear that I had progressed as far as I could with him, and even there were some things he was telling me to do that I knew wasn't right. This was simply because men sing differently and so when I sang the way I thought it should be, he said that was correct, but whenever he would try to direct me to that sound, it would mess me up because his directions were wrong.

I ended up leaving him shortly after realizing that, but there were some other issues. He was abusive and manipulative and when I had told him to back off he didn't, so lessons just ended with him. Obviously, this is not the same scenario you have, and the parting can be amicable and positive for both.

I really like how you are phrasing things here:
Quote:

"you are very talented and you've been my student for x amount of years, I have watched you grow and I'm so pleased with all the progress you are making, I don't think I can teach you any further though, it's probably time that we started to look for another teacher that would make you grow and play to the next level. I'm here if you need me, if you want to talk about your teacher hunt or if you have any questions."


Why not change it around from the student's perspective? Something like: "I've been studying with you for x years, and have been really happy with how my voice has grown over the years. I feel, however, that I'm ready to move on and get another teacher's perspective. I want you to know that I will always treasure our time together and would like to stay in touch in the future." Or something to that effect, and perhaps ask them if they have any suggestions on what your next step might be. They may recommend coaching or doing Young Artist programs, which is often the next step once your technique is solid.