Changing piano teacher

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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ETP's Mum
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Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 23 Feb 2009, 18:12

I'm new to this, hope this is in the right place.

I have a reliability problem with the piano teacher that teaches my 2 sons age 9 and age 6 and think that we should move on to a new teacher but they have a big attatchment to him and are gutted at the thought.

9 year old passed ABRSM Grade 4 in Nov and has started Grade 5 pieces. 6 year old takes Grade 1 this session.

Teacher has cancelled at very short notice 8 out of the last 13 lessons. Also at a Music Festival last week the 9 year old was picked up for wrong notes and incorrect timing in pieces he has played 500 times before at lessons, (and passed the exam with). The teacher surely should have spotted these errors.

Please let me know what you think - should we bin him and move on or should I confront him with my opinions? (he is undoubtedly a very talented performance musician himself but is this enough?)

Gill the Piano
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by Gill the Piano » 23 Feb 2009, 18:57

I think routine is important for kids. Unless he's cancelling through illness, then you should be accorded the same 24-hour-notice of cancellation that he presumably expects from you. If it's through illness, even then the lessons ought to be made up or refunded, I would have thought. I'm sure a teacher will put you right on this, but as an observer of piano teachers, pupils and parents, I would say that you aren't being unreasonable in expecting a professional service from a professional teacher. As to your boys' undoubted attachment...would you keep going to a mechanic who wasn't fixing your car properly, no matter how much you liked him?
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 23 Feb 2009, 19:02

Thank you Jill the Piano, that makes a lot of sense when you put it into an everyday situation.

markymark
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by markymark » 23 Feb 2009, 19:34

Has the teacher given a reason for cancelling so many of his lessons?
If it was one or two, you may be able to overlook the absence of an explanation but eight within the last thirteen??

Have you tried talking to him to air your concerns? If your children are reluctant to leave, they are obviously getting on with him which is an important point. However, if after several lessons, technical points are being overlooked due to half-heartedness, poor teaching ability (which we were talking about on another thread) or perhaps lack of skill... then you need to be sure that the teacher is really committed and capable of teaching your children.

I'd ask for a chat and explain your concerns and see if this improves things. If not, then do the responsible thing and get your children to a decent teacher.

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 23 Feb 2009, 19:47

Hi Markymark

Generally he cancels for sickness but at really short notice. We live 1/2 an hours drive away and last week he cancelled 5 minutes before the lesson was due to start and we were almost there.

After Grade 4 exam at end of November the next lesson was January 14th which means that my son doing Grade 1 had all the foundation work done by me. (I peaked at failing grade 5 in 1984 then gave up!)

I had the critiques with me from the competition last week and had planned a chat before he cancelled. At the moment it's hard to feel very positive about him.

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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by markymark » 23 Feb 2009, 19:56

ETP's Mum wrote:Generally he cancels for sickness but at really short notice. We live 1/2 an hours drive away and last week he cancelled 5 minutes before the lesson was due to start and we were almost there.
He sounds like someone who either isn't committed or else has spread himself too thinly. It's one of the reasons I didn't continue down the line of private teaching. I wanted to commit to my teaching career (and with any luck, my first deputy headteachership!) so couldn't guarantee being able to give my pupils the dedication to their learning that I would like to do otherwise. This could be your teacher's problem only he hasn't the sense to know which to prioritise! Does he have another job or is private tuition is main line of work?

If he is unable (or unwilling) to meet, you definitely need answers.

Bear in mind he may be having personal problems too so start off inquiring rather than "confront" him.

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 23 Feb 2009, 21:36

Hi

Private tuition is his main line of work which is how it is amazing that he cancels for blocks at a time. He is however working up to doing some concerts in March, so I think a lot of his focus is on that.

It's just all so horribly awkward. We also pay 4 weeks in advance which we did last lesson so I'm not keen to throw that money away.

You are right about not confronting though, he is a fragile thing at the best of times.

markymark
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by markymark » 23 Feb 2009, 23:58

But surely he's refunding you for the lessons you have prepaid?

crispin
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by crispin » 24 Feb 2009, 07:38

It is clear - you need to find a new teacher ... bite the bullet and do it now. There is absolutely no excuse that he did not pick up the wrong notes - wrong fingering and all the other technical issues... this is his job.

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 24 Feb 2009, 14:46

Thanks Crispin, you are so right.

I have been cutting him some slack for some reason (me being soft) but he should have picked the errors up.
My 9 yr old played Cattle Call by Grieg at the Festival last week and he played it better than he ever had (some of the audience were crying!!) yet there were some chords that he played the wrong middle note, yet these must have always been played that way ie wrongly!

I felt so sad for my son when he thought he had nailed a perfect performance only to be critisized majorly by the Adjudicator and get a low grading.

I'm going to spend the rest of this afternoon looking for a new teacher. :)

crispin
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by crispin » 24 Feb 2009, 15:14

This is just the start ... wait until your child has to hold various notes in a chord longer than others ... Unless the teacher can hear these faults and correct them before they become habit - your child will be lost. My child's teacher also insists that the fingering is done correctly and consistently once the fingering has been worked out and noted. Before it sounds as if I have a super strict teacher who spends all her time brow beating various technical faults of my 11 year old... let me say that most of the lesson concerns comments/corrections on the phrasing, nuances and articulation - and making it sound more 'musical' - but I am always amazed at how super quick she is to spot any fault on the technical side.
Personally I feel fortunate that my son has such a teacher.

Good luck with searching for a new teacher

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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by crispin » 24 Feb 2009, 15:14

double post - sorry

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 24 Feb 2009, 20:04

Just an update that I have booked a try out with a new teacher. Thanks for all of the advice, I'll let you know how it goes!

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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 26 Feb 2009, 15:12

The boys are having a try out session with a new teacher tonight.

Does anyone have any tips for the laymum (sorry) on spotting whether the teacher is any good or not?

It's all far too stressful!

We have now (nicely) moved on from the old teacher and got a refund of the prepaid money, so at least that's done!

crispin
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by crispin » 26 Feb 2009, 15:54

Well - you ask a big question here..... and it is not so easy... I think word of mouth is a reasonably guide ... some years ago when we were starting down this path... our piano tuner asked who the teacher was -- when we told him - he said : "You are lucky - she is the best".
Personally now in the fourth year with this teacher - I believe that maybe the piano tuner is right - however this statement by the tuner may have been biased since the piano teacher recommended him :P

Anyway - good luck with this - tell us what you observe tonight.

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 26 Feb 2009, 23:11

The try out went well!

The teacher is happy to take the boys on as pupils which is a good start. It was a bit like an audition that she gave them!

She had mentioned on the phone that she normally taught slightly older kids so my 6 yr old had been briefed to behave as if he was at least 7. What he actually did was spend most of the time trying to stand really straight and tall to look 7!

We have another teacher coming to the house who seems very good (good recommends) so if he likes them too then we'll have to chose.

My 9yr old seems fairly upset to have parted company with the old teacher but the 6yr old has moved on already! Kids!

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 04 Mar 2009, 00:34

Just an update on the teacher search in case you want to know!

We had a chap come to the house tonight, seems very nice although very sensible (if you know what I mean) My smallest Son was not behaving terribly well and kept talking when the teacher was speaking. He played his Grade 1 Gavot to him and he said it was too fast. (We've just been cribbing other peoples performances on Youtube etc) He didn't hear my eldest play at all and then he was off.

I think we were a bit chaotic for him and he arrived as we got home from school which is probably a bad time anyway. If we have him the lessons will be on sat am, so a bit different. The worrying bit is that he can't give us a lesson until 21/3 which leaves 1 lesson for my 6yo before his exam! It seemed a good idea to get rid of the other teacher but maybe we whould have overlapped.

Anyway I'm waffling now, the logistics of teacher 2 are much better and he seems very good although I really liked teacher 1.... Oh dear!

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 23 Mar 2009, 15:22

Just thought it would be tidy to conclude this thread. We have gone with the new teacher who comes to the house. The boys have had one lesson and it went really well.

We got the money back from the old teacher. Hoorah!

6 year old taking his exam this saturday can play all 3 of his pieces really nicely so it's all looking really good!

Thanks for all the replies, they were really helpful. x

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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 29 Mar 2009, 23:04

Hi all!

Well Littleun survived the exam....he was very excited, couldn't sit still in the waiting area. When he came out he said he thought it had gone brilliantly.....oh to have the confidence of a six year old! Only later did he mention that he got a bit lost in Gavot (only for about 10 seconds he thinks!!) and that he was a bit confused in the aurals and the nice examiner let him have another try?!!

When I asked what key the sightreading was in he said "oops, forgot to look, hopefully in C !!!!"

I'll let you know how he goes when the results come out!

It's working out really well with the new teacher btw. Really nice chap, a school teacher so he keeps the boys in line when they get a bit cheeky!

Gill the Piano
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by Gill the Piano » 30 Mar 2009, 17:38

Good news; sounds as though everybody's hapy now! :lol: Let us know how he does!
I play for my own amazement... :piano;

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 16 Apr 2009, 21:54

Just to let you all know that littleun passed his Grade 1 with 110. Don't have the breakdown sheet yet but his short holiday during Gavot when he got lost wasn't as disastrous as it could have been!
(Not as fab as Stuart!- well done!) but he is only 6!!

I was more chuffed than him as in between teachers I had been a very poor substitute teacher! He also assumed confidently that he would pass.

New teacher is great, so all is well! :D

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 17 Apr 2009, 10:51

He's the T in ETP, Tom actually!!

Got the mark sheet this morning, makes funny reading!
He scraped 2 of his pieces although got 24 for Song of Erin which was his favourite.

The examiner gave him 12 for sight reading which was v. kind considering she wrote "It was a shame that none of the notes were correct today" !!

He got full marks for Aurals which considering most of the preparation was done from a CD in the car is amazing!!

Personally Tom was just chuffed to get a certificate!!! :D

ETP's Mum
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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 17 Apr 2009, 12:50

E is Euan! He is 9 and working towards ABRSM Grade 5! He passed Grade 1 in Nov 07, Grade 2 in Feb 08, skipped Grade 3 and passed Grade 4 in Nov 08 when he was 8!

New teacher is getting him to play other music to "broaden" which is what I wanted as he had whizzed through so quickly I think that he's probably missed out on some things! The old teacher was very exam driven which I think can be dangerous and the new music is a mix of contemporary and classical which is nice.

Lucky for them (unlike me) their brains seem to be like sponges and they pick things up really quickly.

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Re: Changing piano teacher

Post by ETP's Mum » 17 Apr 2009, 13:52

P is Phoebe! She's not 2 yet but her brothers have taught her to find all the C's on the piano!!

Me - well I failed Trinity Grade 5 in 1981 then didn't play until the boys started, 25 years later! (defiant teenager!) I have been playing some of Euan's Grade 5 pieces (he's much better than I am!!)and may even have a go at the exam if I get good enough!

Not enough cash for me to have lessons too, but when I know the teacher better I'm going to ask for the odd 10 minutes from their lessons so that I can check I'm on track! I figure that if I don't keep up then I'm not going to be able to help!

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