Today’s post is inspired by an email from a reader, who describes a somewhat common dilemma:
I want to get your advice on having two violin teachers at different times of the week. On Monday and Thursday, I attend lessons for one hour. And on Friday for one half hour (I’ve been the Friday teacher for two and a half years now). I just started the Monday and Thursday classes, which I find more challenging. … It’s like the light has come on in my head all of a sudden with my Monday and Thursday teacher. Perhaps its the newness of the teacher, getting to know her etc…. I just can’t part from my Friday Teacher. I really love her.
This reader nailed it exactly: The light has come on due to the newness of the new teacher. When we start with a new teacher, often all the NEW approaches they have that are different from what you have had before causes your brain and fingers to open up new pathways, and you discover new ways of thinking about things just because a different light is shining on the matter.
The new teacher is obviously good, or you wouldn’t be having this new “renaissance” of thoughts and ideas.
Sometimes, when you switch teachers, there is a hateful little period where the student RESISTS the new ideas of the new teacher, or doesn’t like the approach of the new teacher, so they think the new teacher is a BAD teacher.
Sometimes they are, but it’s usually just that an adjustment has to happen. You were able to skip this adjustment period, because obviously you resonate well with your new teacher.
When I have students, I am usually able to help them to the MAXIMUM amount in the first 2-3 years I am with them. After that, the progression slows way down, and lessons can start to seem pretty mundane. There is still PLENTY I can teach them, but you know, the honeymoon is over.
As a teacher, it is my job to try to keep things as stimulating as possible for the student to avoid burnout and this feeling of boredom. Recitals are a GREAT way to motivate and inspire, as are awesome pieces that are just out of reach, so you have to learn 3rd position or spiccato before you can play the piece. It’s a great motivator.
ADVICE: It’s tough, because you really love your Friday teacher. However, if she finds out somehow that you are taking lessons from someone else, I don’t care who she is, she will be upset. I know I would wonder why on earth you needed other instruction, and why you didn’t tell me, and kept it a secret, and so on (and I am EXTREMELY non-possessive as a teacher)
But it happened to me once…I found out 2 students had started taking lessons on the side with some guy from a university. It really offended me. If they had come to me, and asked me what I knew about this guy, and if he was a good teacher, and if I minded if they took a few lessons from the teacher, it would have been SO MUCH BETTER. I never forbid students from exploring other points of view.
So take it from me: You need to casually mention lessons from other teachers, and ask if your teacher minds if you supplement your lessons with other lessons from the other teacher, just for a different point of view and to accelerate your growth. She may have her feelings hurt, but at least you were up front. You did the right thing, and she may be hurt, offended, upset, or she may wish you well and encourage it.
The other thing to decide is if you can afford to continue with both teachers. If you can’t, then you might consider giving yourself a few months to decide, and then make your choice. Then gently tell whichever teacher you are leaving that you are moving on. Just simply say that you are needing a different viewpoint and approach. And I wouldn’t just drop it like a bombshell. I would mention your desire for other viewpoints, masterclasses, and so on, and then give your teacher a date when it will be your last lesson. This gives you a chance to assure her that she is valuable to you, and that you love her teaching, but just need a fresh perspective.
EVERY teacher knows that students eventually must move on. Sometimes the teacher chooses when it happens, and sometimes it’s the student who chooses when it happens. In this case, it will be you who chooses, or, if you are rolling in dough, you can have your cake and eat it too!
GOOD LUCK. It’s a tough thing, but it’s just the way things work in private lessons!
Are any of the rest of you flirting with another teacher on the side? You can confess in the comments.