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Thread: What have you learned from each of your teachers?

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    Default What have you learned from each of your teachers?

    The value of teachers gets mentioned a lot around here these days. Why not share?

    I'm going to try to do this in a couple of sentences per teacher so it doesn't turn into a long essay. Hopefully the sentences give some sense of the vastness of what I learned from each.
    For similar reasons I'm sticking to piano teachers although I did have excellent teachers on other instruments, great orchestra conductors, choir directors etc. You of course can share the wisdom of whatever teachers you want.

    Teacher #1 (Suzuki method), age 7-age 11: There is a whole world full of music, it is all awesome, and if I practice I will be able to make more and more music every day. In addition to all the normal fundamentals of piano playing, Suzuki training taught me to internalize music fully before performing it; even now that I'm performing pieces I learned from a score, there's still a little 7-year-old voice warmly singing along on the inside.

    Teacher #2, age 11-age 12: Taught me to start listening to tone color and sound quality and to be truly comfortable at the extremes of a piano's dynamic range.

    Teacher #3, age 12-age 15: This was my first truly detail-oriented teacher, who got me thinking about every note as an important musical moment. Some of my scores from this period have his handwriting on almost every single note. He was first to warn me about a possible problem with right hand tension and tendon overwork but did not have any suggestions other than saying "Relax" every so often.

    Teacher #4, age 16-age 18: This teacher, with a small studio of incredibly dedicated advanced adolescent girls, was genius at tying together music with literary and philosophical references and emotional experiences. She also exposed me to a world of opportunities beyond her own studio. (She too noticed tension/overwork in the right hand, sometimes both hands, which was becoming quite painful and was always after me to relax.)

    Teacher #5, age 18-age 20: Upon arrival I was so injured as to be basically unable to play. He took me off repertoire for a semester and had me do only exercises of his own design in order to learn a completely different physical technique. He is a wonderful pianist and gifted artist, but the one really big gift he gave me was the ability to play again, at all. It is entirely because of him that I was able to move on to work as a musician, instead of being forced to stop piano at age 18.

    (I do want to say that I do not blame teachers 1-4 for not giving me this technique from the beginning. I think physical technique was just not their focus, so they didn't have nearly as much to say about that as they did about many other valuable subjects.)

    Teacher #6, age 33-present: Detail work again, but on steroids this time. I started lessons again because although I was having no trouble finding work, I was aware that I had reached a point where I wasn't able to improve any further on my own. I contacted the best local pianist I knew of and asked very nicely if she could make a spot for me. She is expensive (especially on a working musician's budget.) I gladly pay. I am learning so much from my current teacher and it's all so fresh in my mind that I am having trouble making a summary. Two of the most important things: strategically planning physical movement to create exactly the desired musical sound, and never ever to be satisfied with anything but the best.
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    What an interesting post, Heather!
    I cannot give such a glowing report on my violin teachers.

    Beginning, ages 9-11: (York Education Committee Scheme where you bought a violin for £5 & got free lessons in school in a small group). We had a Hungarian refugee (?from the 1956 rising) and he was lovely, but he couldn't keep order. A naughty boy called Raymond used to imitate police siren noises on his e-string & eventually seduced the normally law-abiding me to join him. My teacher taught us the basics & kept me enthusiastic, but I don't remember anything special.

    Grammar school, ages 11-14: first teacher was appalled & took us back to the start of the text book. He was right but I resented it. He also taught one of my fellow-pupils privately & would praise her, ask her questions etc specially. He expected us to know music theory but never taught it. The second teacher was a very nice lady that you could relax with & that's all.

    Brief try at folk fiddle, age 30: I had a great teacher for six months or a year, but I only wanted to learn folk tunes & he was classically trained. He didn't know about folk rhythms, so his main value was in encouraging me. Then I got a full time teaching job & moved...

    Teacher no. 5, for 3 months, aged 60: it was good for me to get a teacher again, but she obviously hated teaching & couldn't hack the 'equal' relationship that you get with adult learners. She'd waste ten mins of the half-hour lesson chatting - get me to play my pieces, preceded by usually the same scale every week - concentrate on two nit-picking bars - and that was it. When I said I wanted to do grade 3, she refused to let me play anything else for her but the exam pieces. Finally, I gave up on her...

    Teacher no. 6 - for a year now. He is so gifted & really inspires me, but not everything in the garden is lovely. I don't think he has much empathy on what life is like at my lowly level. He is not systematic - finds system anathema - and that does not suit my personal learning system. But I could never expect to find a teacher of comparable calibre, and I have come on by leaps and bounds.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Sr. Moderator Taggart's Avatar
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    Great idea.

    I've popped in and out of piano so it's very bitty.

    Teacher 1 (Age 8 - 10) Basic introduction to piano and theory. No exams just simple piano work. Got me started but I soon dropped out.

    Teacher 2 (Age 30 -33) Decided to come back to piano and take exams. Got a very old fashioned teacher who was mostly technique. Did me the world of good. Laid some solid foundations.

    Teacher 3 (Age 61 to date) Having retired, decide to try the piano again. Got a teacher who initially simply let me play pieces. Lots of very helpful tips though. Now that she's got my measure, I'm getting a lot of technical and expression help, some of which is showing up in these forums / fora (whatever!).
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    Ingenue, the siren thing is hilarious

    In "A Short Story" by Lichner (Suzuki piano book 2) there is a pattern of four scales in the left hand, where the first one is low, the second is a fourth higher, then a fifth higher, then a fourth higher, with a crescendo over the course of the four scales. I have students do their "motorcycle impression" while playing the scales. They seem to enjoy it, but I'm sure it would be massively more fun for them if it had NOT been the teacher's idea!

    Actually, now that I think of it, I got the motorcycle idea from a bassist friend of mine in high school. HE would make motorcycle noises whenever bored in rehearsal...

    Anyway, I'm very glad for you that you jettisoned teacher #5 and moved on to someone better. I sometimes feel my current teacher lacks empathy for students who don't have her level of training and technical facility, but, I think that there is quite a lot of benefit in not having my hand held too much. The teacher is not there to be our friend, really, s/he is there to inspire and assist us in getting better.
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    I agree about the teacher not being 'our friend'. That might even be part of the problem - that because of certain circumstances, we have *become* friends.
    At the same time, a retired teacher with decades of experience in another field cannot help but look at the pedagogy of a much younger teacher who has a totally different educational philosophy. My Fiddle Guru is an extraordinary young man with a burgeoning career as a performer - but I still think he needs to 'break it down' for someone who sheerly does not know or remember the basic techniques.
    That is what I would have done, when teaching something technical about poetry to a new sixth-former, say!

    Not to say that it isn't absolutely thrilling, being his pupil. He is a dynamic and rather wayward individual!

    Heather, you teach piano yourself, don't you? How do you find 'being taught' feeds into 'being a teacher'? This is a very interesting thread for me, btw, and thank you so much for starting it.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Senior Member hreichgott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingenue View Post
    How do you find 'being taught' feeds into 'being a teacher'?
    I am always using all sorts of things from all my teachers past and present -- whatever occurs to me that might possibly be helpful. Frequently I find myself suggesting something to a student that was similar to what my teacher suggested to me the same week
    Heather W. Reichgott, piano
    http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com

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    Interesting question! I had one piano teacher from 8 to 16. She was the best teacher I ever had, in any subject. I still think fondly of her often. I lacked drive and consistency with practicing when I was growing up, and one thing she excelled at was this--she could tell when I was ready to quit, and would work at my pace to make sure I didn't get bogged down. She saw my potential, and because she wanted music to be a lifelong pursuit for me and not just something I dropped at 13 years old, she would assign easier pieces for a few weeks, or ease up on the rigorous theory homework, etc, until I was passionate about music again. I am so grateful for her example and for the gentle way she taught me.

    My piano teacher after her was a college professor who was consumed with details and minutia and rarely focused on the emotion or "big picture" in the pieces I was practicing. She was trying to be thorough, but working with her caused me to almost change my major twice in college! Music was pretty much the only thing I ever wanted to do, but her instruction grated on my nerves so badly that I considered switching from my music major to liberal arts and other majors.

    I only describe my negative experience with this second teacher to emphasize the fact that it is definitely possible to focus on details way too much. You need to have a balance when you're teaching your students--get them emotionally involved in a piece, make it fun for them, and also focus on the detail-oriented side of things. There has to be give and take, and you have to be perceptive toward your students. When you can tell from their demeanor that you're losing them, you have to be willing to change your approach in order to keep them interested. Now that I am a piano teacher, I always try to walk the line between "following the rules" regarding teaching my kids the important concepts and "switching it up" so that they stay interested. Discipline is extremely important in music lessons, but your students won't be motivated to have that discipline if you make it dry and boring for them. This is what I learned from the primary piano teachers I had.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I began my interest in piano at age 5. We had a piano at home and after returning home from a piano concert, I sat at that very piano for the first time and plunked out several notes that I had heard in the program. I quickly figured out where middle C was and also that the octave above and below sounded alike (in tune with each other).

    Teacher #1 (age 6-12) Piano
    She would play the piece for me at the lesson to illustrate how it was to go. The following week I would return to play it exactly as she had. She was quite amazed at my ability to learn something in a short amount of time. This went on for months when she finally realized that I was learning to play by ear and not learning the notes. Soon after that she would give me a new piece to learn and not play it anymore - I had to learn it from scratch.

    Teacher #2 (age 12-18) Organ
    One of the first things one learns about playing the organ is the use of both feet on their own keyboard - a pedalboard of 32 notes (US) or 30 notes (Europe) in some cases. This is very challenging as one must balance themselves on the bench so as to not fall forward or backwards. The tendency is to look at the feet while finding all the right notes. Charles would drape a towel between the lowest keyboard and my lap which forced me to 'feel for each note' without looking. To this day, I don't look down at my feet when playing. It was a valuable lesson learned.

    Teacher #3 (age 24-26) Organ at University
    I was able to refine my technique to an even greater extent at this level. There was a group that called ourselves "The Organizers" and would frequently play public concerts, which gave us terrific exposure in a performance mode.

    I no longer take lessons as I possess the ability to know if I nailed it or flubbed it, and can correct mistakes in technique and/or fingering/pedaling. I practice almost daily on the piano at home, and at the church once a week (32 mile round trip) which is the key to being a successful organist. Practice, practice, practice, then practice some more.

    At my senior age, the fingers do not work as fast as they did - so I have to work much harder at it when preparing for a concert. I am in my 53rd year as a professional church organist ... that's playing in a church, every weekend, for the past 53 years with about 3 weeks off each year for vacations or travel. It's a terrific commitment, one that I made when I was 13 years of age and stuck to it. The kids nowadays won't commit to anything close to that as there are too many distractions (internet, mobile phones, electronic games, etc). I have no regrets about my decision back then and would do the same all over again.

    My present task is to urge younger people to learn my craft - at present there is nobody around who will take my church position when/if I ever retire - the organ will go silent - such a pitty.

    Kh ♫

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    Senior Member Varick's Avatar
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    Great thread!

    #1. (Ages 7-8) Was the organist at my mother's church. Taught me the basics - some scales, how to read notes, etc. Don't remember much, but my mother liked her a lot. She and her husband moved out of State which is why those lessons stopped.

    #2. (Ages 8-10) This guy was a comedian. 15 minutes of the lesson was fun and jokes, and then the other 15 minutes was learning something. For some reason, I think I remember the Thompson red books. He kept it mostly classical, but I didn't really advance with him, because of too much tom foolery.

    #3. (Ages 10-11) This guy was weird and I always got a "strange/not-quite-right" vibe from this guy. He did mostly pop music with me and only a little classical (mostly Billy Joel, Elton John, some ELP). After I would play something well, he would pat and rub the top of my head in an uncomfortable way. Well, turns out a few years later, we found out that he had molested a few young boys he taught. Jeez, I thought the top of the head felt odd. I probably would have decked him across the face if he touched me anywhere else. God only knows what my father would have done to him. It wouldn't have been pretty.

    #4 (Ages 11 - 22) Dr. Lawrence Ferrara was my last and best teacher I ever had. We are still in close touch and are good friends. He was not only a piano teacher but a teacher about a great many things in life. He threw out the Thompson books (he never like them) and started me with Couperin books, Czerny school of velocity, exercises up the wazoo, heavy on technique (from the Rudolph Serkin school/style), and always had a way to relate to me and motivate me. He pushed my talent and always knew when to lighten up and when to push hard to break through to the next level.

    I can not express the profound respect I have for this man. He was the Chair of the doctoral music program for NYU and is now one of the foremost musicologists/music experts on many of the high profile musical lawsuits in the world. He wrote the book, "Philosophy and the Analysis of Music." It was (not sure if it still is) used in many masters and doctoral music programs around the world.

    I still get together with him about once a year with two of his other top students (also friends of mine) for dinner to catch up on each other's lives. I am forever grateful to have had such a wonderful teacher and still be close friends with him to this day. Perhaps one day when I move to a house big enough for my Grand Piano to be moved back in, I will get my chops back and he can tutor me once more in this most wonderful of arts.

    V
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Default True Purpose of Music Theory, Sight Reading and Bad Music.

    When I read the above I have no idea what I could add.

    There are a few thing I could add that I have mentioned in other threads.

    Dr. Luce-sophomore college. Dr. Luce taught me the true purpose of studying music theory and history. These are really tools that help your do a better job of performing and interpreting music.

    Mr. Gariglio-junior year college. He taught that as a musician we have an obligation to do the best job of performing even if we think the music we are playing has no redeeming value what so ever. There is always at least someone in the audience that likes it and we owe it to them to do a good job. He was the one who told me the Charlie Parker story: Performers who make music sound better than it is

    The 75th Army Band. I learned two big lessons while playing in the Army.

    One. I had no idea what really bad music was until I had to play it in the Army: The Most Boring Pieces of Classical Music. When you study music the teachers only teach you great music. This is why I have so little sympathy for some of the complaining I read here.

    Two. The importance of sight reading. Many times we would have to perform two or three concerts a week and have only one or two rehearsals to put it together.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    Oh, great thread!
    Age 4-9: basic technique, the importance of practicing, pretty strict - I think she made me cry a few times, but that was probably because I didn't practice too much that week. I did like her and she really got me to understand the importance of practicing and discipline.

    Age 9-10: my elementary school music teacher. She didn't solely teach piano so I honestly didn't learn much from her. She let me pick whatever pieces I wanted to play. I liked her handwriting, though?

    Age 10-11: this teacher was Korean and had a little niece that would eat red chili paste right from the box. She also let me pick whatever I wanted to play but she made me do scales and lots of theory. I learned Rondo alla Turca with her but I don't think I played it very well. She had awful handwriting.

    Age 11-14: I loved her. She used the Royal Conservatory series and I did those tests every year so the music selection was admittedly quite limited, but I did play a variety of music under her and spent a lot of time learning theory and scales. She wasn't very strict at all and wasted time during our lessons sometimes just talking to my mom, but she always gave me hour long lessons when we only paid for 45 minutes. Under her, I began really loving piano and what I was playing and she was always emphasizing the importance of tone and not banging on the keys. Around the age of 13 or 14 I began listening to classical music outside of what I played. I distinctly remember starting the 13th invention - we looked up a recording of Gould's and she started complaining that it was too fast and doubting that it was actually him. Then she moved to Canada, and I was quite distraught.

    Age 14-16 (now): another Korean teacher! She's the opposite of the teacher previous - she has very, very many students and doesn't waste time at all during lessons. With my current teacher, I truly began to push at my technical and interpretational limits and I surprised myself with what I could play. She lets me play pieces that I love for fun but at the same time knows which pieces are great for me and what I enjoy. Though my love for piano began with my previous teacher, with my current teacher I really began to feel the music. She's less technique oriented and I believe my previous teacher actually disliked her and hoped I would go to another teacher, but here I am. I'm glad that I'm able to play all these pieces that I love and truly challenge myself.
    Last edited by jimeonji; Sep-29-2014 at 01:18.

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