Changing teachers - Why and how

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:03 am

Students changing teachers is a part of the process of learning and teaching piano. Sometimes, it is done because of a less-than-optimal personal relationship between teacher and student. Sometimes, the student simply advances beyond the knowledge and abilities of the current teacher and she suggests another teacher for more advanced study. On a few occasions, disputes about repertoire or the pace of lessons may be the reason for a change. There are lots of other causes, some of which we have heard about here.

Since changing teachers occurs with some frequency, I thought it would be valuable for all to discuss the reasons why a teacher change might be in order, when it should be done, and how, in those cases, to do it without recriminations and hurt feelings on either side. It would also be useful to talk a little about what issues do NOT constitute good reasons for changing teachers. If a student perceives himself to be in a poor teaching environment for him, what can he do to improve it without changing teachers? We have discussed several of these issues on the main part of the site on our Learning to Play page, but it should be helpful for students and teachers alike to have a wider discussion of the issue.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby 65-1074818729 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 5:25 am

As a student, I have not yet experienced any of the problems listed in the opening paragraph of Dr. Zeigler. I am with the same teacher I started with seven years ago, and have no interest at this point, of changing. I am following the RCM system, and my teacher is very strong in the classical genre. As a teacher and student, we get along well, and I have a lot of respect for her (musical and teaching) capabilities.

The thought has crossed my mind though, that perhaps I have become too comfortable with my present situation. Although I am making what I consider to be good progress, perhaps if I switched teachers I would do even better. It is sort of like tasting only one flavor of ice cream. (I wonder what the other flovors would taste like). On the other hand, if it is not broke, why fix it.

This is an excellent forum to address this issue, because all of the teachers here were students at one time, and they can look at this subject from both directions.

I will be watching with interest to see what others have to say.

:)
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Sat Aug 27, 2005 9:50 am

As a child we moved around a lot so I had many teachers. In some ways I felt it was not good, especially if I really loved my teacher, but as I look back I did get a variety of teaching methods and ideas. I majored in voice and minored in piano in music school and had a piano teacher who challenged me with classics I enjoyed. I took pop piano at home for a year that helped me improvise. That had been missing in all my training. I make sure my students learn theory and try composing and have time to experiment at the piano.
You might interview and try a new teacher if you find one you like. You can always return. See if there is something you are missing in your playing. Playing a variety of music is good - classics are the basic, but there is much to be learned from other styles too.
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Postby Beckywy » Sat Aug 27, 2005 3:29 pm

My favourite line from parents which signifies to me that they will be continuing with another teacher .."the kids are going to take a break from piano for now..we'll call you when they are ready to come back..."

This usually occurs when I send the notice out about a fee increase for the next year.

I've changed teachers for a number or reasons...the first one was when the teacher told me the piece I was working on was the last piece she learned. A few times, I did change when I couldn't afford the lesson fee. The last switch was to learn to play jazz from a jazz musician.
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Postby Tranquillo » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:59 am

I'm quite wanting to change teachers now. I feel like there is a need to change ... I could be wrong but I had a sincere talk to my piano teacher today (I was quite passive agressive). I told him what my goals are in regards to piano and learning what and what skills I want to aquire.
We get along quite well until recent times ... I'm a bit willing to change but also scared ... maybe it doesnt make sense. I feel like I have formed a 'bond' or a 'closeness' a student to my piano teacher ... I have learnt a lot from him we have gotten along very well so you can say I feel loyal to him. At the same I feel that I must go and explore other teachers. I want a change and I have lost my enthusiasm that I had.
I dont want to quit piano I know I will regret it but I badly want something new. I have had a word with my teacher but he was confused to my explanations.
I'm really confused ... anybody on the board ... help?
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:14 am

Becibu wrote:I'm quite wanting to change teachers now. I feel like there is a need to change ... I could be wrong but I had a sincere talk to my piano teacher today (I was quite passive agressive). I told him what my goals are in regards to piano and learning what and what skills I want to aquire.

I dont want to quit piano I know I will regret it but I badly want something new. I have had a word with my teacher but he was confused to my explanations.
I'm really confused ... anybody on the board ... help?

Don't quit, yet! You'll probably regret that decision later if you do. :(

I'll wait to let some other teachers and students comment, before I add mine. In the interim, let me direct you to my article on Talking With Your Teacher, which has general information on how to carry out a good conversation with your teacher.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:30 pm

Becibu, how would you word your dissatisfaction right now? How have you communicated it to your teacher, and what response or feedback have you been getting? Sometimes dissatisfaction is due to a growth, and sometimes the nature of lessons can change to accomodate that growth if the communication can stay open.

Do you think your voice lessons have contributed to this, since they are of such a different nature?
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Postby Tranquillo » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:53 pm

Don't quit, yet! You'll probably regret that decision later if you do.

I'll wait to let some other teachers and students comment, before I add mine. In the interim, let me direct you to my article on Talking With Your Teacher, which has general information on how to carry out a good conversation with your teacher.


I have no intention of quitting. I was just imagining me quitting lessons last night and I thought that I will feel regretful. I cant imagine me quitting and feeling glad to quit!

Becibu, how would you word your dissatisfaction right now? How have you communicated it to your teacher, and what response or feedback have you been getting? Sometimes dissatisfaction is due to a growth, and sometimes the nature of lessons can change to accomodate that growth if the communication can stay open.

Do you think your voice lessons have contributed to this, since they are of such a different nature?


My dissatisfaction, well ... as I mentioned in my other posts that the Exam board syllabus is very rigid. I have mentioned this to my teacher. At the present moment I am doing grade 5 piano. From my understanding that is deemed as intermediate ... (there are 8 grades). What the board does not teach is: accompanying other instruments, other genrés (outside of Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century). I have not yet learnt how to improvise and fill in. I think as a budding musicain I am missing out on a lot. I dont want to stick to the grading system without venturing into other areas. I want to extend myself.

I did talk about this to my teacher. But I do admit I did sound quite 'passive agressive' ... I was quite angered at many things. We talked to each other and barely spent anytime at the piano. We talked about what I want to get into when I finish school (tertiary studies - music). Then he went back to the books and showed me the pieces. I went back to what I want to do. Then I bluntly blurted out "I've lost my enthusism I want to do x, y, z" He was confused. He still insisted to look into the grade book and asked me if I wanted to do the exam. I agreed and said yes and then continued to say that I don't just want to stick strictly to the syllabus.

I did say it in quite a harsh tone and feel awful right now. Due to having the transition of Junior Highschool to Senior I have so many classes now and I find I am being burnt out. When I look at my schedule every moment I have goes to school work. Its a case of piano burn out and I was feeling angered and I took it out on him. I feel really bad and I have a lesson on Monday ... I don't know what to do.

As for taking up the other instrument voice ... well its something new to me. I do love voice as much as I love piano. I wouldn't say I love either more. At the moment I would say that I love my voice lessons more than my piano lessons. My voice teacher isnt pushing me to do grades or exams. He said it is completly up to me. He has opened it up to other syllbuses of other exam boards and offered to assist my with my senior school music studies. He's offered to help me with performance and persona and allows me to pick out my own repertoire. If any repertoire is beyound my ability or I am unsure of he said I can bring in a recording or we could do bits of it as an excercise.

This is different to my piano teacher. He is picking out my own repertoire. If not he'll present me some options. I walk out of my singing lessons feeling so uplifted ... my singing teacher presents repertoire for me but gives me options. As far as genré my singing teacher is so flexible as to what I like. My singing teacher knows what I like ...

My piano teacher knows I love piano and knows I am interested ... we get along so well together and he lets me pick out what I like. I just think I am not being taught enough as a budding musicain in my piano lessons.




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Postby Tranquillo » Thu Feb 07, 2008 12:10 am

I'll wait to let some other teachers and students comment, before I add mine. In the interim, let me direct you to my article on Talking With Your Teacher, which has general information on how to carry out a good conversation with your teacher.


I read the article it made a lot of sense. I think my teacher is quite conservative. It could be part of the fact that he has been teaching for many years.
I wonder now if it is appropriate to talk about change with him ... he never brings it up ... I doubt he would reccommend it to me.
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Thu Feb 07, 2008 1:00 am

Becibu, I made a couple of notes from what you wrote.

Almost everything in piano seems to come down to syllabus: what pieces you are studying. You are preparing for an exam, and the Board has a say in what you are learning in that respect. It's what I tried to express in another thread as "teaching to repertoire". You also say you want to do tertiary studies: music. What does that mean? Are you aiming for something within an official school program?

If so, both things obliges your teacher to teach you certain types of repertoire and genre. The examination board wants it, the tertiary studies (don't know what that is) might want it, and your teacher has to prepare you for it. He doesn't have a choice if he is preparing you for these things.

So that's one kettle of fish: He has to teach the repertoire that the system wants. But the system is also following time-honoured tradition which probably includes things you need to learn anyway in a certain way. But it does tie both of you up.

Next you say you want to learn to accompany, other genres, and to improvise. Is there room in the syllabus to do these things? Is there time? Can any of these skills harm your progress in other ways? These are things to discuss with your teacher. In any case, in this area you are outside of the Exam. Board's system, or the future studies, and within your own goals. You call this being a well-rounded musician. Maybe you need to find out whether you want to be following the exams - what the advantages and disadvantages are. What does your teacher think? If he wanted to turn you into a well-rounded musician, how would he define it? Would he want to go the examination route? What is the best path that he suggets?

You wrote about your frustration at the increasing academic work load, which is probably cutting into your music time. Your teacher is probably aware of this, since he would know how the school system goes. Tell him openly how you feel about this. Let him guide you. Can you make your practicing more efficient so that you get more out of less time? Is the syllabus getting in the way? Pros and cons again.

I mentioned your vocal studies because they are of a different nature. Here you are pursuing the skills and tools of singing and these are the primary goals. Your repertoire serves the goal of learning how to sing. You learn the technique, and practice it in singing. You do not start with repertoire and a program, and then try to adapt technique to it. Do you see the difference?

This is what I was trying to get at in the other thread about "teaching to repertoire".
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Postby Tranquillo » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:16 pm

Hi sorry for replying late, lifes been crazy!

Almost everything in piano seems to come down to syllabus: what pieces you are studying. You are preparing for an exam, and the Board has a say in what you are learning in that respect. It's what I tried to express in another thread as "teaching to repertoire". You also say you want to do tertiary studies: music. What does that mean? Are you aiming for something within an official school program?


Tertiary refers to education after highschool - in America I believe it is called 'college', we also use 'university' in Australia.

If so, both things obliges your teacher to teach you certain types of repertoire and genre. The examination board wants it, the tertiary studies (don't know what that is) might want it, and your teacher has to prepare you for it. He doesn't have a choice if he is preparing you for these things.


The to get into University or College there is no need to have passed particular grades.

Next you say you want to learn to accompany, other genres, and to improvise. Is there room in the syllabus to do these things? Is there time? Can any of these skills harm your progress in other ways? These are things to discuss with your teacher.

Well yes there are a number of things that I feel as though I am missing out on as a budding musicain. There is much to learn in the musical world and I want to be exposed to the furthest degree possible. There are time constraints no doubt and certainly no room in the syllabus. I believe that no teacher should revolve his/her teaching methods around a syllabus set by a particular board.

You wrote about your frustration at the increasing academic work load, which is probably cutting into your music time. Your teacher is probably aware of this, since he would know how the school system goes. Tell him openly how you feel about this. Let him guide you. Can you make your practicing more efficient so that you get more out of less time? Is the syllabus getting in the way? Pros and cons again.

Yes this is something that insanely makes me go crazy time and again. The school system has changed over the years and I guess being emphathetical in my situation is difficult. There are many pros and cons of the syllabus ... I have told my goals but he doesnt understand what is really involved.

I mentioned your vocal studies because they are of a different nature. Here you are pursuing the skills and tools of singing and these are the primary goals. Your repertoire serves the goal of learning how to sing. You learn the technique, and practice it in singing. You do not start with repertoire and a program, and then try to adapt technique to it. Do you see the difference?


I see what you are saying, and yes you learn the technique first then learn how to apply yourself through the technical aspect.

... To put in in a nutshell there are many things on my mind. Firstly, I feel somewhat tired of my piano studies, I have blamed this on burnout, trying a new instrument, I know my goals , I just havent set short term goals or a focus at the present moment.

As a vocal student I am discovering myself and really enjoying this journey or path of relising what I am able to do, I am being exposed and learning new things along the proccess.

I guess I am not clear in my statements. I'll post when I've thought about it more.
(did the above post make sense?)
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Postby Tranquillo » Thu May 01, 2008 6:55 am

Well, Thought I'd give an update...

I have givern it much time and thought, I looked at my goals and what I feel is missing from piano education as well as what I feel my paths are leading towards. I have evaluated and gathered much insight from varying music/instrumental teachers as well as PEP and the net. I felt for the need to change but wasnt sure so I did call several instructors and I did tell of my goals and my direction in piano. After having lengthy conversations and taking several notes down I sat in at lessons and had a first lesson. From there I picked a teacher that I wanted to change to.

Just had my first lesson with my new teacher yesterday and I am very excited to begin piano lessons fresh and new! I look at the past and can see that my former teacher was a very effective instructor as well as a very thorough and paitent instructor, that taught me well and trained my in areas of technique and repertoire with much detail and precision.

So it would be fair to say that I changed for a good reason ... and the reason of being exposed to different approaches and methods as well as interpretations and gaining different skills, areas of learning. I really enjoyed piano lessons yesterday, I am so exicted for my next one!

I think, I felt the need for change because my goals towards piano and my direction changed. I feel like there was nothing of the fault with my last teacher, he is an excellent instructor but I felt there was a need to move on and learn different things and different musical areas. I could go on about this more but I dont want to make it tedious ... but I thought of sharing the happy note after a bumpy rough piano change stage! :)
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Postby 112-1182392787 » Sun May 04, 2008 7:50 pm

Becibu, you have given this a lot of thought and researched it thoroughly. congratulations on having come to a decision and acting on it. Best wishes for your journey with this new teacher. :)
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