Teacher disagreement - 2 weeks before my exam!

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Postby 110-1079111554 » Fri Mar 19, 2004 4:32 am

I have to get this off my chest. I have been attending lessons with my teacher for approx 2 years, and being an advanced student to begin with I have been able to pass grades 5,6,7, & 8 in subsequent sittings ie, over 4 terms.
I am very lucky in that I own a Hagspeil Grand piano which plays like a Steinway. The touch on this piano is quite light and it enables me to play with subtlety and expression, and I have been lucky that the piano in the examination hall has a similar response. My teacher however has a small baby grand which is very heavy and very loud, and I have massive difficulties achieving any reasonable response. I am sure that if I played this piano every day, or indeed if I had been brought up on an upright, then I would not have so much of a problem.
I am practicing for my first LCM Diploma, and I think that my preparations are going very well. However last night I was tired, suffering from a cold, and I simply could not get my teachers piano to do what I wanted. I spent the entire lesson mechanically adjusting to the touch of the piano, and I simply played quite badly. My teacher became quite frustrated at my lack of expression and subtletly, and I insisted that I simply could not achieve what he was looking for on his piano.
He knows that I can play very well on the examination room piano, but he still maintained the pressure on me to change how I was playing. We began to argue a little, and I am sure that I was beginning to sound like a spoilt teenager. I left the lesson very sad and dejected, and I was ready to throw it all to the wind. My teacher and I have parted company from now on, and I will do my diploma without him. Any comments.
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Postby Mins Music » Fri Mar 19, 2004 4:49 am

That's a sad outcome for you nic. I understand the problem. My piano has a very 'stiff' action - it's heavier than any I have played elsewhere. I'm used to it and love it now and can elicit remarkable responses. However, some of my students have the same battle as you. They thump a little harder which of course ruins any subtlelty. However, as a teacher I am aware of this. I allow a generous adjustment period - either playing scales or other technical exercises before I hone in on their expression.
It's a very good idea to spend as much time as you can on different pianos. If you're able, go to a music store and play a selection of pianos - spend at least half an hour on each before you move to another one. An adjustment will be necessary, but like everything, with practise it becomes easier and quicker!
Nic, don't do your diploma without a teacher. Especially if you are an advanced learner, you'll want to keep that interaction and feeback with you. If you don't want to go back to your 'frustrated' teacher, do find another one. You may feel a little better in a couple of days about this. And always remember, teachers have their bad days too. Perhaps you'll be able to reconcile with some earnest communication.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Fri Mar 19, 2004 7:47 am

Thank you Mins Music for your feedback.
My exam is only 2 weeks away, and I feel very well prepared. I am reluctant to return to my teacher as I need to feel confidant. Another lesson like yesterday and I will lose this confidence all together. There is very little left for my teacher to do, other than give me encouragement - and I simply do not feel that this will be forthcoming. In truth he is not a specialist piano teacher - he teaches all strings, woodwind, brass, piano & guitar. He is a bit of an exam machine, but a reasonable player in all of his instruments. I am grateful for the help he has given me so far, but I think I have just outgrown him. I need a teacher who will let me flow naturally - I have some degree of style and flair - and this needs to be both controlled and also allowed to breath.
I will continue for the next 2 weeks on my own, and I will let you know how I get on with my exam in due course.
As to finding another teacher for the future, I too am also teaching (somewhat successfully) a number of beginners and intermediates - so my next project will be a teaching diploma, of which I am quite happy to study alone as it is mostly technical work & theory etc. I will however have a good think about what you have written and I am very grateful for the help. Many Thanks.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Mar 19, 2004 12:28 pm

Dear nic88:

One of the great injustices in the world is that there are people in positions of authority, often with the most impressive credentials, who are unqualified, incompetent or even destructive. We all know this is true, not only in teaching but in all areas--business, work supervision, scholarly endeavors, parenting, even religion and government (some of the worst!). My reaction to your situation is that you did absolutely the right thing; it's time to find a better teacher even if it means delaying your degree. That may not be practical, but you were right to recognize a situation that was dragging you down instead of helping. I hope you can find a solution that won't foul things up, and that your former mentor won't try to spread poison to other faculty. If you think you can finish on your own, you'd better check with your department head to be sure it's OK--I don't think it is.

Dr. Bill.
Technique is 90 per cent from the neck up.
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Postby Mins Music » Fri Mar 19, 2004 5:48 pm

If it works a similar way to Australia, then your teacher's name will be associated with your exam anyway. You won't be able to change that now. He will be credited with your result. In Australia, quitting lessons with the teacher only 2 weeks to go would be no problem at all. Of course you should be ready by now anyway! However, the result would still be directed to the teacher who's name is on the original application.

In Australia, you may do every grade including your licentiate diplima (performance) without a teacher. However they recommend STRONGLY that you be advised by a teacher to undertake any teaching diploma. I would recommend this too Nic. Again, it's hard to give accurate advice when we live in separate countries, but the teaching diploma over here (through the Australian Music Examination Board) is not based on technical work and theory. You must prove you already know that. In Australia, it is also a requirement that you do have your own students already. In fact they suggest you teach for a couple of years before you undertake the diploma. (Seems strange, but I get their idea).

No doubt it is allowable to undertake your teaching degree without supervision, but in my experience this would be unwise. Having said that, what Dr Bill has said is also VERY true (which I have also found in my experience) SHOP AROUND! Take time doing this. The benefits will be worth it.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Ursie » Sat Mar 20, 2004 1:42 pm

LCM Diploma - am I right in thinking you must be in the UK? If you are and you are a private student (not attending a full time course at music college/uni) can you not contact your local (or even not so local if needs be) college/uni and see if they would recommend a teacher to you? I appreciate that as you are so close to your exam you may only be needing someone's ear but if that 'someone' is already an excellent performer then it could be very worth your while - go the extra mile if you have too! Best wishes for you exam :)

ps just out of interest - why did you choose LCM and not ABRSM?
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Sat Mar 20, 2004 6:17 pm

Ursie, you are correct I am in the UK, and I am a private student.
I am ready for my exam, but not perfect, and I know what I must do to get through this exam.
I will do this without my teacher - I just need more practice and I need to believe in myself. My teacher very nearly took all of my self confidence away - and I know that returning to him will make the issue even worse. Right or wrong, pass or fail, I am taking this exam alone.
If I pass I will seek out a new teacher to get me through the higher diplomas.
The reason for the LCM as opposed to other exam bodies is simply because this was my teachers choice.
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Postby Mins Music » Sat Mar 20, 2004 6:21 pm

All the best in your exam nic! Let us know how you go!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Tue Mar 30, 2004 4:59 pm

Despite my insistance that I would not be returning to my teacher, I did go back to him last Thursday evening at my usual time. Something that someone wrote in reply to one of my previous threads stuck firmly in my mind. The fact that I may get to my exam on Friday and be faced with the heaviest and loudest piano in the known universe. The good advice that I should at least be prepared to perform on anything was the deciding factor - since my teacher has the worst piano on earth it felt like a good challenge. As it happens I played quite well, and I have studied well since. This Thursday is my last lesson before my exam on Friday where I will be driving from Birmingham down to Bristol hopefully to pass my London College Diploma.
My next post will be to let you know how it went - they never tell you the result at the time of the exam - for the safety of the examiner they write to you afterwards.
Wish me luck.
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Postby Mins Music » Tue Mar 30, 2004 6:46 pm

Good on you nic! And were your final two lessons with your teacher as horrible as you feared they'd be?

I have no doubt that you'll get to play on a 'nice' piano for your exam though.

Im looking forward to hearing your result! All the best - sorry, can't wish you luck, I don't believe in it! :p
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Ursie » Thu Apr 01, 2004 6:43 am

:laugh: how funny - your sense of humour's bearing up then! Hope it all goes well for you - can't wait to hear how you get on. Anyway, what are you/did you play?
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Postby Ursie » Thu Apr 01, 2004 6:46 am

sorry, it didn't at the quote for some reason! This is the bit I found funny:-

"- they never tell you the result at the time of the exam - for the safety of the examiner they write to you afterwards."
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Mon Apr 05, 2004 5:11 pm

My last two lessons were indeed not as bad as I thought, however I still struggled with this beast of a piano.
In fact I actually played quite well, but I still made it clear that I would not be returning to my teacher after this exam.

Well, the exam has come and gone. I was very well prepared, I had practiced well, I was smartly dressed and I conducted myself with dignity. The usual problem of nerves still got to me though. I was suffering with shaking hands and I could barely walk in a straight line! All of my many mistakes were nerves induced - I just hope that the examiner took this into account. I think I truly played to the best of my ability - and I tried really hard to control my nervousness, so if I have failed then at least I can say that I did my best and I should be proud of myself for this reason.
My sight reading was very difficult - I think that this item ( worth 20% ) may have cost me the exam.
The piano was superb - a 10 year old Yamaha concert grand. It had everything I could have wished for - a fairly light touch but with a huge range of sound - I could easily achieve pp & ff - even under pressure.
For the record these were my exam pieces:
Bach Prelude & Fugue no2 Cminor
Mozart Sonata K333 Bflat
Schumann Arabesque Op18
Chopin Nocturne Eminor OP72

The London College of Music is on holiday now for Easter so I may not get my results for a couple of weeks. I will now re-discover television, gardening and enjoy having a life again!
At the moment I have vowed to never take another exam as I am sure that my nervous system cannot take any more!
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Postby Mins Music » Mon Apr 05, 2004 6:21 pm

Well done Nic! Isn't it a wonderful release when exams are all over? But then, I suffer from the post exam blues! It's like plummeting from a high and kerpluncking onto the ground. And then there's the waiting.... waiting.... ooh, sorry, probably not helping much :D

I'm so glad you had a great piano to play on. Thought you would. And I still think it was a wise decision to stick with your teacher for those final two weeks. A new era means new possibilities, and if you've had this teacher for a while (a few years?) then it will probably do you a world of good to get a fresh perspective from another - especially if you're now going on to get your teacher's diploma. ... But we won't talk about that just yet; enjoy your 'life' again!

Please let us know how you went, when you have the results!

:)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Ursie » Tue Apr 06, 2004 5:54 am

How wonderful for you to have got through your exam. It is a very peculiar feeling playing for an exam/audience - torturous to go and play (shakey hands etc.) but not going is simply out of the question! What a strange breed of people we are :;): Did you play from memory and was there a viva voce section? Anyway, I've about 20 questions to ask - but I won't. Enjoy your well earned rest. Happy Easter - I hope the Easter Bunny brings many chocolate eggs :D.
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