Problems with Music School

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Sally Enders said: Oct 17, 2018
 1 posts

Hi everyone,

I am a parent of a 5 year old who loves learning the piano. She has been doing lessons for 8 months or so, and until recently we have been very happy with her progress and the teacher.

However, she had a couple lessons with the director of the school immediately after the summer break because her normal teacher was travelling for concerts, when we had travelled and she did not touch piano notes for a month etc. As some background, we had seen this director’s students at the last concert and they were significantly worse than the student’s of my daughter’s teacher, and I believe this director is having trouble retaining students while my daughter’s teacher is not. During the lesson, the director repeatedly insulted my daughter’s teacher and said my daughter needed to go back to the beginning since the teacher was pushing her too fast. I interjected during the lesson, which I try to never do, just to clarify that my daughter did, indeed, know how to do these things but we had just gotten back from vacation.

Since this lesson, my daughter’s teacher has put the brakes on and my daughter is reviewing and reviewing, learning all songs perfectly by heart (even additional songs). She also has been much colder with me, asking me to sit out of the class. I am nearly certain this is because of the class with the director, who seems to have taken a dislike to me as a parent. I have no problem sitting out of the class if they feel this is better for my daughter; however, I am concerned about the lack of progress. How can I bring this up with the teacher without seeming like an overly pushy parent? I’d love some advice from piano teachers.

I think there are also some strange dynamics going on between the director and the teacher (jealousy, teacher needing visa from her job with director, etc), and feel like we have been caught in the middle of this.

Kurt Meisenbach said: Oct 17, 2018
Kurt Meisenbach
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
Plano, TX
45 posts

You have been placed in an awkward situation. You want to balance your desire to do what is best for your daughter with the advice you have been given, but you don’t have the information you need to do this.

It seems odd that the director would not want a parent to attend lessons. It goes against the philosophy and practice of what we have learned is the best way to engage young children in the study of a musical instrument. Parental involvement and encouragement in the early stages of learning has enormous value that cannot be made up elsewhere. Children look to their parents for love, guidance and support. Your daughter needs you to be there with her at her lessons.

It is possible for a child to learn too fast. However, it can be difficult to know if this is creating a problem. The truth is that some children learn faster than others. We don’t know if this is due to talent, greater interest, more opportunities to learn, the quality of the encouragement the child receives at home and at lessons or a combination of all the above. We just know that it happens.

Here are some things you can do to reduce that concern: Have your daughter play short concerts for friends and family as often as possible—at least 2 or 3 times a week. Ask her to select what she is going to play each night. After she plays a couple of concerts, ask her to introduce each piece and tell her audience why she likes it. Ask her to explain how each piece is different from the others. Is it happy, sad, lively, slow? Is it easier or more difficult than another piece? Why? What does the piece make her think of? How does it make her feel? Don’t give her the words to say—they must be her own. Just ask her questions that will enable her to share what she knows and feels about her pieces.

This activity will improve your daughter’s presentation skills and more importantly, her ability to connect what she knows to new situations. It will make her a better problem solver. It will drive deeper her understanding of each piece in a way that she will remember what she has learned. This will overcome the major concern teachers have when a child learns very fast—that they may move so fast through their pieces that they don’t fully internalize what they have learned. They are not able to apply what they have learned to make the next piece easier. They don’t become better problem solvers.

The bigger challenge here is the politics, and the fact that your daughter is not progressing. You don’t want your daughter to be in the middle of somebody else’s problem. If what you have said is accurate, the directors’ actions are inappropriate. Bad mouthing another teacher is never in the student’s best interests, especially at such an early age.

So, what do you do? Follow your instincts. They will usually lead you in the right direction. Based on what you have shared, it is not likely that you will be able to change the directors’ teaching method. Consider finding another teacher at another school. I would not mention the problems that have caused you to seek another teacher. Just say that the chemistry was not right and leave it at that.

In my experience, it can helpful if you involve your daughter in the decision. Ask her how she would feel about having another teacher. Ask her what she likes about her current teacher. Ask her what she doesn’t like. Maybe you can meet the new teacher together and attend a class or a group lesson.

All of this is your decision as a parent, and if you follow your instincts, you will make the right one. It may sound extreme to suggest another teacher, but if that is what the voice inside of you tells you is right, it probably is.

Good luck!

Melanie Drake said: Oct 17, 2018
Melanie Drake36 posts

I’m finally ready to stop attending my 14 year old’s lessons. I’d question being asked to sit out of lessons at this point.

Are you sure progress isn’t being made? Think about your definition of progress.
As a parent, it’s easy to define progress by book number, piece number. A child who is blowing through pieces may not be making as much progress as a child who is lingering on each piece or focusing on review.

Best wishes!

Joanne Shannon said: Oct 18, 2018
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
140 posts

Please don’t stop attending your 14 year old’s lessons. I attended all of my teenaged daughter’s lesson, just didn’t take an active part in them. Took a paperback, sat away from the immediate area of the lesson, but made my presence obvious. Many times teens think their parents are not interested in them anymore. Being there shows your support. I am teaching several teens now (one’s a senior I’ve had since he was 6). All of these parents sit away from their previous seat near the piano but are showing their teens that they are still very interested in the lessons.

Dennie said: Dec 17, 2018
Suzuki Association Member
San Rafael, CA
25 posts

Agreed! My mother went to my lessons many times during junior high and would often come in for the latter part of the lesson when I was in high school.
She continued this though not as often when I was an undergrad at our local 4-year private college that gave me both academic and music scholarships. I am now thinking of retiring in a few years from our local symphony that gave me college credit and a grade when I got in as a freshman because the music director was on the faculty at my college. Soon I’ll be drawing pension and social security….

Kiyoko said: Jan 20, 2019
 95 posts

Of course! Talk to the teacher. How is your daughter doing? Is she still enjoying playing?

If the Director’s comments were shared with your daughter’s teacher, perhaps she is responding to those comments by being stricter and more rigorous. If she’s asking you to sit out of class, ask her why. Does she feel your presence distracts? Discussions might address how you can be present.

That said, as a parent, you have every right to watch your child in a class or lesson. Legally the teacher must have parental consent to teach without a parent present. Be empowered.

Are you sure you want to continue with a Director that has difficulty retaining students? What you describe—sounds like the Director is rather disparaging, and maybe emotionally or verbally absuive. It sounds like his students leave for good reason.

Five is an age at which children are developing confidence. Best of luck in what sounds like a difficult situation.

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