Finding a new harp teacher

I don’t think I’ve ever been an easy student. When I was little, I never really practised but still took lessons for 9 years so I think, in retrospect, that my teachers must have been quite frustrated with me. They never really showed it, though, finding other ways to get me to practice. A favourite of theirs was to have me participate in a recital, preferably in an ensemble so I just had to practice. I didn’t realize this at the time, but looking back, I can say that the most difficult pieces I ever played, those requiring most practice, were the ensemble pieces.

Now, I’m almost the opposite of the student I used to be. I wasn’t able to practice as much as I want due to medical school internships, but I still try to get the most out of it as possible. This also applies to my lessons – I ask a lot of questions, ask specifically for feedback on problem areas, etc. The drawback is that not all teachers are used to this. When I go to a lesson, I expect to learn how I can improve my playing. Positive feedback is nice, but I don’t go to a lesson just to hear how awesome I am.

As I’ve got a very unreliable schedule that changes every week, I can’t take regular lessons at a music school, so I take private lessons. My teacher is quite affordable and also very flexible. However, I’ve found that I don’t really learn what I want to learn. She’s an awesome player and she is certainly an example in terms of musicality – I’d love to be able to play the way she plays. Unfortunately, she’s not too good at teaching – she doesn’t really offer feedback. Some lessons, I can direct the conversation in the way I want – useful tips etc, but in other lessons, I don’t get anything substantive to work on. It’s starting to become a bit tiring to be completely responsible for my own learning – in medical school, you can look anything up in a book, but in music, you really need external feedback, especially on technical issues.

So I’ve been thinking – aside from some scheduling issues with lessons being cancelled at the last moment (I always make room for them in my schedule, so I’ve ended up waiting three hours several times for a lessons that didn’t take place) — perhaps I should go looking for another teacher. Those are not very easy to find and isn’t it a bit arrogant to decide that a person can’t teach you enough? And changing teachers also involves telling the teacher I’m leaving that I’m discontinuing lessons with them…How to do that without hurting someone’s feeling?

I’ve got an entire summer to think about that – I won’t have a lessons for at least two months. Meanwhile, I’ll get back to practicing, of course! :).

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3 Comments on “Finding a new harp teacher”

  1. Marre says:

    Yeah, it’s not fun to tell a teacher that you decided to go to another teacher… But still, if you think it would be better for you, I would do it. I mean, you take the lessons to improve (more than you would do on your own), so yeah… I don’t really remember how I told music teachers in the past that I would go to another teacher, actually, so I can’t really help you. I probably told them some lame excuse…

  2. I think it takes a completely different and additional skill set, beyond being a good and musical player, to be able to analyze what a student is doing with both body and mind, and then analyze how that affects her sound, her fluidity, her musicality, her playing in general. Not all players are able to analyze their own playing and figure out what is and isn’t working, let alone a student’s playing.
    It is my teacher’s attention to the smallest details of my playing that helps me the most. If I am having trouble with a passage, she observes what I am doing and zooms in on what is creating the trouble, and then shows me what to do differently. If I did not get that analysis and feedback from her, there would not be much point in going to the lesson. I could just keep muddling around with the passage on my own.
    While I am thrilled when my teacher tells me I am doing something well, or when she says a piece sounds lovely, the meat of the lesson is in analyzing and redoing the things that I am not doing well, and in turning the clunky notes I start playing into music.
    All this is to say that I agree that you need a teacher who can analyze what you do and don’t do, and who can give you specific feedback and suggestions about your playing. You will still be responsible for your own learning. But that kind of teacher then will be a support and ally who will help you learn.

  3. CT says:

    Thanks for commenting, both of you! 🙂

    Indeed, it’s up to the student to practice & try to incorporate the teacher’s feedback – that’s our responsibility indeed. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to give us something to work on, more than we could have thought of ourselves (like Marre said).

    BTW, in medicine I’m also starting to notice that some feedback might be useful. I’m doing internships in a large academic setting and no one really care what we (first year clinical students) are doing – so no feedback on write-ups, no one who oversees us doing histories/physical exams because someone else already did them so our work is only for our own practice… In peripheral hospitals, they get much more supervision etc, so they learn what they’re doing wrong and what needs work. In the meantime, I’ll try to learn the book by heart.. 🙂


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