Harp Mothers

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Amiable Aardvark on #88512

    I mean this in the sense of “stage mothers” – how, as a responsible teacher, do you convince them that it will take their child TIME to learn new music, that students shouldn’t be pushed into big (read prestige) gigs too soon, or with too much new repertoire (I think recently-learned pieces should be limited to one per performance, tops, unless the music is very easy or the surroundings are extremely informal & non-critical).

    I’m so tired of hearing “but she always picks up music so fast and can play it right away” (not without developing bad habits or at the expense of a proper technique foundation, says I); or, “but her sister/brother can play it immediately on the violin/flute/sousaphone so why can’t she?” (because she’s coping with a multi-layered instrument with several simultaneous channels of information to process instead of a single melody line says I, subtext: Being compared unfavorably to her siblings is going to do wonders for her self esteem and make her really love the harp a LOT); or, “these are the pieces I want her to learn / the exam qualifications I want her to get” (at which point my response becomes unprintable in polite company).

    HOW do I convince these powerful mamas that I know what I’m talking about?

    carl-swanson on #88513

    I’ll be very very VERY curious to see what sort of responses you get to this question.

    Amiable Aardvark on #88514

    I assure you, I DID say it in no uncertain terms!!

    carl-swanson on #88515

    I believe you, and I meant no insult.

    Amiable Aardvark on #88516

    Is the father in the picture – that”s a good question!!

    unknown-user on #88517

    Can she
    learn different repertoire from her siblings?

    unknown-user on #88518

    Hey there Aardvark,

    That is a good idea to get backing from other harp professionals. There
    may be some good articles printed in the Harp Column that refer to
    these issues. Also, Carl writes many articles, so perhaps he will have
    suggestions. Giving her a packet in print could help. Although people
    do like to feel that their child is special and what the “average”
    student needs simply does not apply to them. It sounds like the mother
    is pushing for validation that her daughter’s ability on harp is
    special and unique. To me she almost sounds as though she’s afraid it
    isn’t, but would never admit it. Can you find ways to satisfy this highly charged
    need for validation using your informed approach to curriculum and
    teaching? Of course one of the best things we can teach students is to
    accept themselves for who they honestly are, and not pressure them into
    feeling that filling the number 1 slot, or becoming an imaginary superstar, is the only way to become an
    adequate human being.

    erin-wood on #88519

    If the mother won’t back down, I would do what I want and ignore her.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #88520

    I have occasionally run into these types of parents, and it always seems to end badly. Every kid has their own talents, and some learn faster than others. And you are abolutely right that harp music is much more labor-intensive to learn than that of a single-line instrument. Piano is much more tactile and doesn’t require flamenco feet doing a whole separate choreography. I hope, with enough back-up opinions, you can convince this parent to let the child take a reasonable pace and not push her into hating the harp. The important thing right now is to step back and let her finish building her technique! It will do her no favor to let her continue without the building blocks of relaxed, strong hands and gorgeous sound. Strong, slow practice, with enough time to pay attention to detail will get her to winning competitions FASTER than rushing into them now. Hope this helps!

    unknown-user on #88521

    If it were only possible to make it clear from the start or sometime, that the teacher is in charge of all music-related matters. You are the expert, and that’s why you’re the teacher. If this is the mother’s idea of being supportive, perhaps some alternative psychologies could help, like saying, well if you go ahead with this course, you run the risk of this and this happening, which I will not take responsibility for. You might want to express your supportiveness in these other ways. Or, say, this is how we do it in classical music/harp world, there are these steps to follow, and this classy way of doing things, not a show-biz concept. Slow and steady, thorough and sure work is what works! But then, what if the kid does well? Maybe let it happen once, and then if damage is done say, what did I tell you? Now let it be up to me.
    I think teachers should be able to establish rules with their students and parents, but when and how? You have to get them in first and keep them coming. How do you take charge? Another way is to have formal student recitals which you produce and sell tickets for, and that way you have complete control as producer.
    Hope it helps.

    carl-swanson on #88522

    If I read between the lines of your original post correctly, I think that this mother is a narcissistic personality.

    tony-morosco on #88523

    She may say she is listening but either she isn’t, or she is just not rational because you seem to have said what you wanted in a way that was both

    carl-swanson on #88524

    Tony’s advice is excellent and I second it.

    Amiable Aardvark on #88525

    Many many thanks to all of you for the huge number of useful ideas and support, which has given me a lot to think about and put into action.

    Amiable Aardvark on #88526

    Still pretty new here and I obviously haven’t mastered the HTML yet – don’t know where those irritating question marks come from (which should be quotation marks & apostrophes) in both this and in my first post.

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