How many harp teachers have you studied with?

  • Participant
    paul-wren on #150819

    I was recently pose the question by a young flutist that I know. She is studying at a major music school. She wanted to know how many teachers I have had. She wants to change teachers, but didn’t know if it was a good move for her or not.

    My answer to her was: I started the harp with one teacher. I then move to another teacher at a different school because this new teacher had something to offer that I was looking for in my own playing. After I was finished with school, I have contunied to seek out teachers. When I wanted to “beef up” my orchestral playing, I sought out a very good teacher that I respected as an excellent orchestra harpist. I have sought out a teacher that was good at chamber music. Most recently I have started taking lessons with a teacher to learn a concerto.

    To sum up, I supported her decision to switch base on the fact that she found that she needed something more in her studies.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #150820

    Paul- I think the decision to change teachers, and whether it’s the right move or not, has to do with where you are in your learning process. This assumes that you’ve had only good teachers and are not changing because your teacher is not teaching you anything, or is very destructive, both of which can happen and both of which are valid reasons for changing teachers.

    I had 4 teachers total. My first was Lois Bannerman, an excellent teacher who had studied with Salzedo. I had her for one year before going off to college. My second teacher was Aristid Von Wurtzler. He was not a great teacher, but I learned a lot from him anyway and he really pushed me. The best thing that came out of my studies with him was meeting Pierre Jamet, who was my third teacher. I went to him because I wanted a complete technical overhaul, which delighted him. He was my main teacher and I studied with him privately(after my undergraduate work) for 3 years. My last teacher was Bernard Zighera, principal harpist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra(for 54 years!). He was a wonderful musician but a truly nasty and disagreeable person. It took several years of working by myself to undo the damage he did. I studied with him only because I wanted to get a Masters degree and that was part of the course requirement.

    I don’t believe in jumping from teacher to teacher. Especially when one wants to build technique, I think you have to find a really good teacher of technique and stick with him or her. After that, you can go to someone for orchestra parts, another for musical coaching, etc. But when you’re in the development part of your studies, one good teacher is better than 5 good or bad teachers.

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #150821

    It used to be that you could only have one or two “great” teachers, they didn’t allow muddling around from this one to that one. It gave us stylistic purity. These days, with fewer authority figures, it is hard to make that stick. Nevertheless, if you have found a teacher who can take you through all your advanced training, stay put, I say. It is different with the harp than with piano or flute, for example. If you are learning a complete, systematic approach, then going on to teachers who are completely different will compromise what you have developed, not likely add to it, in that line of thinking. If you find a teacher who can improve what you are doing, then you should be completely open-minded to what he or she offers, which may mean completely renovating your approach. A student who feels, I am finished to this point, I need no technical help, for example, is merely shutting off growth and access for the teacher. A great student is like a sponge. The reason for this, I find, is that all musical problems are generally solved technically.

    On the harp, if you are not able to clearly play the musical ideas, it is usually do to a fault in your position or finger technique. The technique gives you the ability and freedom of expression of what is in the score. That gives you something to interpret. In my experience, anyway, musical insight came part and parcel with technical training. If there is an inner voice in the music to be brought out, well, you can do it if your 234 are balanced with your thumb, but if they are weak or one of them is weak, then it is doesn’t come out clearly, and you notice it. But you may think it is a musical problem when it is actually muscular.

    Sometimes it is not in the hand but in the ear. Do you hear clearly what you are actually doing? Most of the time, we hear what we wish to hear, what we are attempting to do and not the actual result. A student whose technique is polished may have only this problem and musical styles to learn. So, I contradict myself. In this case, you need the teacher who will help you to be the best artist. Most of us have not reached this stage. But, if you haven’t learned musicality by this stage, something else may be wrong?

    Participant
    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #150822

    So, to answer the question much more directly, I had two or three teachers when I was younger, depending how you count. I then began my advanced study with Lucile Lawrence, whom I consider my major teacher. I had ten lessons with Alice Chalifoux who was quite helpful by contrast, but within the same technical family. After that, there was no-one else but Miss Lawrence, partly because I couldn’t find anyone else who would be complimentary but compatible and acceptable, and partly because I never ceased learning from Miss Lawrence. She was always amazing and wonderful and completely challenging. She always taught for the long-term benefit, and more or less expected committed students to always have lessons. Just because you finished a degree was no reason to quit learning. It takes as long as it takes. For me, it just took gradually longer and longer to prepare the next lesson as I could do more and more preparation on my own. My last lesson was in 2004 in her last master class. She frowned on what she called “shopping around” going from this teacher to that one. Such players generally seemed to end up in a muddle of approaches with no clear way of playing. And those who decided to play however they felt like after leaving school seemed to compromise what they had developed, so I trusted her viewpoint. The only alteration I have made over the years is to refine what I do and to do it more effortlessly. I would love to have a coach now, just to help me prepare better. I do think that should continue, just as singers always have coaches.

    Participant
    paul-wren on #150823

    I like the idea of a “coach”, I am currently re-learning the Debussy and I should consider the teacher I am working with as more of a coach. She has been fantasic is bringing out phrasing and dynamics, basically

    Participant
    cynthy-johnson on #150824

    When I was a child, 6 years of age, I studied liturgical organ with one teacher until I was 15 years old. The teacher died suddenly and I was very saddened. I studied with another teacher up until my 1st year in college – so only 2 teachers.

    When I took up harp, I studied with only 1 pedal harp teacher, an accomplished harpist who was a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and a student of Alice Chalifoux.

    Participant
    Nadia Tjahja on #150825

    In my opinion it really depends on the teacher; what they want to achieve with you in addition to what you want to achieve.

    I started at the age of 5, I’m now 20 and have had 5 teachers and haven’t been playing consistantly for 2/3 years due to uni.
    All my teachers have been amazing people who have worked very hard on me to make sure that I achieved the things I wanted to achieve, but that didn’t always work out for me.

    I had a teacher that wanted to give me my childhood (since I started so young) and didnt drive me to work longer and harder, a teacher that solely focused on finger exercises and perfect posture, a teacher that was competitive and wanted all students to be the number 1, a teacher that just let me do whatever I wanted.

    And now I think I found the teacher that works best with me. She wants me to enjoy playing. With her I listen to the music and make it my own; playing the right technique to be able to make the perfect tone (that rhymed!), and she understand that I have a lot going on at uni so sometimes I slip with studying so we focus on other things that would improve my playing.

    So I really believe it depends on the intentions of what the teacher wants to achieve aswell as what the student wants to achieve.

    In regards to the comments that changing teachers gives you different views and can teach you different things. I agree.
    However, if you have a teacher that works for you, what I’ve done is gone to workshops, lectures, masterclasses, festivals, weekend courses, summercourses, etc. to find out about the variety of things you can learn.

    🙂

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