Stealing Students

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88006

    I was just speaking to a colleague on the coast who told me of a major major harp figure who was approaching her students at events she couldn’t attend and telling them they really ought to be studying with her; and even going so far as to arrange a scholarship for one at another school with another teacher just to get this gifted student away from my colleague. Never mind that it caused great physical damage to this student, who is probably unable to play at all now, and I’m not exaggerating, it was a special case. This kind of behavior is reprehensible because, despite how it hurts one’s colleagues, it really hurts the students who don’t know what to do. I would like to be able to handle students like a school and have them enrolled in programs that they are locked into and can’t be simply pulled away from, but it’s pretty hard to enforce unless you have a building and an administrator, I guess. I thought this kind of thing had died down, but it’s alive and kicking out there, at least. I know we’ve argued about this kind of thing before, but having just heard it afresh, it needs to be talked about. I’m sure it’s hard to know what to say, meeting a harp student. I do not want someone else’s student unless they have already decided to change or are free.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88007

    My own headline brought up another subject as I was looking at it: students who steal their teacher’s music. I have had them take mine by accident along with their own as they leave, and they bring it back. My teacher loaned out so much music, she couldn’t keep track of who had what, and some never returned what they had, and still have her copies of this or that piece.

    I had a “student”, a beginner who only took lessons for a few weeks, steal the harp I found for her to rent from Salvi.

    Have you had students steal anything from you?

    Bonnie Shaljean on #88008

    That’s really awful – can you tell us what sort of damage was done to this student so that he/she cannot play at all now? Not trying to be gossipy, just that it would be useful to keep on mental file as part of one’s professional knowledge. I’m assuming some sort of repetitive tendon damage or back strain? I can’t imagine that simply switching from Salzedo to Reni��/Grandjany (or vice versa) techniques would inflict that amount of harm, unless there are bad muscle/posture habits & tension to go along with it. Or was the injury psychological?

    Poaching students is utterly reprehensible, but I don’t have any solution to it either. The problem doesn’t tend to crop up with me, not because I’m so wonderful but because no one else anywhere near my area is teaching harp. The only thing I can think of is to charge in advance by term or something similar (good discussion of this in a recent thread); and to point out to any student being lured away that if this new teacher is such a revered master, why is she/he having to scrounge for pupils at all – even without the dishonourable tactics? But I can’t come up with any suggestions except the normal common sense ones (explaining before they take on harp study that results require TIME to build, therefore not to expect that some new direction is going to work magic.)

    Let us know if there’s any further followup to this sad story. It could be instructive.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88009

    I was having second thought about the whole thread. It’s my story, and I tried to disguise it poorly. It wasn’t scrounging for necessity, but for the usual old musical/political reasons, and it wasn’t anyone really famous, either. Which thread discussed the enrollment? I missed that. The student had injuries due to bad habits, to which he/she reverted when changing to the other teacher, and ended up with severe tendonitis, as I understand.

    Here’s a question, then: do you think it is possible to create a code of ethics for harpists that covers all kinds of situations and that we can actually expect everyone to agree to? I noticed that the musicians union had some rules deep in their bylaws regarding gossip and slander, and there is some recourse possible in the union situation. Teachers aren’t necessarily in the union, though, and we don’t have accreditation to teach harp, either.

    barbara-brundage on #88010

    >do you think it is possible to create a code of ethics for harpists that covers all kinds of situations


    >and that we can actually expect everyone to agree to?

    You’ve got to be joking.

    Tacye on #88011

    I am not saying that this is relevant to the immediate case here, but I think the generalisation needs care.

    Bonnie Shaljean on #88012

    It sounds as though the problems started AFTER the student was poached! “Reverting” to bad habits which were presumably being addressed by the abandoned teacher.

    Re payment: The thread I was thinking of was something on the theme of charging for missed lessons, or how to handle that situation, but it expanded to include a lot of useful related input. It may have been a thread in the Yahoo harplist rather than here – I follow both, so am not really sure, but apologies for any confusion I’ve caused.

    Re a standard charter or agreement: I think it’s a great idea, but tend to feel as Barbara does that it’s probably a daydream to expect everyone to follow it. Those who most NEED to be controlled would probably run a mile.

    barbara-brundage on #88013

    >Those who most NEED to be controlled would probably run a mile.

    Well, actually I think they’d say, “Sure, sign me up” and then do exactly as they have been doing. The only people who would feel bound by agreeing are those who are already ethical people, alas.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #88014

    The old adage “Caveat emptor” comes to mind. If a student has switched to a teacher who is causing them to feel discomfort when they play, should they not re-think their decision and go back to the teacher who encouraged a healthier hand position? That’s why you don’t want to burn your bridges! It doesn’t bother me if a student wants to have an occasional lesson with another teacher, just to get some different feedback, and I don’t mind “team-teaching” as well, as long as the two teachers are not contradicting each other. Tayce brings up a dilemma: what to do if you see someone who is not getting the help they need from their

    unknown-user on #88015

    Saul, why don’t you try to contact the student and simply mention that you remembered they were having problems with injuries once and you were just thinking that maybe Alexander Technique would help. There is an American Society of AT teachers and you could refer the student there for them to find an AT teacher to help work on use issues. This way no matter who the student studies with for harp, they know how to use their body and you come out on top for caring about what happens to the student more than the fact that you lost them from your studio. Does that make sense? Perhaps I will again be criticized for not being irate and for offering an option that doesn’t reside in obstinancy but from my experiences this is actually the code of ethics that harpists have. That’s the way ethics are. If you made everyone have them they wouldn’t be ethics, because ethics separate people from other people. So do something constructive even if it might not benefit you directly, for the greater good of the student. You’ll also be setting an example for that harpist. If it were me, I would be really hurt but I think that I would call the student and just mention AT and where they can find a certified teacher, leaving it at that. Then you’re not stealing back, you’re not percevied as bitter and you’re opening the door in case the student wants to re-establish a relationship with you.

    David Ice on #88016

    Hi All,

    I have never had a problem with students being poached….but I have had others tell me of problems when the student wants to change teachers!

    Victor Ortega on #88017

    Glenna and Elizabeth, I think you are both right on.

    Anonymous on #88018

    Lucien Thomson taught harp in New York City from about 1946 until his death in 2000.

    paul-wren on #88019

    Way back when I was in school, I was approched by another harp teacher, promising a scholarship as well.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #88020

    But how can you teach effectively if you do not have, to some degree, control over the student? If you are offering a progression of ideas, they are dependent on consistency, and other input interferes with that consistency, even input from past teachers. A lesson requires controlling the experience, what is worked on and when and how much, and that is as much what we are paid for as our knowledge. It takes a lot of skill. Students who come in thinking they know it all have an attitude that prevents them from learning. Even if they simply have a preconceived notion as to how the teacher should be teaching them in particular, it does a disservice as it is not allowing the teacher to develop their approach. And then, with the ideas you are trying to instill in the student, if they go out an meet other harpists and pick up their ideas, then your work gets polluted, and you have to start over again on many things. Control is an essential element of teaching, however benign or passive or discreet. Or overt. Even determining what your student listens to is part of helping the development of what their conception of the harp is to be. Why? Because all of the art in playing the harp is in how you listen to it and what you expect from it. And the student needs to give the teacher the gift of time to let their work unfold and grow. It should be

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