When a student is teaching before they are ready

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    unknown-user on #88600

    During the last couple of months I have gained a new harp student who
    is very musical, but self taught on harp. She is around 50 years old
    and is very conscientious about correcting her technique. I enjoy her
    as a student. Before taking lessons from me she started teaching harp
    to a young teenager in her church. She told me this girl is very gifted
    and composes music for a variety of instruments. My student has not
    acquired enough technical proficiency to be able to demonstrate good
    technique as a teacher. I wish very much I could teach her student
    because my training is in composition and harp, and it sounds like this
    girl has a lot of potential, and doesn’t realize that her instruction
    could be problematic. It feels socially impolite to directly tell my
    student that a professional harpist should teach her student, so I am
    trying to
    figure out how to handle the situation. The young girl’s family pursued
    my student for lessons, so it is what they want so far. I feel it is in
    the best
    interest of the young girl to get well grounded instruction. I did ask
    my student if the girl had ever taken composition lessons because I
    offer those, and later mentioned that I am still recruiting harp
    students, but did not address it more directly than that. I would
    appreciate any advice from fellow harpists.

    carl-swanson on #88601

    Julienna- This is the BANE of harp pedagogy in the United States, and it’s going on everywhere.

    Alicia D. Strange on #88602


    unknown-user on #88603

    Thank you for your thoughtful posts Carl and Alicia. I just found out
    about it this week, and didn’t confront her clearly because it stings a
    little and I try to stay detached especially with critical issues. I
    did make those hints and I hope it was not taken as socially rude as
    Alicia suggested. I really like my student and appreciate her sincerity
    in correcting her technique. I’m not entirely clear about feeling a
    student belongs to a teacher because I don’t relate to my students in
    that way. If one of my students is exploring a skill, and I know a
    harpist more experienced than me in that skill, I love to set them up
    with a lesson together. It’s rewarding to share professional resources
    with students, giving them a chance to network and learn. I do value
    respectful behavior between teacher and student.

    Since graduating it has become more clear every day the need to let go
    of feeling entitled to anything beyond our control. Those of us who
    have paid our dues and received diplomas that state we “are entitled to
    all the privileges pertaining to this degree” soon realize that life is
    a bit more complicated than that. Being trained through the graduate
    level often requires investing tens, if not hundreds of thousands of
    dollars and all the blood, sweat and tears of our young adult lives. I
    spent 16 years in college and grad school, receiving two masters and a
    doctorate all in music, and leaving with a boatload of student loans.
    Many of my peers have left music by the wayside, but I am thankful to
    live in a good area now, and realize it takes time and patience to find
    people who can use our skills. I love my little studio of harp
    students, and have found a recent opportunity to help it grow. I wish
    more people could understand exactly what our years of training allow
    us to contribute to students, since it often requires the same number
    of years as law school and medical school.

    unknown-user on #88604

    The desire to be helpful and positive is good and important, but when
    it prevents truth from being told, it is not so good. It can be
    weakening. You have the right to tell your student she is not qualified
    to teach beyond “a certain level.” You can express the hope that as her
    student progresses she will encourage her to move on to an experienced
    teacher. Sometimes we have to be cold. I had a prospective student play
    for me whose agenda was to be told she was or could be professional.
    She played fairly well, but with no sense of rhythm at all, so I
    swallowed and told her no. We work very hard to be professionals, and
    it is an insult to compare yourself to us if you haven’t worked for it.
    Not that everyone has to be as good as the rest. She never came back,
    but I did what I am sure was right. I could have pandered to her, and
    pretended to agree so she would come back, but that wouldn’t have been
    honest of me. Yes we have to be careful about judging people, but it is
    upon us to set and maintain at least minimum standards, like playing in
    rhythm, with tempo control, dynamic range, reasonable tone quality and
    volume, reasonable facility, and musical understanding. Salzedo and
    some pupils tried a licensing setup at one time, but it didn’t take
    hold, needless to say. We could establish minimum standards, like being
    able to play the Taco Bell Cannon, or Grandjany’s Automne or something.
    But this is a democracy, so that won’t happen. Since it is a free
    market, you are free to say what you want.

    Alicia D. Strange on #88605

    Actually I did not think you were being rude.

    Briggsie B. Peawiggle on #88606

    It is kind of sad to read that this is going on in the harp world, though I should have known it would. You should see how many people consider themselves VOICE teachers who haven’t the slightest idea what they are doing. But it sometimes seems that anyone who has had choir in high school knows how to sing — NOT, of course. I have a master’s in voice and am often amazed at the things people are doing to others

    carl-swanson on #88607

    What an interesting thread this has turned into.

    Anonymous on #88608

    This one is a real problem, and I hope you will let us know how it all turns out.

    What your student is doing is ill-advised, but there is the very real danger of losing her as a student if you point that out to her.

    unknown-user on #88609

    If your student is teaching bad habits to her student, then I do agree that you have a responsibility to set her straight. I am worried a little about the

    unknown-user on #88610

    I would like to add a PS. I apologize in advance

    unknown-user on #88611

    Hi Shannon,

    Thank you for your posts. I have no intention of pressuring anyone to
    do anything. I’m still thinking through how to address it. I’m thinking
    of sharing my appreciation for my student’s hard work and her innate
    musical ability,

    unknown-user on #88612

    Wait a minute.

    unknown-user on #88613

    Gordon, thank you for your concern. The issue at hand is “what is the
    most respectful way to treat people?” Do you allow someone to
    unknowingly pass on habits that could cause physical damage? Do you
    withhold information from people because you assume they are too fragile
    or lack the capacity to cope with it? Do you attack one person emotionally to spare another,
    or do you promote good communication with good faith of mutual respect?

    If correct technique served no other purpose than to establish elitism,
    then imposing it on others would be wasteful and foolish. Correct
    technique is information on how to play an instrument in an efficient
    and healthy manner, to avoid the crippling effects of tendonitis,
    carpal tunnel syndrome, fatigue, and back and neck aches. These
    effects are quite common to those who spend consistent time practicing

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #88614

    If you feel her feelings would be hurt by coming right out and saying she should not be teaching yet, then I would say something like this: “As you know, good technique is very important, and it takes a lot of experience to recognize bad habits and correct them before they become extremely difficult to eradicate. So I suggest that your student come to me at least once, preferably twice a month, so that I can see if there is anything requiring correction. This would also help you in designing a lesson plan. If you prefer, you could both come and we can work together.” The student’s student should keep a notebook into which you both would write the week’s goals, exercises and pieces, with all the suggestions in point form. It would not be long before the student would recognize the better teacher. Even if you only gave her a lesson a month, the girl would at least have a chance to become a proficient and uninjured harpist.

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