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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000479.txt from 2004/10

Subj: RE: [kl] The authoritarian teacher (was: [kl] Daniel Bonade and Rose)
Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 01:05:21 -0400


You are accurate... I played quite well, thank you. I didn't respond immediately to Lelia because I was a little perplexed by her highly animated reply.

It was an excellent experience for me and Keith was an incredibly sensitive teacher who would have undoubtedly known instantly that Lelia would have been better suited for another approach.

Bottom line: The lesson was very valuable to me at the time and I am sure that the response Lelia provided could have applied perfectly to another set of circumstances. In this case, I was just trying in my own way to say that sometimes it is better to "Stop and smell the Roses", or should I say; "Play the Rose... again" <g>.


In a message dated 10/15/2004 5:28:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, Andy Jablonski <> writes:

>I would imagine that at the time of his first lesson he wasn't a beginner.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Lelia Loban []
>Sent: Friday, October 15, 2004 2:22 PM
>Subject: [kl] The authoritarian teacher (was: [kl] Daniel Bonade and Rose)
>Rich Watson wrote,
>>I will never forget my first lesson with the
>>late Keith Stein (wrote the Art of Clarinet
>>Playing).  I had a mountain of highly technical
>>work prepared and he very patiently spent two
>>hours on the first half bar of the first measure
>>of the first piece.  Then, without fanfare, he said
>>simply; "If you can't get the first note right, why
>>bother with the rest".
>Do you think that you needed the whole two hours to understand the
>teacher's point about that half-bar?  When a teacher asks a student to
>repeat some little thing over and over and over and over at the first
>lesson, with just enough variation and feedback to stop the student's mind
>from going into "screen saver" mode, this ritual probably has little to do
>with the particular piece of music.  Maybe it also has little to do with
>the general principle of working on details until they're right, though
>that's a necessary principle for a student to learn and it's what teachers
>usually say (or even believe) that they're teaching with this method.  But
>when a teacher *begins* at the first lesson by asking a student to obsess
>over something tiny, I suspect that what's really going on is one of three
>1.  The teacher hero-worships one of his or her own former teachers who
>used this method, and blindly copies it, or saw a description of this
>method in a book or heard it in a college class, and copied it.  This
>teacher doesn't analyze why (or whether) this teaching method works with
>*this individual* student.  At best, someone who learned how to teach by
>rote may turn out to be adequate, or mostly harmless, but not inspiring.
>It's a bad sign if a high percentage of that teacher's students get bored
>with music and quit every year.  (Naturally, the teacher thinks the kids
>quit because kids today are spoiled, lazy, etc. etc..)
>2.  The teacher is conducting a maturity and personality test.  The teacher
>uses it to find out something about the new student's attention span,
>tolerance for frustration and ability to adapt.  After the first lesson,
>this type of teacher rarely repeats the demand for obsessional focus on one
>little thing, but moves on to whatever teaching technique h/she thinks will
>work with whatever combination of technical skill and personality the
>student seems to have.  This teacher wants to make up his or her own mind
>about a student, instead of simply accepting what other teachers have said.
>S/he freely changes teaching methods from one student to another, conducts
>other types of tests as well, and earns a reputation as creative, adaptive
>and good to excellent -- unless, of course, s/he's deluded about his or her
>ability to understand the test results!  If the teacher guesses wrong,
>jumps to the wrong conclusions or tries to pigeon-holes kids into rigid
>categories, then the student who's being treated as a stereotype will grow
>increasingly resentful and either confront the teacher, change teachers or
>quit music.
>3.  The teacher is conducting an obedience test.   This authoritarian
>personality wants to show the kid who's boss, right away.  The student who
>meekly obeys at once may get bullied unmercifully thereafter, while the
>student who fights back may get thrown out -- or may earn respect and
>favored status.  Some kids do extremely well with a domineering
>maestro-type, as my husband did with his best violin teacher, Mischa
>Mischakoff, an old-school Russian (probably made crustier by 17 years as
>Toscanini's concertmaster -- Toscanini had the same type of personality)
>who used to hit Kevin with a fly swatter and pinch or twist his fingers
>when he played wrong notes.  Yes, Mischakoff spent the first entire lesson
>drilling Kevin relentlessly on some nit-picky little point.  Mischakoff
>kept Kleenex boxes, each one conspicuously marked with a student's name,
>lined up on a shelf in the practice room.  The first time a student started
>crying during a lesson, Mischakoff would produce a new Kleenex box, write
>the student's name on it with a flourish and add it to his trophy shelf.  
>As a good amateur violinist in his 50s, Kevin is still proud of himself
>because he never did earn a Kleenex box.  His memories of Mischakoff are
>strongly positive.  (Kevin's the type who responds to a push by regarding
>it as a fun game and pushing right back.)  But, obviously, that kind of
>teacher can inflict serious damage on a passive, vulnerable kid, who breaks
>down like Humpty Dumpty and can't be put back together again.  There's a
>fine line between an authoritarian but good teacher and an abusive monster.
>The good authoritarian teacher will gently but firmly tell a passive or
>timid student's parents to find a different teacher.
>If I were a parent with a student just starting lessons with a new teacher
>who used this method at the first lesson, then I'd want to sit in on a few
>more lessons, to figure out whether the teacher is an excellent one
>learning how to relate to this particular student, or a pig-headed bore, or
>overly-controlling or even sadistic.  I'd also want to talk with other
>parents and find out how this teacher's students fared over the long term,
>before I signed up my kid. I don't approve of coddling kids instead of
>challenging them, by any means -- babying children only makes them weak --
>but if anything about the teacher reminded me of that vile dominatrix in
>"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," I'd grab my kid and run
>>My guess is that some of the "college level" people
>>who are critical of Rose may be spending way too
>>much time on gymnastics while overlooking some
>>finer points of musicianship.
>Even if it were possible to control students enough to *prevent* them from
>going through that phase, wouldn't it be a mistake?  Don't we all need to
>find out just how fast we're capable of playing machine-gun staccato (or
>whatever)?  I wonder if the student who allows a teacher to restrain him or
>her from even trying these things might be *too* obedient -- if the learned
>obedience itself might block development of the musicianship that comes
>from independent thinking.
>It seems to me that a period of obsessing over technical prowess is a
>necessary rite of passage, as a means of taking control over one's own life
>-- of taking responsibility.  We need to find out where we fit into the
>world of music and whether we're planning or just daydreaming.  Without the
>technical skills to compete at the top levels, we're daydreaming, and we
>need to find another satisfying way to earn a living.  There's only one way
>to find out if we've got the right stuff -- better sooner than later.
>Otherwise, almost overnight, it seems, a talented teenager with unrealistic
>dreams of great and glorious things can turn into a frustrated 60-year-old
>still bitching about the lucky breaks s/he never got.  (Know any musicians
>like that...?)
>Lelia Loban
>For a stronger America:  Kerry and Edwards in 2004!
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