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 How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Roxann 2017
Date:   2017-08-07 05:03

I have the opportunity to study with an excellent teacher who rarely accepts new students and this will be on a year-by-year basis. A year from now, she may be too busy to work with me. I've been taking lessons for about 3 years with a teacher whom I highly respect and whom I've learned a great deal from. The opportunity to study with a new teacher has me excited. However, I do not know how to handle this with my current teacher. I care a great deal about these two professionals and do not want to burn any bridges or cause any hard feelings. Luckily, they know each other, have worked with each other, and are friends. I have agonized over this for two months and haven't come up with the best way to deal with this. If you have any good suggestions, I would like to hear them so I can figure out what's right for me. Thanks!

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-07 05:23

Without knowing the teachers involved, I'd suggest giving serious thought to staying with the current teacher if that relationship is still productive. But much depends on the details, which I can understand your not sharing. Is the potential new teacher someone whom the current teacher would recognize as a unique opportunity for you? What is it that you think you will learn from the new teacher that your current one can't help with? Are all of the new teacher's students year-by-year or is this some kind of special circumstance for you? If so, why?

I doubt if you can do this without causing hard feelings, so you have to decide for yourself if there is enough to be gained by changing teachers to warrant possibly - likely - burning the bridge back to your current teacher.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: DavidBlumberg 
Date:   2017-08-07 05:41

Why not both? Maybe every other week with one

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-07 06:09

DavidBlumberg wrote:

> Why not both? Maybe every other week with one

I thought of that, too. But the only times I've ever seen that in operation, one of the teachers involved didn't know about the other one and the students were studying with one because their college or conservatory required it and with the other because they wanted to.

For this to be successful without the risk of alienating *both* teachers and going to every lesson with a guilty feeling, it depends very much on the teachers involved. And it can get even more complicated if one or the other has strong feelings about specific equipment (or they both do). It's something to consider, certainly.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Fuzzy 
Date:   2017-08-07 06:27

When I was in college, my first clarinet professor gave me this advice: "Study with everyone you can study with!" "Be a sponge...learn everything you can from everyone you can." "Learn everything you can from me, then go and learn everything you can from so-and-so, and so-and-so, etc."

It was great advice. He would never have been hurt by me approaching him about also learning from an additional teacher. In fact, he recommended it when a specific teacher was in town for a semester.

If that's rare - then I never knew how lucky I was. It was a great way to learn. (Of course, I can't imagine it working if all parties involved weren't fully aware and accepting of the setup.)


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: jonok 
Date:   2017-08-07 06:58

Is your current teacher not a professional?

But yeah, life is difficult when you're responsible for everyone being happy.

aspiring fanatic

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: wkleung 
Date:   2017-08-07 11:45

You are in a stable marriage, you see a knockout that you simply cannot pass on, but you don't know for sure if it will be more than just a fling. What should you do?

I personally do not take back students who left me for another teacher. Your teacher may be different, may be not.

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Ed 
Date:   2017-08-07 18:33

I would be honest and discuss the situation with your teacher. If you do something behind that teacher's back, it will only cause more problems and ill feelings. If you are honest and upfront it may be tough, but better than trying to cover your tracks or fix the situation later.

I would only switch if I thought that the new teacher had some knowledge or experience or skill as a teacher that would have a huge effect on my playing.

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Tobin 
Date:   2017-08-07 18:58

"Teacher 1, I have the chance to study with Teacher 2, and I'm intrigued by the opportunity. I wouldn't be where I am without your help, and I value our relationship. What do you think about my switching to Teacher 2?"

That's how you start the conversation -- be upfront (as suggested by everyone), starting with the opportunity, reinforcing your feelings about your relationship with Teacher 1, and asking for advice.

As others have asked above: what do you want from Teacher 2 that makes the opportunity compelling? You should figure this out, because in a candid conversation with Teacher 1 they are going to ask you this question

Unlike others above: what you can get from Teacher 2 doesn't necessarily have anything to do with an issue/deficit with Teacher 1.

I have had students transfer to another studio permanently and had students transfer and return. I have a lot of success as a teacher, but I don't assume that I am the best fit for everyone -- and if a kid would make more progress in another's studio -- I'm happy for them to make a switch.


Gnothi Seauton

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: smokindok 
Date:   2017-08-07 19:26

Fuzzy, what a wonderful teacher! Wise advice and his students' best interest at heart.

I suppose the disappointing reality is that a teacher's financial or ego considerations are often at odds with this philosophy. Perhaps a teacher, having difficulty attracting students and insecure in their teaching ability, would be unable to acknowledge that studying with someone else could be good for the student's development.

If you are adults and you truly believe your current teacher has your development as your joint goal, open discussion of this opportunity is the only logical approach. You may learn a lot from this discussion about your current teacher. Maybe things you will be uncomfortable with, but important for you to make an informed decision.

In thirty years of practicing my (non-music) profession, I never hesitated to tell people that if they thought their needs would be better met elsewhere, then that other place is where they should be. Sure, a few left, but I was always busy. Regularly those that left would come back, which I took as the highest compliment, and always welcomed them back warmly.

If you think your teacher is truly on your side, there is no reason to be afraid to discuss the topic.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: WhitePlainsDave 
Date:   2017-08-07 19:29

Gracefully..or per se to do "with class"--yet restated, as gracefully as possible

Be honest. Teacher 1 may not agree with your reasoning; they may be right, and/or biased. It may not be graceful, but often it's the least awkward way, and will likely leave you with less guilt than even a plausible lie.

This is always sticky when Teacher 2 knows Teacher 1.

It's, for lack of a better way to describe it, suppose to be sticky. This is what happens when people with a conscience, like you, make decisions in their own best interest (which everyone is entitled to do) that adversely affect others.

Restated, a sociopath would have no problem with this. But feel sorry for them. Unlike you, living without a conscience is easier, but not meaningful or consistent with being able to form bonds with others.

Your options: stop caring, which is not an option because you're a good person, or accept that the gracefulness is partly out of your control and up to the teacher 1.

But if you feel teacher 2 enough better for you, DON'T back out simply to avoid an awkward situation: that's selling you short.

As fuzzy pointed out, there are simply potentials for gain, the teacher's abilities for a moment looked beyond, in that new perspective is beneficial to you.

If teacher 1 was offered a lucrative teaching position at a University that required him to move, and contractually required him to only teach at the University, I would expect him to part ways with you, and I'd expect you to understand. Right?

Post Edited (2017-08-07 19:31)

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: smokindok 
Date:   2017-08-07 21:50

Well stated, WPDave.

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: clarinetguy 2017
Date:   2017-08-07 21:55

When I was finishing 9th grade, I knew it was time to move on from my current teacher. I had been with him for several years, and he was a wonderful teacher and person. Although he taught me a great deal, I knew it was time to move on to someone else.

Another teacher was highly recommended, and without telling my current teacher, I went and had a couple lessons with him. The guy was a total jerk. Among other things, he smoked during my lessons (things were a little different almost 50 years ago  :) ). I knew I wouldn't be happy with him, so I went back to the original teacher.

About six months later, I was working on a solo for solo and ensemble festival, and there was a local band director (who was also a fine clarinet player) who was helping other students prepare. He offered to give me some help. After 15 minutes with this man, I knew I had found my new private teacher. I studied with him for most of high school, and he prepared me well for college. I let the original teacher know what I was planning to do, and he took it well. He had some serious health issues, so perhaps that was also a factor.

Before you make the switch, see if you can have a couple trial lessons with the new teacher. If she's the right instructor for you, I think you'll know it within a lesson or two.

As Fuzzy pointed out, good teachers shouldn't feel threatened when a student studies with another teacher. When you look at biographies of famous clarinet players, there are usually several teachers listed. It's always good to be exposed to different points of view. I studied with four different people while working on music degrees, and picked up valuable ideas from all four.

As a teacher, I've had students leave for other teachers, but I've also had students come from other teachers to me. It stings when a long-time student leaves, but when it's an accomplished student who has learned a lot from me, I actually feel good. I know I've given the student a solid foundation, and I'm pleased to know the student cares enough to continue on and learn from others.

After a couple trial lessons, if you're convinced you want to make the switch, be honest with your current teacher. You might feel bad, and your teacher might feel a little hurt, but you did spend three years with him or her. Many students give up after only a couple months. If you're nice about it (and I'm sure you will be), you shouldn't feel guilty.

There's one more thing, though, to think about. You said the new teacher rarely takes new students, and you added that she might be too busy to teach you a year from now. Are you saying that you could make the switch now, but she might announce next year that she's not able to teach you any more? If that happens, what would you do? I think I'd ask that question during the trial lessons, and if you're not satisfied with the answer, don't make the switch.

Post Edited (2017-08-07 21:58)

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-08-09 07:16

It might help if I/we knew why you wanted to switch. What does the new teacher have to offer that your present teacher is not giving you?

This means things like sound quality, technique is better, a better sight reader, reed work, so in short what are you wanting to learn from the new teacher compared to your present one? What is missing?

If I felt as though I wasn't learning based on weaknesses and the present teacher wasn't delivering, well I would surely switch. Even the very best players in the world will often need to take a few lessons when they are bugged by something. Same with switching repairmen. I'm still friends with Bob Scott in Lansing Michigan, but I don't go to him. I actually do my own work, but Scotty is 94 years old now. He too I haven known since my Interlochen days. A great guy as most of you know and worked with him.

Being honest is always best. Just make sure this new teacher can make you a better player.

Some instructors specialize with ages, meaning as you first start playing one instructor may be perfect. Then when you are more advanced well it's time to make a move and find the next professor that will carry you to a much higher level.

I tried teaching and was horrible at it. So my college teaching lasted 6 months. I just couldn't get the kids to the levels I thought they needed to be at. So make sure the teacher is who you are wanting to take you to that new level you are seeking.

I really don't think any instructor would be upset if you switched for good reasons.

I'm still friends with a lot of past instructors. One guy is Fred Ormand, from my Interlochen days in the early 1970's. So that's 40 plus years.

Be kind and be very nice. No one can ever hold you to wanting to improve. People are pretty cool.

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Roxann 2017
Date:   2017-08-11 05:46

MANY Thanks to all of you who replied. Your advice in invaluable! I've printed it all out and will be referring to it frequently during the next month!

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2017-08-16 10:15

Please let us know what you do and how you handle it. Also the reasons behind your decisions.

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NEWLY DESIGNED "Vintage 1940 Cicero" Mouthpieces

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2017-08-18 17:33

Every person will treat this in their own way. My experience went like this. I had been studying with Eric Simon for a year and a half in HS and then two years at the Mannes College of Music. I owe him my inspriration to become an orchestral clarinet player and introducing me to the clarinet classics. After a summer at Aspen I heard of Leon Russianoff's teaaching reputation and decided to transfer to Manhattan School of Music to study with him. When Simon asked me why I was transferring I just politly explained to him that after 3 1/2 year I thought it would be a good idea to study with someone else. Then while studying with Russianoff I wanted to study bass clarinet with Joe Allard privately, a well respected teacher of clarinet, saxophone and bass clarinet teaching at Juillard. So i asked Russianoff if he would mind if I took lessons from Allard on bass while studying with him and he said, Joe is a very good teacher. Even though it was bass clarinet Russianoff was not threatened. My point, just be honest and sincere. Every teacher reacts differently. I never minded if a student asked me if it was ok to study with someone else during the summer, I even encouraged it with someone i respected. All I expected was telling or asking me.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: echi85 
Date:   2017-08-18 19:40

Teachers should be there for their students. It's not the other way around. If your currently teacher sincerely cares about your improvement, he/she should not have any issue with you seeing what else is out there. It's unlikely you can get everything you need from only one teacher.

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: kdk 2017
Date:   2017-08-18 21:44

I have only a couple of reactions to add.

Ed Palanker wrote:

> Then while
> studying with Russianoff I wanted to study bass clarinet with
> Joe Allard privately, ...i asked
> Russianoff if he would mind if I took lessons from Allard on
> bass while studying with him and he said, Joe is a very good
> teacher. Even though it was bass clarinet Russianoff was not
> threatened.

I think switching teachers is different from branching out during the summer or for specialties like bass clarinet. Did Russianoff play bass seriously? I'm very sure Gigliotti, when I studied with him at Temple, would have had no objection - might even have encouraged me - if I had wanted to take lessons with Ron Reuben, who had just become the Philadelphia Orchestra's bass clarinetist and had been one of my teachers when I was in junior and senior high school. I'm not sure I'd have gotten the same response if I had announced that I wanted to go to New York to study with Russianoff or Opperman.

echi85 wrote:

> It's unlikely you can get
> everything you need from only one teacher.

It's less than unlikely - IMO it's nonsense - that you can get *everything* you need from any single teacher or combination or succession of them. But depending on what the level of maturity is of a student's playing, consistency may be important just to establish a base line from which the student can go on to teach himself as he gains playing experience and informal input from more experienced players. Much depends on a student's stage of development.

Switching around from one teacher to another through middle or high school may prevent consistent growth. Graduation from high school to college is a natural time for changing teachers, but switching during a college program is, I think, almost always going to be seen as a student's value choice between the teachers involved. Switching from one teacher to another as an adult amateur with a day job can be a useful way to explore and find novelty in varying approaches depending on his ultimate objective. Of course, studying with a variety of high-level players can be valuable for a young post-college career-bound player who wants to strengthen specific areas of his playing or musical knowledge.

If a complete switch is made, I think you will most often not be able to go back if you later want to. I'm wondering if, once Ed moved from Simon's studio to Russianoff's, he could have gone back to Simon at Mannes if things hadn't worked out at Manhattan (if, for example, Russianoff had needed for some reason to reduce his teaching schedule and sent Ed off to another teacher at Manhattan).

I have had students who studied with me through their junior year in high school move to a college prep department at a major music conservatory for their senior year (studying with a grad student there). I've encouraged them once they'd already made the decision, and in two cases they've come back to me for summer work when the grad student who was teaching them left. But that's a different situation.

The issue of getting varied input is, IMO, not a particularly valid one until the student has reached a level of experience that lets him or her evaluate the input for its usefulness to him. It isn't that you can't learn without a dominant, consistent influence on your development. But you'll spend a lot more time going down blind alleys or reversing a potentially successful direction because a new teacher turns you around.

Regardless of the reasons for a switch, while the old teacher may support the move, the student shouldn't *expect* him to or expect to make the move without changing the relationship with the old teacher.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: gwie 2017
Date:   2017-08-18 22:13

> The issue of getting varied input is, IMO,
> not a particularly valid one until the student
> has reached a level of experience that lets
> him or her evaluate the input for its usefulness

Karl's got a great point there. The problem that I see locally is that folks hop around from teacher to teacher in the first few years of instruction, because they can't seem to commit to a single routine, or are unable to grasp that the factor in the student's progress is the consistent daily practice (which doesn't get done), and they believe that finding the right teacher will magically make things work.

This past year I had to unload two students/families who, for lack of a better term, "didn't get it."

By the time they reached me, they had gone through at least 3-4 teachers in the space of a single school year. Their playing fundamentals where a disaster, and they were trying to audition for things on repertoire way beyond their ability level. Their instruments were in terrible shape, and they appeared to not have any understanding of how to accurately place the reed on the mouthpiece. We spent months just getting the basics in gear, to have them produce a characteristic tone, get their posture out of the gutter, and learn how to properly articulate with the tongue .

Then, out of nowhere, they decided to go and apply for the top youth orchestra in the region, up against a bunch of my current and former students who played circles around them. They didn't make it of course, then abruptly quit, citing their "lack of progress."

I feel badly for these kids...I don't know how many times they're going to go around the block and fail before they learn that excellence requires commitment.

Post Edited (2017-08-18 22:15)

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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Ed Palanker 2017
Date:   2017-08-19 00:20

Of course Karl makes a good point about going to a respected bass clarinet teacher while studing clarinet with him. I was simply making a point. Of course it was different. I don't know if he would have reacted differently is he didn't respect Allard, Knowing Rusisianoff I don't believe he was threatened by anyone. But I can tell you this, I've dealt with one teacher that didn't want his students to study bass clarinet with me when they had to opportunity. Only one ever. I won't even begin to give the reasons why, it doesn't matter.
When I taught at the Eastern Music Festival for 25 summers I had students from all over the country and from many well known teachers. I had several return for several years. I don't know if there were any teachers around the country that asked their students not to study with me. Yes, a summer festival is different too, I know. I was simply giving my examples Karl. A good teacher should never be treatened by having their student study with someone else once in a while but I can see a conflict occurring if they are studying with two different teaches at the same time that have different philosophies. it could creat conflicts and confusion.


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 Re: How to gracefully switch teachers
Author: Ed 
Date:   2017-08-21 04:02

You never know how someone is going to react. The important part is to handle it the right way and be honest.

Post Edited (2017-08-21 14:41)

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