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Playing just for Fun
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Bobby
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March 27, 2015 - 4:49 am
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Ok, I need to rant a bit.

I'm 33 as of today, and just started violin and taking lessons in the very beginning of February. Now, I do have a musical background. I played Saxophone for over a decade, have sang for over 20 years, and have played guitar the last 5 years. Music comes naturally to me, thankfully.

I very well know how to read music, and what all of the articulations mean. Now, admittedly, I had to bring myself up to snuff on articulations specific to violin--no problem.

Now, to my point lol. My violin teacher on day one made the remark, "you'll never be a concerto." Ok, fair enough, though that wasn't why I started; however, it equally ticked me off that she, on the first day, told me I was NOT able to do something. She never asked what my goal was in learning violin, not then and hasn't to this day.

She also feels the need, despite my frequent reminders, to educate me on the definitions of articulations and such on the sheet music (non-violin related) to the point that I feel like she just ignores me. It's very apparent when I play, that I know how to read the dang music.

That being said, she constantly reminds me to have fun, and that I am just doing this (learning violin) for fun. Now this is what really ticks me off. Adults have many reasons for starting anything new in life. While, I have no doubt many adult violin beginners simply wish to learn for fun (which is totally cool) it is simply not THE reason I wanted to learn violin. I have fun playing, learning, and just fiddling around (no pun intended). However, I chose to take lessons because I want to do more with the violin then just as a hobby to entertain myself.

I have no grand illusion of playing in some major orchestra, nor do I really want to. I just want to make music. By that, I mean record professional, non-classical music. My interest is with pop, rock, jazz, and celtic music. I am still plenty young enough that I believe I can learn to play at a level appropriate to record music that would sell. My intent is not making money, but playing at that level. That doesn't mean I need to be Joshua Bell.

I've heard this phrase uttered to adult beginners on more then one occasion, "Remember that you're doing this for fun." Maybe this is one of the reasons the stigma exists that adults "can't" learn the violin, or at least can't learn it as well or as quickly as a child (which I wholeheartedly disagree with).

Curious to hear others thoughts.

End rant, sorry for the long text.

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DanielB
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March 27, 2015 - 5:39 am
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Teachers are only human.  They sometimes have prejudices, like anyone else.  They sometimes make mistakes.  They sometimes say stupid stuff.  Don't expect the teacher to really be any wiser than any average person out of your friends and you probably won't be too disappointed.  Don't expect them to know what you *can* do any better than anyone else who just met you.

But you are steamed up about this.  Annoyed.  Excellent!

Use that fire.  Let it burn every time you have a chance to pick up the instrument and play.  When you are tempted to slack on practice and go do something maybe a bit more easily "fun" instead.. Remember that anger and pick up and play, working towards the day when you can show that teacher just how much they underestimated you.

Does it discourage a lot of adult players, so they maybe don't try as hard or work as hard as some kid whose parents make them put in their practice time before video games or whatever?  I am 100% certain that it does for many adult players who might otherwise turn out to be excellent players.

So don't be one of them.  Prove that teacher wrong.  If they are actually a good teacher, they will be delighted to see it!

In the end, it will not be the teacher that is the main factor that determines how good you can get.  It will be you.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Schaick
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March 27, 2015 - 9:07 am
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@Bobby That was truly jerky on her part.  I would be mad and ticked too.  As comparison at my first lesson my Suzuki Teach asked what kind of music I wanted to play, what were my goals and was very supportive!!

At the folk festival there was a woman who stopped by the jamming tent.  She obviously did not play an instrument but kept trying to critique me when I had a bit of trouble with Ashokan Farewell.  My Suzuki Teach said - that woman has no idea of the amount effort required to play the violin and you are getting it!!  very supportive of my efforts.

So much so I am thinking about starting up lessons with Suzuki Teach again this summer.

@DanielB Great response!!  

Violinist start date -  May 2013  

Fiddler start date - May 2014

FIDDLE- Gift from a dear friend. A 1930-40 german copy, of a french copy of a Stradivarius.  BOW - $50 carbon fiber. Strings - Dominants with E Pirastro Gold string.

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risk
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March 27, 2015 - 11:18 pm
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I ran into that same thing, put the violin down for 10 years and just last year picked it up again. Half tempted to be a bum on the atreet so i can play 10 hrs a day and become a concert violinist just to shove it in their face.

 

Meh, get another teach and tell her where to stick it.

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risk
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Also, look up circa paleo (aka the hot violinist). She started late and now plays for a living.

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Bobby
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March 27, 2015 - 11:39 pm
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risk said
Also, look up circa paleo (aka the hot violinist). She started late and now plays for a living.

Ironically, Jenny O'Connor (The Hot Violinist) is the person on YouTube I came across roughly 8 months or so ago, that actually got me wanting to play violin. Well, I guess I should say she helped me decide to actually go for it (I've always been interested). She is quite an inspiration for me, because as you said, she started a bit later in her musical career.

Like me, she was a guitar player and eventually decided she wanted to learn violin. I know that she was taught using the Suzuki method, but she also had managed to find a couple VERY good teachers along the way.

But yea, I personally love Circa Paleo's music. I have their album, it's quite good. :)

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DanielB
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March 28, 2015 - 8:19 am
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Adult beginners get treated different than children who are starting on an instrument.  I don't think it's right, but it is how things usually go. 

But a kid's situation is also different.  One thing in a lot of styles of violin teaching is that there are 3 people that are key in the possibility for development.  The student themselves, of course.. the teacher.. and the parent(s).  As an adult beginner, you probably don't have your parents being told how you have talent and to make sure you do your practice every day.  So you're down to 2/3rds of the "team" a schoolkid would have right there.  And for those who are self-teaching, it's down to a team of 1.  Not saying it still can't be done, but it sure won't make it easier.  You're in the position of having to do the "jobs" of at least the parent(s) and if you are self-teaching, you'll also have to try and do the work the teacher does.

I've had the privilege the past several months of being able to do a bit of coaching and etc for a young player who was 10 and started his very first year of taking violin in school as "instrumental music" class.. AKA "band".  I was taking a class on how to teach beginner violin, and I'm an old friend of the family, and his family is "lower income", so he wouldn't have had any kind of a private instructor to go along with the school music program otherwise.  Better than nothing, anyway.

Now those terribly talented teenagers you see on youtube, almost all of them have music/violin as a class in school and also have a private instructor.  That's another person on their team, and an advantage.  An adult who is "playing violin for fun" (as your teacher so poorly put it) does not get the equivalent of that schoolwork.  We don't get quizzes to make sure we are learning the notes on the staff or what key signature that is or what these marks mean.  We aren't getting report card grade on how hard we work in practice or if we are doing well compared to 20 or 30 others.

Even getting private lessons from a teacher as an adult, you probably are not getting that, not in the way a kid who has to take home a report card has to.  That's 2 or 3 days every week of having and hour or so of class to study stuff that most adult beginners would rather skip over, just to "pass". 

Now think of when you look up a song on youtube and see some 16 yr old just doing a fine job at it.  A lot of them probably started at about 10, when their school started offering instrumental music as an elective class and some guidance counselor convinced their parents that it would be good for them to take it.  So they've had 6 years of class where they had to be at least competent at things like reading music, and show up for rehearsals and do some work, and having 3 or 4 "concerts" a year that they had to play in public, probably from the very first year.  And that was just to get a passing grade.  They had to learn a certain amount of music in a "graduated repertoire" which is a fancy way of saying starting with real easy pieces and not being allowed to just skip ones they thought were boring, and on to progressively more challenging pieces.  You also don't sit with classmates who consider it normal and good to try to work enough at it to get a good grade.  You don't have that peer group that a kid in a class automatically has.

I do have a strong personal belief that if an adult student puts in the same work as a 10 yr old student does for 6 years, that there is a very high probability that they can be as good as that 16 yr old on youtube.  Might even kick their rump.  But you have to give some thought to how you are going to do that. 

That isn't even counting the private lessons.  Not all kids get those.  Ones whose folks have the money to afford them and/or where their school band teacher tells the parents that they maybe have some real talent and could amount to something if they get private lessons get those.

Then, just from the schoolwork, there is an additional parent(s)/family element.  With my 10 yr old 'brother musician' there, he brought home an "A" in music on his report card.  From what I could tell, it may have been his first "A" ever, I'm not sure.  But ohh.. that makes a difference.  Praise from family, some treats.. and if you think his mama was going to let him slack off on practice after that.. Uh-uh!  The hour of practice now became a "religion".. LOL 

"First concert", everybody in his household went to see him play and "support", and they had a little reception afterwards.  Cake and ice cream sort of thing.  Close relatives and etc that skipped the event were automatically a bit in the doghouse for that.  Also some extra "privileges" like being allowed to stay up late on weekends playing video games so long as he is doing well.  Chores getting covered by other people in the household so that he could get in a little extra practice before tests or concerts.  That's encouragement and reinforcement.  Powerful motivators.

The second "A" turned up, and the meeting with the school teacher had some talk about how he's talented and could maybe make a career in music, and the family support and encouragement went up even more.

That's how a younger beginner is likely to get treated.  As an adult beginner, you aren't going to get that classwork in addition to your practice and your private lessons.  Nobody butt-kicking you through making sure your basic knowledge of the musical staff and etc is solid, and probably not the degree of family moral support and encouragement a kid would. 

I seriously and honestly do believe that adult beginners can do as good as younger beginners.  But you are going to have to figure out how to level the playing field to give yourself at least some of the same advantages.  It will take more than just working harder.  You'll have to work smarter if you want to make the kind of progress that kids make. 

Unless you come from a musically inclined family, they may not even know how to encourage or think of someone who is trying to learn to play an instrument.  They may be downright discouraging, in fact.

And no, it is not fair.  But your violin teacher is only one of the people that you know that will view your efforts as "just for fun" or worse, some kind of weird hobby that they'll hope you outgrow soon.  Whereas if you were 10 yrs old, you'd be getting told how you should stick with it and work hard and it might be your job/career someday and you might even be famous "when you grow up".  You'd be getting encouraged to believe in yourself, to dream BIG..

I hope I am not being discouraging with this ramble.  I'm trying to give you some ideas of how to use that annoyance/anger you feel at being treated different than a younger beginner would be treated.  Don't just spend it on a bit of extra practice time for a few days until you cool back down.  Use some of it to figure out ways to get some of that education and support/encouragement that a kid gets working for you.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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risk
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Danielb, its straight up different than that. They say and mean that you cannot, where a kid can. Not you dont have support and its hard etc, they ignorantly think that an adult cannot form the connections and coordination in order to perform on a higher level.

What we dont have usualy is the 4 to 8 hrs a day to focus solely on music with another 2-4 hrs of instruction per day since we have things like bills that kids dont. That is what prevents adults from being concert musicians.

One thing that hurts us though,  is drive. We are motivated, we know we can do this where a kid has a parent telling him to do it. What we dont usually take into account is it takes time. I think thats where instructors begin their misconception about adult learners.

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Bobby
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March 28, 2015 - 1:47 pm
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I'm really not too discouraged. I know, especially with my music background, that I can learn to be proficient enough with the violin to become at least semi-professional within a reasonable amount of time. I also happen to be in a fortunate position in that I do not have to work (disabled vet), which of course allows me to spend much more time learning the violin than others have.

For me, while I have the time, I really haven't figured out what's the best approach to make use of that time. I do practice everyday (though unorganized) and I have my private lesson every Friday, but I'm trying to find additional ways to further develop.

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coolpinkone
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Well you know I am all over this thread.serenade

Just my journey at 46 to find a teacher that would take me as an adult violinist.... that's been shared here before.  I did find a lovely teacher that helped me.  And still is there for me should I go back.dancinbunny

I always resent the reminders that this is just for fun and this is just a hobby.  HELLO.. I know its fun... HELLO I know it's a hobby. exactly The unspoken that I couldn't do anything special with violin has been thrown in my face a zillion times.   facepalm

I have a burning desire to play some exquisite and challenging music.... I see my self in 10 years playing the music that led me to the violin.  I will need more lessons than what I am getting now, and I have to get tough on my technique ect.dancing

I don't know what I will be playing or for whom I will be playing....but the one thing I continue to state to anyone..... WHETHER I AM 49 or not is not going to be the determining factor.   It will depend on my dedication, practice, lessons and time available to play... NOT MY AGE.   :) bunny_pole_dancerviolin-1267

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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risk
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Thank you for everything you have done for us, i wouldnt call it a fortunate position as im sure the sacrifice probably outweighs the benefits. Be what it may, take advantage and never forget you deserve it.

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DanielB
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@coolpinkone:  10 yrs?  Hmm.  Maybe.  If the pool is still open on that, I'll put a couple bucks on 5 yrs, rather than 10.  And that would be from when you started, not from now.

I believe in Toni, the coolpinkone.  I have faith.

 

To my way of thinking, we should always be playing "for fun", playing because we enjoy making music.  If being a "professional" means that one is only doing it for the money and the joy of making music happen is all gone, I don't ever want that.  LOL

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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risk
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I am totally with danielb on that one. Still want to shove something down the throats of the stuck up instructors though. Takes the fun out of it.

 

I found a great one through craigslist who happens to instruct out of a national chain. I asked what her experiences w adults were and was satisfied to give it a go, when she asked me what my goals were i was impressed. Havent gotten the stuffy impression once from her. Even after not practicing for varolious reasons between a few lessons and forgetting about one completely :)

 

Good ones are out there and worth the effort to find.

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Bobby
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March 28, 2015 - 6:19 pm
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@coolpinkone Really couldn't agree more :)

@risk I say "fortunate" with a grain of salt. It cost me in more ways than one, but I also consider myself more fortunate than others. I try hard to look at the brighter side of things. Also cool that you found a instructor on craigs list. I would look for another, but I'm moving to Florida in May or June, so I kinda feel like it would be silly to start with someone new right at the moment.

@DanielB I don't disagree. I have fun every time I pick up any of my instruments and just enjoy music. I could not care less if I ever make a dime playing violin, it's just a goal for me to play at that level :)

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coolpinkone
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@DanielB Thanks for the faith.  I take all the faith that you and  many of you have in me and it fills some of those gobs of space of worry that I won't get it right, that I won't play what I want.

I had an excellent weekend of playing violin.  I played on the Electrical... I played on the accoustic. I played new songs... I played lists and lists of old songs... I played with the door open and a neighborhood full of people.

Oh yes...I played for fun.      I got to hear some of my fellow musicians playing on line and it was inspiring to see HOW MUCH fun music can be. 

I also now thanks to @cdennyb  know what Star Spangled Banner sounds like in SCREAMING METAL.   :) I couldn't believe the sounds coming out of my house!!!!! 

Vibrato Desperato.... Desperately seeking vibrato

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Fiddlerman
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Bobby, I don't like to be negative towards violin teachers but my suggestion is to find another teacher. Your way of thinking is IMAO entirely right. No teacher should tell you what you can't do and especially before asking you what your goals are. That is one of the first things I ask even before I accept a student.
Don't trust anyone who tells you that you won't be able to do something. How could you dream and gain ambition with that attitude. Shame on her.
Congratulations on your journey!!!

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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risk
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Shame on me.. (looks sheepishly at fiddlerman)

 

He has reminded me that ive made it sound like the majority are rotten instructors when it is quite the opposite. Its just that the rotten ones stink up the place and rub you raw.

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DanielB
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Yeah..

To get right to the point, time to look for a different teacher.  Someone who obviously just ignores a significant musical background and doesn't listen to what your goals are?  How can they teach you?  What can they teach you?  Definitely far from optimal or even an acceptable teacher for your case, Bobby.

My long babble on how some teachers tend to think of adult students wasn't really directed at you specifically.  In your case you do have the classroom time and had to have some of the discipline that someone who is a beginner at music would have to be learning.

My best guess is that the teacher acts the way she does, because it is all she knows how to do.

I do not agree with the teachers that don't feel it is worthwhile to teach adult beginners.  I can understand some of the reasons, but I still think it sucks and they should mention in their advertising/promo if they specialize in teaching beginners who are of a certain age only.

But a sad fact of the matter is that in many cases, they may not even know how to approach teaching adults.  The violin teaching course I took was almost entirely exercises, games, activities and tactics that were designed for teaching children. Small children at that.  I had to ask to get any ideas at all on how one would approach teaching an adult beginner.  Most of the people who replied who already were teaching violin said to teach them exactly the same as little kids, the same exercises and games, the same methods. 

I personally think that is more than a little (pauses to think of a polite and family friendly word).. wrong?

I won't go into a long rant on how I think adults should be taught.. But my point here is that at least a good number of the people who actually train for teaching violin probably got zero training on how to approach teaching an adult beginner. 

There are also some where teaching adults just isn't at all what they want to do.  Someone can be very motivated to go to school to become a kindergarten or pre-school teacher and not be willing to teach a college course to adult students.  Their goal was to teach kids.  I think that is perfectly ok for a person motivated into getting the education to do that, but then they probably shouldn't take adult students.  Or at least they should explain that they don't really have a program for adults.

My goals are actually pretty similar to yours, Bobby.  I've already been a musician most of my life, and I am learning this fascinating instrument now.  I have respect for classical and bluegrass and that sort of thing, but they aren't what I want to do.  Orchestras are neat to watch, but they don't look like a musical environment I would like to be involved in any closer than maybe a good seat in the audience.  

Rock, blues, pop, dance, maybe a bit of folk, that's more what I do.  Being able to do it well enough to record some tracks and put out some stuff is what I'm after, not the opportunity to wear a tux and play concertos and all that.

But the problem is that even if there were plenty of violin teachers around here, I don't think that most of them would have the background to be able to help me much with that.  You're likely to end up in pretty much the same boat, unless you really luck out on your teacher hunt.   

  

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Bobby
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April 1, 2015 - 3:35 am
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@DanielB Appreciate the comments and discussion. I was interested to hear your view from the experience in the teacher course.  My bachelor's degree is in the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) / English Language Learners (ESL) field. In my case, I chose to pursue a path that has me teaching at the collegiate level. I just don't think I could work well with younger children in a school setting. So I understand the desire to choose one group over another, if it's preference. I must say, I'm not too sure I could handle being taught like a child either, it would definitely seem weird and disconcerting.

I have some interest in a orchestra setting, simply because I enjoyed playing in large ensembles when I was growing up.  I just can't help but think that the time it would take me to learn a lot of the pieces they play, would be better time spent to better develop my own techniques for the same genres you mentioned. Who knows though, time will tell.  It would seem as though you and I certainly have very similar goals indeed.

I'm moving to Florida in June, and already have some promising leads on instructors that would be in my area. The area also has a nice orchestra and a couple places to jam at. So here's hoping for the best.

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DanielB
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@Bobby:  Well, the points you raised are serious concerns for adult beginners, and it is far from the first time we've heard in these forums about teachers either being less than optimally oriented for adult students or in some cases flat out refusing to try teaching them.  Or worse, their attitude risks discouraging the non-child beginner from even making the attempt.

My associate's degree is in Music.  I took the online 10 week course on how to teach violin mostly for myself, to make sure that I wasn't overlooking anything important in my self-teaching.  If you don't establish a good foundation of the basic skills and knowledge, then it will limit how much you can build on it later.  Some of the instruments I play I was self-taught and some I took classes or lessons, so over the years I have figured at least that much out.  LOL

I still don't see myself as heading any time soon into teaching others as an activity.  I would want to achieve some things with the instrument myself first.  I mean, why would anyone want to take lessons from someone where they can't see and hear evidence that the person has things they want to learn?  But taking the course, I did become aware that there are a lot of groups of people that aren't really served or helped by the current "traditions" in many areas.  

Other than adult students in general, there are children from economically disadvantaged families where even 100$ for a "cheap" instrument is a serious bite to the household budget and they certainly can't afford the "going rate" for private lessons in their area.  But what a kid can get from their school music program just isn't always going to be enough to give them a decent shot at even getting gigs in local bands.  Even if the teacher was actually experienced on all the instruments they are called on to teach in that environment, the amount of time they can spend with each student is so limited.

Then there's folks that want to play something other than "classical" or maybe bluegrass fiddling.  It isn't just violin where the genres anyone teaches tend to be limited, but violin has to be the absolute worst instrument in that regard that I have seen in my entire life.  It is such a shame with an instrument that is so capable of diversity, that can have a great voice in so many kinds of music. 

Anyway, at not quite 3 years on the instrument, I'm not taking out classifieds or putting up a sign.  LOL  But maybe someday, because the need is there. 

Music is one of the great joys and comforts of my life.  One of the few things where every hour I spend on it has felt like it was well spent, and every dollar I could put towards it was a bargain.  So to be honest, I tend to side with what risk has said about being angry to hear about people being shut out from it.

I can understand that much of this is "just how the world is".  But it feels like it is not how the world should be. 

Excellent to hear that you have gotten some promising leads on better teachers, Bobby.  You deserve better than the one you described in this thread.  I am sure I am not alone in hoping to hear more from you as a violinist as you explore the new opportunities that the move will bring!

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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