Monday, June 27, 2011

Slow blog

I've been silent for a few weeks because I haven't been able to clarify my thoughts enough to write anything coherent. That really hasn't changed, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway.

The net effect of my four months of piano lessons seems to have been somewhat negative. I feel discouraged. There is so much I need to learn if I ever want to play the piano anywhere near the way I imagine I could, and I don't know how I'm going to learn it. This teacher gave me little splatters of things, but not in a very usable form. I felt very talked-down-to, as if it was an accepted fact that it is too late for someone my age to do what I want to do. Now that my appetite for being taught has been whetted, I am beginning to doubt that I will ever find the right teacher.

I have continued to practice every day, but some days it's hard to make myself do it. I've been plugging away at another Bach prelude and fugue (WTC I/18 in G sharp minor) but without much enthusiasm. I started working on Schumann's "Papillons," which is fun. We had the sheet music kicking around since I was a child, so my sister who took lessons must have worked on it, though I can't imagine how -- another stellar choice by my first piano teacher. I may have mentioned that she would pick these outrageously difficult pieces for me -- and apparently for my sister as well -- that we could in no way play, but worked on for years on end without any understanding or mastery. Anyway, I remember trying to sightread through "Papillons" many a time, but it was as clear as mud. Now I feel I understand what to do and how to do it. We'll see.


ec said...

You're absolutely right about needing a teacher that believes your goals as an adult amateur are legit and achievable AND supports you in moving toward them. I have found such a teacher (have had 6 lessons as well as 3 informal studio classes with other adults). Throughout several decades of teaching, she's been an active performer and collaborator who still takes the odd lesson herself (from a fellow teacher and mentor. She has asked me several times to help her out by listening to her pre-performance run-throughs. Teachers I've had in the past considered themselves far beyond needing instruction and wouldn't have dreamt of asking a student for an opinion ;) While her lessons aren't the panacea for all my ills, they do help a lot. Could you ask other members of the AMSF about teachers who actually enjoy working with adults?

Harriet said...

You know, when I played at the house recital in April, I did ask everyone there about teachers (my husband said beforehand, "Don't leave without a list of names"). All but one said they didn't have a teacher and couldn't recommend anyone. The one person who was happy with his teacher was the least accomplished player. I have another recommendation from a friend but I haven't worked up the courage to follow up on it yet. I feel like I have to be very mentally clear about what I want and able to articulate it, and I've sort of run out of steam at the moment.

I do think one key is finding someone who is an active performer. It's so easy for people who have been teaching for a long time and not performing themselves to forget what's involved in playing in front of others.

shirley said...

Perhaps you can attend a concert or two of recitalists in your area. What about the University faculty, or concert series it presents. It's a good way to scope out the playing, sensitivity of the performer. On the other hand, some very fine performers are not necessarily good teachers. But for sure the combination of excellent teacher and accomplished player exists. Are you in the DC area?

Harriet said...

Yes, I am -- I think it makes things harder because there are so many choices and possibilities -- and so many teachers. There are at least half a dozen colleges and universities with music departments, a number of privage music schools, and then all the private teachers who aren't affiliated with any institution. Some I'm sure are good teachers, but it's hard to figure out which. The teacher I just experienced is in many ways a good one, but not quite the right fit for me.