Printer-friendly version weekend vote: Does it work to have more than one teacher at a time?

Laurie Niles

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Published: October 16, 2015 at 4:58 AM [UTC]

Does it work to have more than one teacher at a time?

Two Scrolls

Of course it's very normal to have more than one violin teacher over a lifetime, but how about studying with more than one teacher, at the same time?

The argument for having more than one teacher at a time is that it allows a student to get multiple perspectives, to perhaps study several different styles at once, to be more thorough. Or that one teacher can supplement another.

On the other side of the coin: one may find that the teachers have conflicting ideas and demands - for example, one wants the bow held one way, and one advocates another way. One might as for a certain fingering for scales, or for a particular bowing in a concerto. Also, the teachers are likely to assign different etudes, scales and pieces -- is there enough time for that?

In some situations, two different teachers may coordinate to teach a student, as in the case of husband-wife teaching team Almita and Roland Vamos, or a university teacher and that teacher's graduate assistant.

What do you think? Does it work to have more than one teacher? What are your experiences with this situation? When can it work, and when can it be a problem? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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From Steve Reizes
Posted on October 16, 2015 at 4:40 PM
I am doing this currently. I have one teacher where we are approaching the music from the direction of technique and one from the direction of musicality. However, as an adult student I have the perspective to control the balance between the two. It might not work for a younger student unless the teachers themselves coordinate.
From Cheryl Frankfurth
Posted on October 16, 2015 at 7:25 PM
I voted yes because I live in a small rural community and so I have a 'live' teacher and an 'online' teacher and find that what one doesn't explain in terms I click with, the other's been very helpful.
From marjory lange
Posted on October 16, 2015 at 9:14 PM
Probably better (as someone has already suggested) for the more mature student, capable of seeing multiple options and points of view.

That being said, I've found it very helpful to have plural teachers, although not always helpful when the teachers knew I was working with more than one...that surprised me at first...doesn't so much now.

From Kate Little
Posted on October 17, 2015 at 1:04 AM
To answer the questions in the article:

Different fingerings for scales or bowings for a piece? Take the time to learn them both.

Teachers assigning different material? Take from 2 teachers ONLY IF you are willing to put in the practice time for each of them. (Suggested minimum - 1 hour-per-day per teacher.) Alternatively, one can study pieces in depth with one teacher, and fundamental technique (bowing skills, scales) with another (or some such arrangement).

The bow hold problem: I was exactly in this situation. After many months of 2 teachers each suggesting different corrections to my bow hold, I spent 3 hours one afternoon carefully examining what they were both suggesting and what I was doing, and looking for a solution that would please each of them. I did not tell either of them what I had done, and waited for their responses. Corrections ceased from both of them! In the end, they wanted the same thing, but were expressing it differently. I just had to take the time to figure that out.

Studying with multiple teachers requires a committed, mature attitude, as well as good management skills.

From Brecklyn Ferrin
Posted on October 17, 2015 at 2:29 AM
I had two teachers at IU--Federico Agostini gave me one private lesson a week where we mainly focused on musicianship, performance, and tone. His Graduate Assistant, Ji-Woon Jung, gave me two or three lessons a week on technique. That worked really well, but only because they complemented each other, I think.
Posted on October 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM
If I approach it from the point of view like college never works !
In college we have 5-8 teachers per semester..right?
And yes time management and filtering
And mature teachers makes the difference.

Posted on October 17, 2015 at 2:19 PM
I have had two teachers overlapping for a time. I didn't tell them about it. The reason was that I had the chance to study with a very good teacher and I took it. It worked out alright, because they both focused on different things. I also took care to study different pieces with each teacher (not only because it would have been awkward to take the sheet music with one teacher's markings to another teacher). After a while I stopped taking lessons with the first teacher. The relationship had run its course anyway. Now I sometimes take masterclasses with other teachers and I am open about that.
Posted on October 18, 2015 at 2:37 AM
My question is: Who the heck can afford two teachers? Especially two live teachers? You could probably make a hefty down payment on a house just from the proceeds from one year of doing this. Sounds like a rich folks problem to me. For people like me, who live south of the economic class portrayed in most soaps, the question would first be, "where will the money come from?". Okay, everyone. discuss.

From Lydia Leong
Posted on October 18, 2015 at 3:58 AM
I had two teachers for various periods of time as a child. I worked on different things with each teacher. There was some conflict (especially since the teachers didn't like each other and had very different physical approaches to the instrument) but probably overall beneficial.

I've often had teachers who would take summers off, and therefore send their students to study with one or more other teachers during the summer. Those were all great experiences; you get the benefit of a different perspective for a bit, and often a little boost from whatever it is that teacher is especially good at teaching.

And of course, masterclasses and other occasional coaching also tend to give you at least one good takeaway for each bit of time spent.

The more advanced you are, the more readily you can incorporate multiple perspectives into your own playing (and ignore things that don't fit).

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 2:23 PM
Even when it may not work to have two teachers going in parallel, having the occasional lesson or very short course of lessons with someone other than your regular teacher may solve a problem or initiate an improvement which your regular teacher may have missed.
I had one lesson with Stan Frydberg. Probably that was enough (further lessons were rendered impossible by his outlandish flirtations, which my mother, out of courtesy, had been tolerating {"He bit my ear ... I had to get us out of that place as soon as possible"}), but he had given me stretching exercises and a more aggressive approach to the instrument (bow pressure, etc.). Winifred only had to modify what I had learnt, I did not need to unlearn it.
From Paul Deck
Posted on October 20, 2015 at 1:06 AM
Did you say Stan Frydberg, or Mike Tyson? Sheesh!
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 20, 2015 at 5:46 PM
I had two teachers for a while in Massachusetts when my first violin teacher stopped playing the viola. So I had a separate viola teacher, and that worked fine. I was working on different music and different issues with each teacher and there didn't seem to be a problem with conflicting advice.

Now I have a new teacher in California who plays and teaches both instruments and she seems to be quite happy and comfortable to do so, so I'm back to one teacher.

Posted on October 21, 2015 at 4:35 PM
Studying with both Weilerstein and Perlman was absolutely the best of two worlds!

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