Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car payment?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Local 357, Mar 21, 2012.

  1. Local 357

    Local 357 Banned

    Jul 1, 2011
    Seriously. Do you feel like you're improving at a steady clip? Or are you in a rut with your current teacher or chop system?

    There was this graffiti I read in a little used practice room back in New England circa 1974. It read:

    "All Roy Stevens has is a a lot of trumpet player's money".

    I kind of resented the statement at the time though in the passing years I tended to understand and at least partially agree with the complaint.The Stevens system really wasn't suitable for the majority of trumpet players. That said it is still a good read. Somewhere there is an online source of Roy's book "Embouchure Self Analysis and Triple C technique". I've got it myself both in pdf and actual photo copy. Somewhere anyway.

    There were other near scam-like systems on the market back then. Stevens, Spaulding ("Double High C in 37 Weeks") and others. Each promising high notes but rarely delivering on the goods. Some like Stevens were very expensive books back in the day. I think that Stevens book sold for some $100 bucks back in the mid 1970's. Maybe more. That was a lot of money then.

    I witnessed at least five trumpet music majors study with Carmine Caruso for about three years each. Only one of them developed a decent practice room High F. The others I considered miserable failures in their attempts to learn the upper register.

    Later one of them switched over to Claude Gordon and studied with him personally for TEN YEARS and still couldn't play a usable High G! Sad really. He, an old friend of mine, I was able to fix in a few short sessions. A quick fix as i pointed out that the Gordon approach, with it's pedal tones, tongue arch, large mouthpieces wasn't well suited for him.

    Despite all these freaking MISERABLE failed teaching attempts all the men I mentioned STILL loved their instructors. Each of the Caruso students greatly admired Carmine. All despite them never attaining even a solid High C. And as for my buddy whom i fixed? He rarely credits me for anything. Instead he runs on and on about how great a guy Claude was. Sheesh...

    Another example. An analogy rather. A friend of mine suffered with depression for some ten years. During this time he attended weekly visits to a psychiatrist for therapy. After a couple years he quit. I asked him if the shrink helped. His reply was interesting.

    "At first I seemed to be making progress. But as time passed I felt the doc was keeping me locked in the problem. At our sessions I'd vent for an hour or so, feel better but in a day or two, sometimes less my depression and anxiety crept back again. So I quit seeing the MD because it seemed the only thing I was doing was helping him make his car payment"

    The reason for that story is to explain the powerful effect that the teacher with a strong personality has on his student. Or like in medicine the doctor has on the patient as the case may be. When my depressed friend truly BELIEVED in his shrink? He made progress. Or at least he thought he did.

    Similarly when my friends who studied with Stevens, Caruso, and Gordon BELIEVED in their "masters"? Each felt a powerful motivation to continue playing the trumpet. Regardless of whether or not each made much tangible progress in his trumpet playing technique. And of course an inspirational teacher can truly help.

    But at some point in the game RESULTS should become the criteria for making an evaluation of a teacher's effectiveness. The "feel good" approach can actually be detrimental if the student isn't gaining any real ability. The cause of range, tone and endurance problems is usually physical though psychological and inspirational matters can figure into the equation too. Inadequate breathing and minor chop muscle function usage inadequacies. Except for the breathing matter almost NONE of the so-called "Chop Doc's" have even a clue about why this is so. And even then they will probably not emphasize the breathing approach enough. Don't forget how important the understanding of MOUTHPIECE issue angle is either.

    But don't try and tell your chop doc that! You'll be savaged. The words alone will threaten them. I'd like to think that the hesitancy of these chop gurus to accept new ideas and take responsibility is simply a matter of ego but I'm afraid it runs deeper than that. Why?

    Because they make money off of you!

    Now in and of itself this is not necessarily a bad thing. Profit is not a dirty word. Each of us has bills to pay. However at times the need to make money can blind a teacher from accepting new ideas. He becomes too personally invested in his old ideas. So he completely rejects anything new. Even the most simple of ideas. Worse he will attack the messenger of new thoughts.

    This is the reason most of the truly heavy cats do not write on open internet trumpet forums. As a powerful and much accomplished lead player told me

    "(such and such a trumpet forum) is full of idiots".

    So he doesn't post much anymore and we are all worse off for it. He himself a disciple of Donald Reinhardt. He's got more knowledge about the physics of trumpet playing in his little finger than most others have in their whole being...

    As for me? I don't want your money. I have no interest in taking your hard earned cash and buying a new car with it. You've had to work way too hard as it is to get where you've gotten to. And besides if I did publish what would I sell? My ideas aren't "systems" so much as they are fairly obvious perceptions of physical reality as it relates to the trumpet. Newton may have written a book or two on physics but he didn't try to get a copyright on gravity.

    See what I mean? The truths need to be pointed out regardless of how they are received. Why charge for them? Should Paul Revere have billed the Massachusetts revolutionaries after his long ride? I sure hope he didn't.

    So how do you decide if your teacher is not helping you much anymore? At least as far as range, tone and endurance is concerned? When did you become just his "car payment"? Well you can probably figure that out for yourself if you keep an open mind. But there will be at least one sure fire way to determine which person is more likely to stymie your progress while taking your money. Maybe even be a scam artist. How to tell?

    Show him this post. If he savagely and vehemently denounces the ideas presented?

    Then you know...
  2. mtbevins

    mtbevins Pianissimo User

    Jan 18, 2011
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    I would think more often than not, if a student is not progressing it would be likely they are not practicing. If a teacher assigns an etude and the student does not make any progress on it, is it really the fault of the teacher? Some students will do exactly that; They will get assigned work, and never practice, but come back to the next lesson only to be assigned the same thing. Ground hog day. Is that the fault of the teacher? Is it wrong for the teacher to keep seeing the student?
  3. Sidekick

    Sidekick Mezzo Piano User

    Apr 14, 2011
    London UK
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    I think that this is an excellent post and whilst I have no claim to be a teacher or even a decent player, I do recognise many of the issues.
    My apologies of this comment ends up a bit, "Zen", but that is down to almost 30 years involvement in the martial arts, which has surprisingly has many parallels with playing.
    But when you have found your "guru", your "master", you will make progress early on and perhaps for some time, but eventually that improvement will begin to wain and the gains will become more difficult to find. Now that might be down to a whole host of reasons and the teachers' duty at this point is to track down that reason and find a way to fix it or to approach it from a different angle.
    Whether it is because of ego or the car payments, I imagine that very few teachers would direct a student to a new teacher, even on a short term basis, to get them over the impasse. Any accomplished teacher should be able to look at a well established player from a new perspective and should be able to bring something new to the party - a tweak here, a subtle change there.
    The temptation is to keep your regular clients on board no matter what, on the grounds that if they keep coming back, they must be happy.
    Teachers of anything can become entrenched in their way of doing things and if you have made a few $ promoting a particular method, they are likely to want to hold on to that "expert" tag, because to move away from that method might suggest that it wasn't the "be all and end all" that everyone thought it was.
    Part of the reason that so many methods are out there, is because most of them will work for some people, some of the time and the trick for the student, is knowing when it is not working anymore and that it is not down to their own endevours; at that point a new perspective might be the way forward.
  4. Pete

    Pete Piano User

    Nov 17, 2007
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    The bottom line is to find what works for you with guidance from a good mentor. Some people think that the mere association from a well known teacher makes them better. No!

    You filter through the different approaches and find things that work for you. I use things from Reinhardt, Caruso, Shew that work for me. I have not studied with any of them directly. Is that bad?

    Anyway, it isn't wrong to take money for services rendered. If I pay someone to fix my car's transmission and then proceed to thrash it, is it the mechanic's fault if it breaks down again? Should he give you your money back or pay his bills? When you offer your services in good faith and the student doesn't do the work, or does not have a grasp of reality, is it the teacher's fault? Lack of work ethic and ignoring the realization of personal limitations is not necessarily the teacher's issue is it. The student is ultimately responsible for the end result, unless the teacher is a complete phony!

  5. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    I saw a cartoon of a trumpet student and his teacher during the lesson. The caption was, Teacher, "How much did you practice last week?". Student responds, "How much did I practice last week? Including now?".
    What holds most players back, IMO, is themselves. If after diligent, intelligent practice they are not progressing they need to ask themselves , is it the method, teacher, or me. I always assume it is me and look to see what I can do to shake things up personally. Am I doing what it takes to progress (all the boring exercises) or am I just picking up the horn and trying to wail in the stratosphere and cooking my chops? Success does not come through osmosis. I happen to have a good teacher with a proven track record of successful screamers (if that's one's goal). One method may work great for one player and not another. The "Jaw Forward" type of methods do not work well for me. I can do them but they aren't comfortable as I have an overbite. I can hit some really wicked sounding high "notes", but in the staff it's ugly. Is it the method or me? It's me. If I had an underbite it might be different. Are there lazy teachers? Sure! Lazy players? Yep! Bottom line for me is to find what works and go with it. Here's a link to an article of a very successful, world class player. Reading this article a few years ago set me free from the "Never do this" mentality.
    Stork Custom Mouthpieces
    And in case you don't know who she is, heres a link to the "google" search.
  6. EdMann

    EdMann Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 20, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    How silly. Again, money is evil and the teacher is at fault... I've studied with an awful lot of wonderful players and never once did I consider that the teacher was at fault for any of my playing issues, nor did any ever insist on studying with them and only them.

    It's all too easy to blame teachers for the students' misgivings and missteps. Blaming others, including teachers for your problems is not what music is about, and some physical approach vs. another is not even close to the problem. Kids either dig making music on the trpt or they don't. True, some parents simply insist that X teacher keep on doing what they're doing because they insist on having a musical education for their kids. That may not be all bad! I've had to add pressure here and there to keep my boy on task for French horn, but after a few bad weeks of no progress (and no practice on his part) neither of his teachers, who I gladly pay for their expert services, continue to be anything but supportive and encouraging. You see, it's not all about one physical approach or another, or even about progress. It's certainly not about money and no teacher is going to 'guru' my son into anything.

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  7. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    On the other hand it's very easy to blame the student as well. If you have a young kid just learning the horn, whose parents let's say are non-musicians (or at least not professionals), it's EXTREMELY easy for that teacher to just waste the family's time and money. Just because someone claims to be a teacher, or even appears to have credentials, doesn't mean they ARE good teachers. I get the feeling alot of folks here who recommend teachers as the end-all of progress have easy access to a whole lot of teachers and a whole lot of money. IMHO I think that's not the case for a majority of young players and their families.

    For myself, several years ago my daughter expressed an interest in violin. We rented a violin ($100/mo) and found a teacher who came well-recommended, had played with a major symphony orchestra, etc. I believe the cost of each lesson was $50 an hour. So at 4 lessons per month plus rental that's $300 a month! That's not chump change to most people. And to top it off even being a musician I really had no idea what would constitute "progress" on violin. We kept it up for about 4 months until I said No More. I could listen in on her lessons...she played maybe 10 to 20 minutes in an hour lesson. Most of the time the teacher just gave very generic advice, had her play a couple long notes etc. I understand the meaning of "beginning student" but this was just ridiculous.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2012
  8. Richard Oliver

    Richard Oliver Forte User

    Jul 18, 2006
    Casper, WY
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym


    Thanks for the post. I studied with a fine teacher from 1977-1983. I was an early 20's kid who came to love the trumpet. 25 years later I picked it back up. Studied with our local trumpet guy. Wonderful man. Now studying again via Skype. Said to myself, "I'm going to do this for 13 weeks and see what occurs." I even 86'd a tangible or intangible goal. I promised myself to be diligent and compliant. Thus far, 7 weeks in, I've done what I said I would do.

    Having a sense of teaching and learning (I spent the better part of my life in academe as a student and teacher) before the internet, and now after it, and piddling on trumpet boards (TH and TM) since 2006'ish, what you say caught my eye.

    I have some things to say, but not time enough to say them well.

    Thanks for posting.
  9. BustedChops

    BustedChops Mezzo Forte User

    Oct 1, 2011
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    I would rather the American labor market pay of houses and cars with trumpet instructors than big box store employees or junk parlour sales. :)
  10. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Re: Ever feel like all you're accomplishing is helping your teacher make his car paym

    if life were only so simple. The post requires no comment. We can all hear similar things at any bar. Success cannot be bottled. Both the student and the teacher have stuff to bring to the table. We all need a pretty good mirror before pointing fingers. I often ask myself how big of a chip does ones shoulder need to be so down on teachers in general. I have never met a person where there was nothing to learn. I wouldn't pay for lessons from just anybody. A minor amount of research has always produced good results for me. We ultimately are responsible for what we do. That includes picking teachers.

    There is a split here however. There is a time in our lives when a teacher concious of the body/breathing/chop use issues are of primary importance. Very often, they are NOT the ones that bring us musically forward. My experience is that working players often have a lot of natural talent - and little real knowledge where their superior playing came from. Those pros can bring us muscically forward (through emulation and opportunities), but only if the mechanics were learned elsewhere. Like with horns, one size does not fit all and I find barspeak to do injustice to the many teachers that don't turn out the next double C, but enrich the lives of those working with them.
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2012

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