A GOOD TRANSITION
Because of the intimate one-on-one nature of private music lessons, changing teachers is ALWAYS difficult. Even if the student is very excited about the new teacher, and has confidence that the new relationship will be a good one, there are many factors that make it difficult and which should probably be discussed and re-discussed throughout the transition process. The transition process is usually 6 months to a year from the first lesson with the new teacher.
APPROACH: Every teacher has his/her own approach to teaching and this teaching style may seem very different from your old teacher. Asking questions is always the best general approach to anything new and different. If you think you understand your teacher, take the time to repeat the instructions or lesson back in your own words. Let the teacher determine whether you understood everything based on your own descriptions. At the end of every lesson, you should have a clear picture in your mind what your teacher wants. Can you make a list of the 5 things the teacher asked you to do? Can you explain or describe the single most important area of improvement your new teacher identified? Have you discussed with your teacher your own goals, and what you expect from the lessons?
FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY: Almost every transfer student will come away from the first few lessons with feelings like "I don't understand the new teacher", "the teacher makes me feel like I know nothing", "I am not as good as I should be", or "My other teacher didn't teach me right". Please keep in mind that this is a natural feeling, but is NOT completely true. Every teacher will naturally try to identify where the student is lacking in something, especially in areas that he/she personally thinks are important. This does not mean your former teacher was terrible - each teacher just has different priorities, background and approaches. It does not mean you are a bad student - you just need time to understand and get used to what your new teacher wants. It is not that you don't know anything - you just have a lot more to learn. Hopefully, you have chosen your new teacher because you believe you will learn more and advance better, which means the need for improvement was the underlying motivation for the change. Do not let feelings of adequacy cloud your goals of wanting to advance and get better.
TECHNIQUE: Every musician has learned the technique of the instrument from a different teacher, and there are many schools of technique. Are you aware of your new teacher's technique and how it differs from your old teacher's technique? Have you discussed issues of technique? Because every teacher has her/his own technique and approach to technique, it will take time to understand exactly what your teacher wants and how to make your fingers, hands and arms execute it correctly. You will be given exercises that seem too easy or babyish - but it is important to learn a new skill using music that is easy, rather than try to apply it to challenging music at your current level. Please be patient with your new teacher as you learn these new skills. Once mastered using easy exercises, your teacher will show you how to apply it to the music that is at your current level.
THEORY: Despite the above assurances that all teachers are good and should not be blamed for something they did not teach you, the reality in regard to theory is that most teachers do not give it enough emphasis or priority. Some teachers do not teach theory at all. In their defense, theory is just not as exciting for teachers to teach as the technique and repertoire are. Likewise, some did not get it when they studied as a child, and have not realized its importance now that they are teachers. They would rather spend the lesson time working on Beethoven and Debussy, than checking a student's homework for chord figures and note values. Theory is strongly emphasized at KMI, and almost all transfer students will have significant catch up to do in the area of theory. Please be patient with our faculty, even if 80% of each weekly lesson is devoted to theory. If you worked on a piece, please do not hesitate to show off your efforts by playing it for your teacher (especially if it is memorized). The teacher may not have time to work with you a lot on it, but will be happy to hear what you have done during the week. Most transfer students manage to bring their theory level up to their playing level within 6 months to a year, and can then proceed to learn music at the rate they were used to prior to transfer. The students at KMI progress and advance as strongly as they do precisely because they are required to learn their theory to the same level of mastery as their technique and pieces.
SIGHT READING: Second to theory, KMI places significant emphasis on the student's ability to approach entirely new music. At every lesson, the student will be required to play sight reading exercises (or pieces), to demonstrate that she/he understands and executes everything on the printed score. Each sight reading exercise will demonstrate a different musical concept or technique, and if the student executes it correctly - FINE! If there is confusion or something overlooked, the teacher can discuss the issue directly. Sometimes it is not a matter of knowledge, but rather one of care or paying attention, and once pointed out the student is able to fix the overlooked issue and play it correctly. If the student does not seem to understand, or cannot just play it correctly the second time, then the teacher has identified a technique or theoretical concept that needs further treatment in either review or remediation.
ON YOUR OWN PIECES: Although you spend an hour discussing your background with the KMI faculty at the FREE CONSULTION, and may have played some pieces, played your technique, answered some questions and possibly even taken a written exam, your new teacher will not know all of your knowledge, skill and potential for at least 6 months after you transfer. One area the teacher will want to have a better understanding of is your ability to work on your own. For this reason, your new teacher will assign you a few "on your own pieces" for you to work on. Your teacher will not explain anything to you at the lesson. You must learn it completely on your own. They will be easier pieces than your current level, so that you can learn them in one or two weeks. What you figure out and how you prepare new music is very revealing to your teacher and allows your teacher to plan what to review, and how to approach new theory technique or repertoire.
PERFORMANCE: When a transfer student will first perform under the sponsorship of the new teacher is an issue that requires careful consideration. If the student wants to switch teachers due to an important audition or other performing opportunity that is coming up in less than 6 months, the new teacher is obligated to REFUSE the student until after that event. This is an ethical issue and standard practice among professional music teachers. However, if this event is more than 6 months away the new teacher will need to discuss this in depth and form a clear plan and set of expectations with the student and parents. If no important performance event is on the horizon, the new teacher and student will make the decision to perform based on the initial transition lessons. KMI holds a Fall and Spring recital every year, and piano students participate in the annual PPTA Evaluations in May. If you believe you should be performing in one of these events and your teacher has not discussed it, feel free to ask why. Your teacher can explain why your are not yet ready for public appearance at this time, or can discuss options for performance that are exceptable to everyone concerned. Whenever there is a transition period, it is important that the adjustment is allowed to take place without complication or interruption. The pressures of performing just might be inappropriate at that point during the transition. Please be patient with your teacher as he/she prepares your child for the next public appearance!
(Proceed to CATCHING UP to gain understanding why transfer students will always need to do work to catch up or fill in gaps in their education.)