In the 2007 movie "The Visitor," which I highly recommend, Richard Jenkins' character goes from one piano teacher to another; apparently he's unteachable. You can feel the frustration of the teachers. I hope I'm not imposing that kind of frustration on my teachers, but I'm starting on Teacher #4, I'm afraid.
To recap: Teacher #1 was a jazz pianist who talked through my lessons and wanted to play his compositions for me. He did teach me to read the bass clef, finger the major scales and play a walking bass blues, before he collapsed on me in tears when his wife threw him out. Too much drama, not enough piano.
I learned a lot from Teacher #2 but he had ME in tears all the time. I think our personalities clashed, and I felt like he was challenging me too much. While I was struggling to learn notes, he was critiquing musicality. If I tried to be musical, he picked apart my technique. He gave me all kinds of exercises to improve that technique and he certainly gave me interesting assignments, but I was making up excuses not to go. His studio was inconvenient, he changed my lesson time without asking, and I always felt like he was sneering at me.
So I've been taking group lessons with Teacher #3 for about a year, and I'm really enjoying them. Partly I get to feel all superior because I have a much stronger sense of rhythm than most of the class. "Your counting is rock solid!" Andy cheers. (His main requirement is that we learn to count.) And it's like my figure drawing classes: at first, I was afraid to show my work, certain that everyone else would be much better than I. Some people were; but each of us had a unique perspective and a distinctly different technique. It was all the same model, but all different drawings.
I shall continue with the group lessons, and the core group of Andy's students who return every semester. But I started wanting more - more focus, more attention to ME, more development and structure. In the group class I get to pick what I want to work on and noodle around on it for as long as I want. I need a teacher who will assign boring, repetitive exercises and watch my hands to see where I'm going wrong.
So I'm starting lessons with Trudy on Thursdays, on my lunch hour from work. She's barely 10 minutes from my office, in a really cool old house with gorgeous parquet in the front hall, cool old moldings around the doorways, a bow window in the room where her grand piano will reside ... Alas, the piano hasn't been moved yet. She and her young family just moved into this house, and my first lesson took place on an electronic keyboard whose pedal kept scuttling away from me on the hardwood floor.
The lesson was a little bit bumpy as she tried to get to know me and I tested her for weakness. <grins> She had me play the 3/4 of the Chopin nocturne, and the Schumann melody I played for class recently, and the Kabalevsky A minor etude that I'm currently battling. And then she said that playing these songs was nice, it served to keep up interest and so on, but ... was I planning to work on technique at all? What a wonderful way of saying, "Lady, you need WORK!"
I told her "Yes, I want to work on technique. I want to be a pianist, not someone who can play a few songs. And besides, I'll need to play scales for my Juilliard audition." She laughed and said, "Next year, right?" I said, "No, when I'm 90."
So I have assignments: the 12 major scales, four octaves each. The first Hanon exercise, in all 12 major keys. The tonic, dominant and subdominant chords in each key. A couple of pages from a Theory book, so she can gauge how much I already know.
And as far as testing her: she has a 12-month-old and a three-year-old (and a nanny who cares for them while she gives lessons). I don't think I'm going to get away with much.