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Teacher - who? how?
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GalinaSG
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PostPosted: 2011-08-13, 15:25    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

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It is said that teacher comes when student is ready.
They both are human beings and they make their choice - who is my teacher? who is my student?

So, students, my questions are for you.
How did you make your choice? What is important for you? Mastery / skills? (of course, I think). Lives nearby? Cost of lessons? Common values in life generally? Common values in teaching subject (music, art, knitting, knifetricks...)? Similarity in your personal tempo (Quick Heel or Slow Tail-Dragger)? What?
During the lessons, do you respond to any remarks that are kind of personal? Like "oh, well, you can not play this etude at all... do you tell that it was ok when you played it at home and now your feel nervous like on an exam so you make mistakes? you all tell like this! and do not even try to persuade me that you made exercises, I never believe this" OR "do not even try to come close to Honkyoku, you are able to play nursery rhymes, nothing more, this is your real level".

One example.
When I was adolescent (about 16-17 y.o) I tried to learn playing guitar. I came to school for individual lessons, teacher accepted me, though he was quite surprised, another his students were children (about 6-10 y.o.) And we started. Etudes of Carcassi, Aguado, Juliani... I practiced at home, then came to the lesson and often could not give a phrase properly. And he laughed at me - "you do not practice, don't cheat me; you started too late, look at those children, they are much better than you, you will never play like them" etc. It offended me a lot. I told him about that and asked him to stop treating me like this. He did not. Holding back my tears I broke the lesson and left. He was absolutely shocked telling me that actually he did not mean anything like this, that my progress is satisfactory and he even planned to include me in his concert ensemble to play together with those children. But I already took my decision and never came back.

Teachers, please excuse me that I do not ask you how you choose your students. I think it may be the topic of another tread. Or maybe we will come to this here at some moment. Anyway I ask questions that are inside my head now.

Please talk to me about that.
Pogovorite so mnoy ob etom, pozhaluysta.

Thank you.
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LowBlow
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PostPosted: 2011-08-13, 16:40    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

GalinaSG wrote:

So, students, my questions are for you.
How did you make your choice? What is important for you? Mastery / skills? (of course, I think). Lives nearby? Cost of lessons? Common values in life generally? Common values in teaching subject (music, art, knitting, knifetricks...)? Similarity in your personal tempo (Quick Heel or Slow Tail-Dragger)? What?
During the lessons, do you respond to any remarks that are kind of personal? Like "oh, well, you can not play this etude at all... do you tell that it was ok when you played it at home and now your feel nervous like on an exam so you make mistakes? you all tell like this! and do not even try to persuade me that you made exercises, I never believe this" OR "do not even try to come close to Honkyoku, you are able to play nursery rhymes, nothing more, this is your real level".


Thank you.


A lot of questions in one thread.

First point for me choosing a teacher was availability. Shakuhachi teachers are not common where i live. So i started by skype. I bought a YUU along with other flutes. With the YUU came 30 minutes of free lesson with Michael Chikuzen Gold. I tried it and staid. Online lessons with him are still great. Then i discovered The BBQ forum. in the Teacher Section i find a hint to Jim Franklin. He was in a reachable distance and i started face to face lesson and staid. Since then Jim has moved an lives nearby which makes it much easier. I found both teachers by chance. Both teachers are masters and very skilled with a lot off experience in teaching and performing. They have both studied in Japan. I am very, very glad that i can study with both.
Cost off lessons are an issue. Of course it must be payable.
Common values in life generally? Well, teachers who are teaching honkyoku in the "right" (Don't ask please what is the right way, we will never find an end) way must have common values with the student who wants to learn in the "right" way by default.
Common values in teaching subject? Of course your teacher must be able to teach what you want to learn. And, more important, he must be able to teach what must learn before you can learn what you want. And he must teach you more then you want to learn. He hopefully will teach you more than you want, behind the visible (audible) learning of the instrument.
Similarity in personal tempo? Hmm, a teacher pushes you forward gently. A student needs to be pushed forward. No pushing, no progress. But not too fast. Right pace is a delicate balance
It is very common for students to play much better when the teacher is not around. That is a well known problem. Nearly every student says "I can do much better than that at home". Me too. A teacher should motivate you not demotivate. Critiques are fine but must be constructive.

If you can play honkyoku like a lullaby you are done. No more teachers needed.

In the end i didn't really make a choice. I looked for availability and stayed with what i found. I have had a lot off luck here. I know.
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Rick Riekert
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PostPosted: 2011-08-13, 22:57    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

Galina, the schedule of my first choice for a teacher, Ronnie Seldin, was not convenient for me. Ronnie kindly recommended a student of his, Cynthia Chaffee, who earned her Shihan license from Ronnie and teaches piano as well. So I knew Cynthia was well qualified and I consider myself fortunate to be her student for the past four years. How many shakuhachi teachers can play Koku and follow-up with a Chopin nocturne all for the price of a single admission? In New York where I live there are many shakuhachi teachers available so I suppose Ronnie's recommendation and a pre-first lesson meeting with Cynthia clinched it for me. I've had several music teachers since the age of seven- accordian, guitar, voice, and shakuhachi. If they had shown me the disrespect you describe I would have dropped them like a hot potato and probably told them where to stick their lessons (I can't help that, I'm a New Yorker). Apart from the respect we owe to one another as sentient beings I think having similar or at least congenial temperaments is important to a successful long-term teacher-student relationship. An understanding of the significance of lessons in the student's life and a sense of humor are qualities in a teacher that I also value. I like shakuhachi the way I like Bach, Sinatra, Montaigne, and lifting weights, i.e. very much, but it's not on a level with health and love and I wouldn't want a teacher who seemed to feel, or thought I should feel, otherwise.
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mattrn
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 00:26    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

I 've had experience with a couple of teachers. One suggested I might be a natural born string player after I sat in his kitchen for an hour and couldn't get any sound. That made me angry, but I went home and played in front of the bathroom mirror until the sounds came, so although I didn't continue with that teacher, I'm grateful to him. Another teacher wasn't willing to teach me because he didn't think my instrument was good enough. This was without actually seeing or hearing the instrument, just knowing the maker's name. I had heard from two different people that this teacher was "a difficult person" so it's just as well. Life is too short.
I had a couple of skype lessons with our own Kiku Day which were wonderful. She is a gentle and encouraging teacher and I would recommend her to anyone, but I really wanted a teacher I could be in the same room with. I've been taking lessons with Masayuki Koga for a couple of months now and I feel like it's been worth the wait. He is encouraging, and teaches from an "inside out" kind of perspective. Our first few lessons were much more about posture and body awareness with sound being the result rather than the primary goal. I could see myself staying with this teacher for a long time.
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Jim Thompson
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 00:54    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

As a teacher I often find myself torn about what is the correct amount of encouragement or firmness to use dealing with any individual student, each one being different. But, being demeaning should never be a part of it. It's about building the students confidence, not tearing them down. The sign of a teacher with issues. Also the idea that you shouldn't try because you'll never be as good as whoever is patently false. Great rewards can be had by anybody willing to put the effort in. To see yourself improve increases your self-esteem- a worthwhile endeavor for anybody. It's always a drag to hear about somebody's joy of music being scarred by ego centric teachers. Shake it off. They were wrong.
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 03:21    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

mattrn wrote:
Another teacher wasn't willing to teach me because he didn't think my instrument was good enough. This was without actually seeing or hearing the instrument, just knowing the maker's name. I had heard from two different people that this teacher was "a difficult person" so it's just as well. Life is too short.


Okay Twisted Evil Razz I wonder who that is? Just out of curiosity who is the maker?

I'll teach someone as long as they at least have a Yuu or anything else that plays somewhat in tune.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 10:12    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

mattrn wrote:
I I've been taking lessons with Masayuki Koga for a couple of months now and I feel like it's been worth the wait. He is encouraging, and teaches from an "inside out" kind of perspective. Our first few lessons were much more about posture and body awareness with sound being the result rather than the primary goal. I could see myself staying with this teacher for a long time.


I am very happy you found someone in your area you clicked with, Matthew! Face to face lessons are much better!!! Thanks for your kind words btw! Smile


GalinaSG wrote:


So, students, my questions are for you.
How did you make your choice? What is important for you? .


It is good we ALL have been students of shakuhachi! So, I will answer from a student perspective even though I am also a teacher now. I hope that is ok! Cool

I went to Japan to learn shakuhachi. Once there - I wasn't too happy with what I heard... It didn't interest me or move me the way I was moved when I had listened to a recording in Denmark. So I stayed around and waited for the right teacher to come to me! I waited almost 1 1/2 years before someone introduced me to Okuda.. When I heard Okuda blow into perhaps a 3.2 and the first note occurred, I knew that was it. I had found my teacher at least in timbre. Then he continued and I realised ok, that is also the music I want to learn! So for me I just went after these 2 aspects: timbre and type of music taught (honkyoku). That was the most important for me. I did listen to a lot of different players in Japan before choosing Okuda... but for me he was the first possible teacher for me as he was the first one who played with the timbre I wanted to learn.
Okuda is a great teacher. He is traditional in the sense that the music and sounds themselves and the teacher are the role models and the main pedagogy. So I learned mostly by imitating him and that suited me fine at the time. I appealed to me and I was young and I had all the time.... (when you are young you think life is eternal...). But I could ask him anything and he would answer all questions, so we often had long discussions. I often took lessons 3 times a week with him. In the beginning
Okuda was very harsh when talking about other players and probably that would not have been nice if I had been more enlightened about the other players or a local who knew them. But I didn't care since I didn't know them. I just wanted to learn to play this timbre that fascinated me so much. I mention this because this aspect of Okuda was not very positive at all - but we are all human and some times we have to ignore some negative aspects if the positive aspects are so much bigger. And Okuda has softened so much since and is a very nice person.
In a way I did never choose one teacher among a variety of teachers available. But what I found by waiting for him was exactly what I was after. Sometimes I can feel a small hint of regret that I did not learn other styles or with other teachers, but I think it was very valuable for me to be so focused on Okuda's playing and teaching - so I am happy I stayed 11 years focusing on just Zensabo. I always go back and take lessons when I am back in Japan for research or to visit family.

So, if I should recommend how to choose your teacher... have all the practical pro and cons regarding the cost, how close and convenient are they located in the back of your head as these aspects cannot be ignored... and then I think the best is to go for the teacher that has what you are after in shakuhachi (or any music) playing! It's an important choice! Face to face lessons are best for sure, but Skype can be a valuable choice. I would have preferred to take Skype lessons with Okuda rather than taking face-to-face lessons with the other players I heard before I met Okuda!
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 11:59    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

mattrn wrote:
Another teacher wasn't willing to teach me because he didn't think my instrument was good enough. This was without actually seeing or hearing the instrument, just knowing the maker's name.


That's stupid. There are a lot of good flutes from well known makers which are not suited for lessons but still very good flutes. And no hanko/no name flutes which fits very good for lessons.
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 12:43    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

I was lucky. I was living in NYC and went to a flute conference. There was someone selling shakuhachi there and I tooted on one. James Nyoraku Schlefer approached me with his business card and said, "If you want to learn how to play that, give me a call." I did and that was that. NYC is one of the best places outside of Japan, with a number of different teachers and styles represented. Eventually I took lessons or workshops with most of them, but I'm glad I studied with Jim. Although we don't play the same way now, he was able to teach me how to play the instrument. His methods gave me a solid basis for understanding shakuhachi and how to make the sounds. And I learned a lot of great material (Jin Nyodo mainly). Then I went off in some other directions. For example I play mostly jinashi and Jim hates it. But if I waited for a jinashi teacher like Okuda to miraculously appear in NYC I would still be riding the subway trying to figure out how to blow ro.

Just find someone who plays well, has a caring personality, doesn't try to sell you something the moment you walk in the dojo, and who plays a style you enjoy. If you think that person can take you to the point where you will be a good player, the rest is up to you. Maybe you'll want to move to Japan eventually, which will open up a lot of new doors.

I don't really think the styles of shakuhachi are so different. A good player is a good player. The main difference I see is between people who play only or mostly 1.8 and those who specialize in long flutes. If that's important to you take that into consideration when choosing the teacher. But a lot of that has to do with your body. I play mostly long flutes but most of my students study on 1.8 because that's all they can handle. 2.3 is the longest I'm able to teach on with my current batch of students.
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 19:48    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
But if I waited for a jinashi teacher like Okuda to miraculously appear in NYC I would still be riding the subway trying to figure out how to blow ro.


Sure thing! I wouldn\t have waited fro Okuda to appear in NYC or in London... It was easy for me to jump on the train and go to Japan... but that is not the case for everybody. You just have to deal with the choices you have there and then! Smile

I also had no clue about styles and no clue about types of flutes... but I just went after what was important for me - the timbre!
I agree - style is not important except for if you have already developed a liking or preference... then of course that is an issue if you are so priviledged to have a choice. BUt it is important to go with what you sense it right. For me honkyoku and timbre were the 2 main factors.


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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 20:42    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

When I started I had no idea there were "styles" or anything. I just knew I had to play this amazing instrument! My teacher was a wonderful and patient man who started me with a cheap 2.4. I had to commute a couple of hours to take lessons.
This was back in 1978 and I don't even remember his name!
Living in Japan I was also lucky to find kind and wonderful teachers, and I didn't care about style... I just wanted to absorb as much as I could.
Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
I don't really think the styles of shakuhachi are so different. A good player is a good player.

I totally agree, and I'm with Frank Zappa, who said there's only two kinds of music: good and bad.
One can benefit from any teacher, even the tough ones. Just put the ego away and take advantage of whatever he/she can teach you. The way this teacher treated you, Galina, is not acceptable, but if he were the only one in your area and you were passionate about playing then you let go of the bullshit (his) and learn as much as you can before saying: thank you and f*** you too... but if you showed commitment and stayed, most likely he would have softened. The "old school" teachers really believed in tough methods... my first guitar teacher almost made me give up guitar... but I loved it too much and now with the perspective of time I'm grateful I stuck it out ("what doesn't kill you makes you stronger")
As a teacher I notice that some students bring out my "toughie" and some my "softy", depending on their needs and personality.
Of course none of this is justifying putting down people and making them feel bad about themselves! As a teacher I have also struggled too often to break down the incredible blocks that some people carry from traumatic experiences with teachers and authority figures. Ideally a student/teacher relationship is close to being "family", and "tough love" should be applied with great care, love, and knowledge.
I am very grateful to all my teachers, tough and soft, for showing me different mirrors were I could find my own strength and my own way. With the right attitude, there's never any problems... just opportunities.
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PostPosted: 2011-08-14, 23:50    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

I don't think it's possible to judge a teacher or a student by one lesson. I know I spend my first lesson with the student observing them and trying to make them feel comfortable. I would hope they don't think they can decide if I'm a good teacher after one lesson. Likewise they shouldn't judge themselves yet, based on what they learn in one lesson. A lot of people give up because they don't sound like Yamaguchi Goro on the first try. This is one of the problems with shakuhachi, it sounds so natural people think it's going to be easy.

People frequently teach the way they were taught. If the teacher is strict he/she is probably just repeating patterns from their earlier days, similarly to parent/child relationships. A lot of the great teachers in sports and probably in music are hard-asses. Vince Lombardi was not a feel-good guy. It depends on the ultimate goal. Teachers who think they're developing professional musicians have a different attitude than those who just want the student to learn something to their own level and enjoy it in the process.

Also some people are just plain knobs! Okay

I would advise that you go to the teacher near you or if there are more than one, to the one who plays most similarly to the way you'd like to sound, or who you seem to like personally. Then take lessons for at least a few months, suspending judgement, and see what develops.
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PostPosted: 2011-08-15, 17:01    Post subject: Re: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

GalinaSG wrote:

...So, students, my questions are for you.
How did you make your choice? What is important for you? Mastery / skills? (of course, I think). Lives nearby? Cost of lessons? Common values in life generally? Common values in teaching subject (music, art, knitting, knifetricks...)? Similarity in your personal tempo (Quick Heel or Slow Tail-Dragger)? What?

Thank you.

Hi GalinaSG,

I have been a student of shakuhachi for over 17 years. This journey has taken me through many teachers in Japan and elsewhere. I can only say that you should take lessons with anyone who teaches from the the heart. Cost, travel, philosophy etc.. won't matter once you feel it.

Hope this helps.

Namaste, Perry
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PostPosted: 2011-08-15, 19:13    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

Has anyone else gotten the impression that teachers are like psychology therapists, ie., the one you choose is the right one for you? I don't think any music teacher I've had failed to teach something important. My very first silver flute teacher was near the end of his life and could be considered an awful teacher due to having lost some of his mental and physical abilities, but when he passed and I started with another teacher, I realized that I wouldn't have continued playing if I started out with the "new" teacher. That teacher eventually gave me some of the best encouragement I've ever received, and I passed an audition she prepared me for with flying colors. Another silver flute teacher that I liked despite his abrasiveness eventually said "Now, you sound like a flute player!", and a couple years of frustration under him turned into an understanding of what good flute playing is. Another teacher assigned to me by the university I attended obviously didn't want to teach me, but brought home a valuable point because pretty much the only comments she ever made was "you have to practice that more". A young (about my same age at the time) jazz flute player I took one lesson from demonstrated circular breathing to me for the first time. A young (again my same age then, I'm talking around 20) classical guitar teacher I tried wasn't good enough to teach me or get me to persevere, but I have a much better appreciation for classical guitar from the experience.

Even if logic is your divine intervention, it will bring you to the right teacher.
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GalinaSG
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PostPosted: 2011-08-15, 22:33    Post subject: Teacher - who? how? Reply with quote

LowBlow wrote:
Similarity in personal tempo? Hmm, a teacher pushes you forward gently. A student needs to be pushed forward. No pushing, no progress.

Yes, I thought about this right after I posted my questions.
Thank you for your opinion and examples.

Rick Riekert wrote:
An understanding of the significance of lessons in the student's life and a sense of humor are qualities in a teacher that I also value.

You are right. And here is the point about humor - what one considers as a joke another considers as an offense, it happens, you see.

mattrn wrote:
Kiku Day ... She is a gentle and encouraging teacher.

Agree with you after attending Kiku's lessons in London.

Jim Thompson wrote:
As a teacher I often find myself torn about what is the correct amount of encouragement or firmness to use dealing with any individual student, each one being different.

Exactly. I think about the limits of teachers' patience when student does not demonstrate considerable progress.

Kiku Day wrote:
we are all human and some times we have to ignore some negative aspects if the positive aspects are so much bigger.

So we should have something like scale inside ourselves to measure what is acceptable and what is not, what helps and what prevents. Yes.

Kiku Day wrote:
But what I found by waiting for him was exactly what I was after.

And this is about waiting for your teacher again as others said here. Being on your way, being attentive to opportunities and hints.

Kiku Day wrote:
Sometimes I can feel a small hint of regret that I did not learn other styles or with other teachers, but I think it was very valuable for me to be so focused on Okuda's playing and teaching - so I am happy I stayed 11 years focusing on just Zensabo. I always go back and take lessons when I am back in Japan for research or to visit family.

We in Russia have a proverb: if you try to overhaul two rabbits you can catch no one. Maybe this is the point!! ))

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
A lot of people give up because they don't sound like Yamaguchi Goro on the first try. This is one of the problems with shakuhachi, it sounds so natural people think it's going to be easy.

Oh, I passed this stage already Smile

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
suspending judgement

This is important part of job, thank you for pointing.

Kiku Day wrote:
It was easy for me to jump on the train and go to Japan... but that is not the case for everybody.

Exactly. I relocated from my hometown in Siberia to Moscow, and at the moment I do not think I am going to change the country (though many Russians do). I am not into professional musician context, my profession and my knowledge in this profession are worth in Russia, not somewhere else. So I am here.

J. Danza wrote:
I'm with Frank Zappa, who said there's only two kinds of music: good and bad.

Oh. Simple things are always worth to be reminded of, thank you.

J. Danza wrote:
One can benefit from any teacher, even the tough ones. Just put the ego away and take advantage of whatever he/she can teach you. The way this teacher treated you, Galina, is not acceptable, but if he were the only one in your area and you were passionate about playing then you let go of the bullshit (his) and learn as much as you can before saying: thank you and f*** you too... but if you showed commitment and stayed, most likely he would have softened.

Maybe, who knows. At that moment I did not think about any egos, it was like question of my psychic survival, sorry for being pathetic.

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
Eventually I took lessons or workshops with most of them

I thought at a moment - maybe it is not so good to jump from one teacher to another, one should apply deeper attitude, and this jumping might be offending to them. But from the other side sticking with what is not yours is much worse.

[quote="Perry Yung"]
GalinaSG wrote:
take lessons with anyone who teaches from the the heart.

So my own heart should be open to notice, to feel and to accept. Thank you, Perry.

CharlesKoeppen wrote:
Even if logic is your divine intervention, it will bring you to the right teacher.

So this is again about teacher comes when student is ready.

Thank you all for your opinions, examples and stories.
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