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Violin lessons - physical contact

(18 Posts)
netherlee Wed 31-Aug-11 23:24:49

DD aged 8 is now learning the violin having played piano for a year. Both privately. She enjoys her violin lessons and is making steady progress and seems much happier than with the piano, partly as she could get into a beginners group which is more social than the piano, anyway. One issue she does have though is her teacher frequently touches her, usually fingers, arms (bowing and so on). She is either too polite or too scared to tell him this, but she has told me she feels slightly uncomfortable with being touched. Frankly I don't see how one can teach an instrument without touching (having attempted violin as a kid myself).

I could ask him to stop touching which will undoubtedly make it harder to teach dd and possibly rock the boat, or just leave him to it as he is a very good teacher we should trust. Is dd perhaps being over anxious? She certainly loves the violin so it won't stop.

2BoysTooLoud Thu 01-Sep-11 07:24:02

That is a difficult one.
I used to play the violin and I really don't see how [in the early stages] some touching can be avoided. Finger positioning etc is awkward and hard to explain without positioning fingers for the child.

ProfessionallyOffendedGoblin Thu 01-Sep-11 07:30:00

Is she uncomfortable just with him, with any male who has to touch her or with anyone male or female?
Are you in the lessons too, observing?
Either there is a problem with this particular man, or, as sometimes happens, your child is unclear about what is and isn't appropriate touching. If it is the latter, you may have to do some work with her so that she develops an ability to discriminate between necessary and unnecessary contact.
If the former, act on it

ProfessionallyOffendedGoblin Thu 01-Sep-11 07:31:37

I've taught children who were afraid of any stranger, any man, teenagers...
Sometimes they misunderstand the personal safety messages parents are trying to teach them and become constantly wary of the world.

Saracen Thu 01-Sep-11 07:38:28

I once read a very good book about helping to prevent children from becoming the victims of sexual abuse. It recommended that parents should teach their children always to follow their own instincts in such matters, regardless of any apparent logic to the contrary. And that if a child gets a bad feeling about the way an adult is treating her, the parent should back her up unquestioningly without requiring her to have a good reason which she can articulate.

This is because most cases of sexual abuse happen when an adult who has regular contact with the child gradually push the boundaries more and more. The good news is that because the situation usually develops gradually in this way, a child is well placed to protect herself if she feels able to trust her instincts and tell the adult to back off at an early stage, or is able to stop the whole situation by cutting contact with the adult.

I am not saying that this particular teacher is intent on abusing your daughter. He may be, and it may be that her discomfort is her instinctive early warning sign of this. But even if he is not, your daughter needs to know that it is always right to tell an adult to stop touching her if it makes her uncomfortable.

I know nothing about instrument tuition so I don't know whether it's possible to teach violin without touching the pupil. However, I really think you should tell the teacher that your daughter feels awkward about being touched and wants him to find a different way. If he says that is impossible, perhaps she may like to try a different teacher: even though the new teacher touches her also, she may feel more comfortable with the particular way the new teacher does it. Or she may even want to stop the violin lessons for the time being and take them up again at a later time when she feels more comfortable about being touched. Let her choose what to do.

IndigoBell Thu 01-Sep-11 09:38:41

It's a group lesson right?

I think you need to clarify how and where he is touching her.

Then you need to tell your DD that it is appropriate for her teacher to touch her arms and fingers etc to show her how to correctly play the violin.

And also tell her that it would be inappropriate for him or anyone else to touch her in personal places.....

netherlee Thu 01-Sep-11 17:52:12

Not in a group, its on her own at the teachers house.

Im not suggesting for a minute he is doing anything innappropriate or even testing the waters, as it all sounds quite normal in the course of teaching the violin. Maybe dd has heard stories of accusations of adults touching kids, school teachers told they musnt touch to avoid this very scenario (yes, they complain but rules are rules).

What I could do is watch a lesson or two (making some excuse like had to bring her on foot and cant walk back/too cold to sit in the car etc.) and if he refuses it would say something. My instincts tell me it is completely inncocent though I see where people are coming from on this. I just want dd to be comfortable with the whole thing. Her teacher is highly regarded in the area and is a lovely person.

Interestingly I asked if her piano teacher touches her and she said it never crossed her mind but she probably does. The two are quite different personalities and one is a young female and the other an older man (though I hope that doesnt make the difference to her).

sugartongue Thu 01-Sep-11 21:09:40

I'd watch this one you know. Realistically the piano teaches probably does touch her hands and wrists etc and it wouldn't be more invasive than the violin teacher. Her instincts might be right and it would be terrible not to listen to her. Definitely make an excuse to attend a lesson - at the very least it would let your daughter know that you are taking her seriously so that if there was a problem she would feel able to tell you

NormaSnorks Thu 01-Sep-11 22:07:23

I'm not the sort of person to panic with these things, but I have to say I'm with Saracen - you need to trust her judgement and instincts.

When I was 17 and learning to drive I had an old bloke for my driving instructor. In the beginning he used to put his hand over mine when I was changing gear, and he used to put his hand on my knee and press down when he wanted me to change gear hmm.

At the time it made me feel uncomfortable, but I naively assumed this was how driving was taught. Then one bright, sunny day I met him for a lesson outside my school. I was wearing a school summer dress and as I got into the driver's seat he gave me a strange leering look and said, "Did you know that with the sun shining behind you, I could see right through your dress and between your legs just then?" shock angry

Needless to say, I got out of the car, and left!

I think it's a good idea to try to sit in on a lesson and see what you observe?

ProfessionallyOffendedGoblin Thu 01-Sep-11 22:13:52

If he is a man giving private violin lessons in his home to females, or children, he ought to arrange some sort of sit-in chaperone to protect himself from accusations as well.

warthog Thu 01-Sep-11 22:14:59

violin teacher here.

i have touched pupils, simply because if i had to explain everything it's really hard! a simple demo by moving their hand explains a lot more.

i really think that it's not down to whether a teacher is or isn't touching her, it's down to whether she feels uncomfortable or not.

i used to have a teacher who was a bit dodge, so my mum used to sit in my lessons. there were very few good teachers where i grew up so didn't have a choice really.

i would suggest you sit in with her from now on. just say you'd like to be in the lessons so you can help with practice at home. i wouldn't just go for a couple because he'll be different for those couple and you'll be back to square one afterwards.

otherwise you should move teachers.

but you musn't ignore your dd - sure that you wouldn't, as you're worried enough to write this thread. you would be basically saying you don't trust HER word, which i'm sure you do.

iggly2 Thu 01-Sep-11 23:51:26

I would say ask where he has touched her (make clear hands /lower arms etc are ok) and sit in on a lesson or more. This shows you take her seriously (helps you to feel happier to).

But on a more positive note I think this is an age when people start emphasizing male/female differences more and it is easier for a child to be influenced through what they have picked up on. At this age (maybe a bit younger) my little sister had been learning about "stranger danger and announced that she did not want a strange man delivering presents to her bedroom (Father Christmas!) so we started having christmas presents downstairs! We still tease her as a family joke grin.

2BoysTooLoud Fri 02-Sep-11 07:07:27

Who would be a music teacher - bloody hell.
However, for your peace of mind and this man's protection sit in on the lessons.

RunAwayHome Fri 02-Sep-11 08:10:17

I've taken both violin and piano lessons. Violin was far more physical - needed correct posture, hand position, etc to develop good habits, whereas piano didn't, not in the same way. So I wouldn't compare the two lessons. My violin teacher did have to touch me at times to adjust positioning - in fact, I wish it had been much more often, as I ended up with really bad habits, sore muscles, strains, etc, in the end. If I'd realised I was tensing my shoulders or twisting so much or whatever else I was doing, future problems could have been prevented.

So I'd not think it was unusual for a violin teacher to touch. I would expect him to tell/ask her if he could - I've heard teachers say "I'm just going to adjust your arms position, is that OK?" or "I'm going to check if your shoulders are relaxed, are you happy for me to do that?" etc.

I also remember thinking lots of 'older' (to me) men were slightly creepy when I was a preteen/teenager. I don't really know why. They wouldn't have been that old, either. But it was actually more that I was just slightly scared of adults, and men more so as I'd mostly had women teachers in school. It was just unfamiliarity I guess. But it would have made me uncomfortable, slightly, and I'd not have wanted them close or touching - but nothing to do with any of it being inappropriate. Just that I didn't like them all that much somehow. Even now, the idea of some physical contact (like hugs) from people either repels me, or is totally fine, and it's not that they've done anything wrong, or even that I don't like them, but I'm just not as comfortable with the idea of being close - it's like an instinctive reaction, a sensory sort of things. But based on nothing inappropriate.

So I can well imagine not liking certain music teachers to touch me, but that having nothing to do with them doing anything even slightly wrong or inappropriate. It was seriously just me and the way I was. I hate to think how me saying I was uncomfortable might have been misinterpreted!! Luckily I never did, just put up with it.

I'd say take her seriously and listen to her, by all means; find out what is making her uncomfortable, but don't assume that it is necessarily anything that the teacher is doing. Perhaps you can ask her first whether she would feel more comfortable if you were there - for me, that wouldn't actually have made the difference, as it was the touching itself that bothered me, not whether anyone else saw/knew or whether it would have led to anything further. I'd also have hated having my mum sit on my lessons long term, as it really changes the student-teacher dynamic, and I'd have found it much harder to learn with her there. No reason not to switch teachers if she does still find it uncomfortable - worth respecting her feelings about it - but I'd not make it out that he had done anything wrong (without proof), more just that there's a better overall fit with another teacher, if she finds one she prefers.

strictlovingmum Sun 04-Sep-11 17:01:56

I don't have experience teaching violin, but I do teaching piano, and often I will have to touch hands, wrists, upper and lower back, with one particular pupil, I had stand behind her pressing onto her shoulders with both my hands, so to prevent her from raising her shoulders during performance, as she was loosing lot of strength in her arms, making her unable to follow dynamics of the piece.
I would like to think, touching in your DD's case is harmless, and someone up to tread mentioned chaperoned lessons, good point, if you have concerns and reservations.

netherlee Tue 06-Sep-11 16:51:22

Hi guys. Been really busy last few days but I am grateful for the advice. I sat in her last lesson and mentioned in passing to the teacher about contact, at least he was open and honest about it and thought nothing of me sitting in. I'm still on the teachers side here but I think seeing it helps with practise as well as I remember things he said dd forgot, plus its reassuring to have me with her. She can be a bit shy and anxious on her own and maybe that contributed.

So far so good and she is hoping to do her Initial test next Summer (pre grade 1).

MrsHoolie Tue 06-Sep-11 20:07:36

Hi,I am a professional violinist (I don't teach though). My Mum sat in with me for my lessons for a long time,I was only 5 when I started.
Even though my Mum knows bugger all about music it was helpful having her there as she could remember some of the things I couldn't like you have found.
Hope your DD enjoys her violin!I did my Initial exam about 30 years ago and can still remember one of the pieces smile

schilke Tue 06-Sep-11 21:18:09

Oh gawd! My dh teaches brass - mainly individual lessons. He is paranoid about this. He used to place his hands on a pupil to demonstrate correct breathing etc.. Not any more. He pushes one end of the trumpet against their diaphragm rather than his hand - he would always ask them if he could and explain why, but one wrong word from a pupil could wreck a career.

If she is not comfortable with it then tell him. If he is open and happy for you to sit in on a lesson then I don't think there is much to worry about.

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