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WWYD - do I say anything to the music teacher

(19 Posts)
pollyannagoestotown Mon 15-Dec-14 12:24:31

DD (just 8) is in the school orchestra and took part in the end of term carol concert. I tuned her cello before she went in - but I think it got knocked as the storage for instruments is pretty inadequate and one of the strings went badly out - completely slack.

They had a morning rehearsal - and she asked the music teacher for help tuning it. Response - well don't use that string then! The second string pings out of tune - and DD gets the same response. (This is a school which is full of instrumental teachers - cello teacher in school all day - and the teacher also knows me and knows I will be coming to the carol concert. Parents all turn up 30 mins early - I could have tuned the bloody thing!)

Previous conductor used to check all the instruments were in tune before the concert. Clearly this is a novel idea to the music teacher!

DD then spends all of lunchtime worrying and praying that the teacher who will tune strings will turn up. (As does another violinist who has the same problem.) No luck - so asks teacher again (quite brave as teacher can be akin to encountering a tornado). Told to miss notes out if she has to and play on A (not D) G (not C) strings only. Quite an ask for a grade 2 player!

I had already nabbed the teacher the day before to make sure DD knew where to go as she is the only young one in orchestra - and had to keep moving between her age group choir and the orchestra (4 times there and back) - and she was worried she'd get it wrong.

So the teacher knew she was nervous anyway - and then expected her to play her part without two of the strings ..... DD is now dreading the next concert in case the same thing happens again, but loves playing in orchestra.

Would it be rude to point out to the teacher that she could have asked the school secretary to let me know and I would have sorted it, please do let me know if it happens again kind of thing. (I would rather come in early than have a sobbing child that night.) Or god forbid - if she is going to run an orchestra, then learn how to tune a string instrument - not hard for adult sized hands.

I have told DD that if it happens again, then ask school secretary to call me and I will come in early and sort it. But part of me thinks the teacher should be told - as is very good at pointing everyone else's flaws out to the point of being objectionably rude - and maybe she should take a look at herself!

If you have survived this then thanks - but didn't want to drip feed.

GooseyLoosey Mon 15-Dec-14 12:30:19

I wouldn't say anything. Ds plays the guitar and at that age, I would have expected him to be able to tune it. He has something that sits on the strings and makes it really easy.

The teacher was being unreasonable but, it is quite a big ask to get the school secretary to ring you just because your daughter's cello needs tuning.

If you routinely turn up 30 mins early, could you make a habit of checking yourself?

Pico2 Mon 15-Dec-14 12:33:14

As always with these things, I'd check the story was recounted correctly by your DD. It is a polite, but perhaps PA approach to say "DD said this, but it seems so unlikely..." Then I would probably either approach the teacher or the head as the music teacher should be able to sort stuff in some way, even if she can't tune strings herself.

fatsatsuma Mon 15-Dec-14 12:55:22

As a music teacher and string player I would definitely say something. Tuning a cello is not at all easy for a child - it's totally different from tuning a guitar - especially if the string has gone completely slack. There need to be arrangements in place - peripatetic teachers on hand or whatever - to support every child by tuning their instrument properly beforehand. It gives a really bad message to children to suggest it's acceptable to perform in a concert effectively missing two strings, and it is very unfair on a child to expect them to cope in such circumstances.

Opopanax Mon 15-Dec-14 13:28:24

I would say something too. Tuning a cello or violin is much harder than tuning a guitar and not at all easy for an eight year old. It should be the work of seconds for a music teacher. If she really can't tune a string instrument, she should have asked someone who can such as the cello teacher. Pico's approach is a good way to bring it up.

Madcatgirl Mon 15-Dec-14 13:30:23

I can't tune DS cello at all! Guitars are much, much easier. I would have a quiet word with the teacher.

treaclesoda Mon 15-Dec-14 13:31:21

My DD is 8 and there is no way she could tune her violin, I do it for her. I play in an orchestra and loads of quite experienced adults struggle to tune their instruments correctly, especially stringed instruments.

I think I would say something. Telling a grade 2 player to just skip the out of tune strings is madness.

treaclesoda Mon 15-Dec-14 13:32:43

But also, yes, as Pico says, the best way to approach it is to hear the teacher's side of the story too.

Opopanax Mon 15-Dec-14 13:59:30

I play the violin and, thinking about it, I don't think I could tune it reliably until I was about 11 by which time I had long since passed Grade 5, so was actually a reasonable player. DD is 8 and took up the violin this term and I fully expect to be tuning hers for years and years!

DeWee Mon 15-Dec-14 14:08:54

If the teacher isn't used to tuning though, he may be worried at doing some damage, or potentially have had parents complaining of this in previous years.

I know dh, who is very musical, plays different instruments to grade 8, has perfect pitch etc... but he doesn't play any stringed instruments and he finds tuning very very hard. I played the violin to a bad standard, and don't struggle with doing it at all.
If it's completely slack, I do find it quite a task to do though, not really the work of seconds. If it's basically in tune, then yes, it is quick, but totally slack will take me a few minutes.

I would also wonder if when the second one went (does this often happen?-never had it happen on my violin, even the cheap ones lent by the school-is it worth getting the instrument checked that there isn't a fault?) he thought she'd been fiddling.

Soveryupset Mon 15-Dec-14 14:24:14

It is really shoddy practice to ask a grade 2 violin player to tune their own violin. If you are running a strings orchestra then you should be able to tune it or find someone who can. You are not going to be able to rely on parents coming in early to do it (madness, never heard of it) or the child.

I have had children in a large number of orchestras, including school ones, and this has never happened. I would have a word, definitely.

haggisaggis Mon 15-Dec-14 14:40:27

dd was told by her cello teacher that she must not try to tune her cello herself! When she takes part in strings groups or orchestra one of the teachers always checks all the instruments and checks they're in tune.

nicky2512 Mon 15-Dec-14 14:44:48

I would mention it. dd is 12 and grade 4 violin and teacher still checks if anyone needs tuned before any orchestra performance. I know this would have really upset dd if it had happened to her.

yellowsnownoteatwillyou Mon 15-Dec-14 14:54:31

Yes I would say something, all instruments get tuned before you start and cellos are difficult to tune. Has it recently been restrung? I would try some chalk on the pegs to help it stick and shouldn't go totally slack easily.

pollyannagoestotown Mon 15-Dec-14 19:10:33

Well she has been playing for 18months, and had this cello for 6 months, and is first time it has gone so far out. But went from house to 1 degree outside to hot school to being left in freezing cold chapel and temp changes can affect string instruments. (I play violin). Has been slipping again today, so I think could be the cold. Some kids are a bit clumsy / boisterous and they do bang into each other / other instruments.

She has never tried to tune it herself. I tried to start to teach her today and she hasn't got the strength to turn the pegs herself. She always asks for help.

School sec is fab - superwoman - and it would have taken her about 15 secs to text me. She is shit hot fast and organised and kids / teachers walk past her all the time and she chats to them.

Glad it's not just me who thinks it was too much of an ask ... they have a festival coming up next term and teacher is uber competitive ... I don't want DD to be terrified and she is the only cello.

Never mind the fact she put her at the back, stood other players in front of her, and then expected her to see what was going on! Think teacher isn't much of an orchestral bod and I'll try the friendly chat line.

pollyannagoestotown Mon 15-Dec-14 19:17:07

All the strings were going out of tune apparently. The 11 yr old could tune her own roughly apparently. I reckon it was the cold.

The teacher says DD is best behaved in the class ... Won't have thought she was fiddling - just she doesn't do strings, not her problem, and inability to understand how hard it is for a string player to not have all strings to play on.

Thanks folks. I no longer feel like the precious parent. Can't wait for the festival and the judge's comment that strings need to be tuned before a performance!

Maestro Mon 15-Dec-14 19:36:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

skylark2 Mon 15-Dec-14 22:55:09

A music teacher who doesn't know how to tune a common orchestral instrument or that it's important? I'd be tempted to report her for incompetence. That's GCSE level understanding.

I would expect a grade 2 cellist to be at least trying to tune her instrument every time she plays. Not with the pegs - put adjusters on her strings and then she only needs physical help if it's miles out or slips. It's shocking that an 11 year old can only tune "roughly", unless the age is a red herring and she's a beginner. How can kids possibly learn to play in tune with untuned instruments?

But for a group of small children, they all play the same string at the same time and teacher or helper goes round and twiddles those which need it.

Once one has gone, the others are more likely to go too as the tension is wrong.

cingolimama Tue 16-Dec-14 08:08:16

I would definitely say something. It's incompetent of the teacher, as skylark points out and just so damn lazy and careless. Christ on a bike - "don't play those strings?!!"

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