I need help and serious advice from professional top flight drum teachers...

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wy yung

Guest
Hello.

I have struck trouble while dealing with the family of one of my more serious student's. I need help advice, not on a technical matter, but a personal political one.

First a background so as to help you understand.

I have been teaching a boy for 4 years. He is now 9 years old. From the beginning it was obvious he would do well. Due to his being bored with strictly technical matters over the first 12 months, we focused mainly on grooves. This moved at a very fast rate to the point I began to to incorporate styles that developed independence.

Skip forward and this 9 year old has completed such relatively advancced books such as Mike Clark's Funk drumming. All the David Garibaldi books. Stanton Moore's New Orleans based book. Latin books such as those by Chuck Silverman and Ignacio Beroa etc etc.

This past year we have been focusing on technique for hands and feet and beginning jazz working from Rilety's books and Syncopation.

The father is great and incredibly supportive but is also a hard rock from the 80's fan and has been using old play alongs that the student finished with years ago repeatedly in his daily practice. These grooves, while fine in themselves, have been driving the student mad with sheer boredom. I have tried to urge focus on the more technically demanding works I have been giving him but still 30 minutes alone is devoted to my lessons and what I now believe 90 minutes is devoted to these tired old books.

Today I screwed up big time. After the student complaining to me "Why do I have to keep doing these old things?" I went and spoke to the mother about editing the books the boy is using so he only works from those that would raise his level. I also made a flawed suggestion that I should choose what books he uses in the future. This was taken personally by the mother who saw it as an affront to her husband. (The husband once played bass in a rockabilly band) She does not understand the intricacies of drumming, nor does her husband. I made yet another foolish mistake by pointing out that although her husband was a musician,. he did not understand exactly what techniques are required to move the student to the next level.

Apparently I only spend an hour per week with the student but the father spends more. Of course this is so. But I have chosen the directions that have taken this kid to heights I have not seen from another 9 year old child. Basically I feel I am not respected, but I can take that. What worries me now is that the mother seems to think I am trying to come between the student and his family. Not the case at all! I just want his sessions to be as valuable as possible.

All I wanted to do was retire some old books. I have put a great deal of effort into this chid's education, as well as money, and I do not want to lose him at this point when the future plan is so clear to me.

Help.
 

SteveLC

Member
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

I think that you should just simply be sincere like you are here and share these thoughts with the parents. Ultimately I think that you should share with the parents what your reasoning is and let them know that you have the best interest of the child. Hopefully in the end, you, the parents and the student can come to a mutual understanding with an action plan on how to progress and move forward with this particular student.

Good Luck!

Steve
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

It seems like you could clear things up by just acknowledging you may have worded things badly, apologizing sincerely for any unintended offense, then giving them the facts of the situation; he's a very gifted student, he has been working on the materials in question for some time, has mastered them, and is getting a little restless with them. I would keep the focus away from the personal conflict with the parents (after the apology, that is), and on the student, emphasizing that gifted students need constant new challenges to keep from getting bored. Avoid attempting to "clarify" what you said before about them not understanding, etc.; I would also avoid trying to assert your expertise, or trying to resolve your feeling that they don't respect you. If they understand that he needs new materials, hopefully they'll recognize that they need your help in choosing them; if they're really self-centered and don't understand that, then you can jump in with your sales pitch about the great new materials you're really excited about!

Diplomacy- that's what really got is into drumming in the first place! I know it gets my blood going.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

I don't teach, but this situation falls under social skills, so here it goes...

Great suggestions so far. One thing I'd like to point out is...don't underestimate the power of a sincere apology to the mother, not for what you suggested, but how it was worded perhaps. Your only focus is the childs improvement, as it should be, and you're really sorry for offending them in any way, which was not the goal. Their son has amazing abilities and you are only doing what you feel is in the childs best interest musically, that's what they pay you for. Again you're so sorry for ruffling any feathers, and you will try in the future to choose your words more carefully as to not offend the parents OF THE MOST GIFTED STUDENT YOU EVER TAUGHT.

The student himself is getting bored with the books, isn't that reason enough?
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

Thanks so far guys.

I have already apologised to the mother and told her I meant no offence. For some time I have been close to this family. I've attended their birthdays parties, Christmas celebrations etc. The father has told me I am considered one of the family. I believe this led to my feeling I could tell them what I thought in trust. The basic relationship is not simply the professional teacher who meets with the student and parents once per week. I had thought I was speaking as a family friend.

I think one of the difficulties here is that we are dealing with the drum set. It is unlike other instruments. A non drummer simply does not understand the mechanics involved and as a result has no understanding of the physical demands. How can one fully appreciated something one does not understand. To the mother, the father is a musician and therefore knows what to teach his drumming son. I can appreciate this and do so. We have much to learn from other instrumentalists. But my concern at this stage of the boys life , at 9 years old, is to make the most of the pre teenage/girl years and develop as much technical facility as possible. And the sky is the limit with this boy.

As for my pride? I don't care so much about that. I would like some aknowledgement of the part I have played so far in the boy's education. If only for them to see the link between the structure of the curriculum I chose for this student and the results we acheived. I don't mind saying, and I hope you can forgive me, but they are outstanding results.

I spoke last night to another drum teacher whom I respect and he was of the feeling I have given too much to this family and they believe it is all part of the service. For example, once when the student had made a monumental effort over some months, I rewarded him with a gift of an A Custom 20" ride cymbal. He'd had a cheap one up to that point. Some time later after yet another huge effort I rewarded him with a DW 7000 remote hi hat pedal. I did this to show my own appreciation and also in the hope this would inspire him.

The father wanted to film his son, so I arranged for my film maker nephew to make a movie of the boy at an incredibly discounted rate. My nephew is often on another continent working so this has not been easy. Yesterday we were simply practicing playing along with the Garibaldi charts for some tunes from the Code of funk book. These tunes were to be featured in the film. And the boy reads the charts note for note. He's an amazing reader. The ease with which he did this amazed me. It was while in this sense of amazement and enthusiasm I spoke to the mother.

I let my professional face down for a moment in my enthusiasm. Now I await to see if it all blows up in my face.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

IMO Wy, you don't deserve to have anything blow up in your face, and if it does, I would stand up for your rights and maybe point out the strides their child has made as a result of your instruction. Plus the reward gifts you've offered up are way over and above.

You don't deserve anything other than positive feedback.
This kind of thing eats at my sense of fairness. I'm sorry but the parents seem kind of unappreciative, and maybe need to be reminded...if things continue to degrade.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

Thanks Larry. There are some other teachers around town I can recommend, but they tour and are not here each week. There are other teachers who while good players, are kind of weird, strange people. Two guys I'd love to take over with this boy are in another state.

Other fine drummers I know have no interest in teaching. The friend I spoke to last night might take him on but I feel doesn't want to deal with the parents. He may do it as a favor to me.

I am a bloody fool. I've turned down touring gigs and a job doing clinics in the US in order to continue teaching this kid.

I have to learn to put myself first. What a bloody waste if this all falls through.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

Actually it is selfish of me to think it a waste. The boy has done well and that is all that matters.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

Wy, I'm inclined to agree with your teacher friend. You have developed a relationship that goes beyond professional with this family, but you appear to have found the fault line between the friendship and professional relationship. Having met the boy's dad and his room-size ego, to say that the fault line lies with the dad's pride is entirely predictable :)

If you give in, I suspect that smoothing the relationship should be easy enough. This is a volatile family that will tend to flare up and cool off quickly. The hard part will be getting past these old books afterwards. You've long accepted that the dad's overzealous input is a bit of a handicap for the boy's progression and the problem is parsing the "over" and "zealous" without breaking either. That's probably impossible so it's always something you'll have to tiptoe around.

All you can do for now is say sorry, step back just a tad until the storm passes and then plot your next move. One of the teachers here might have ideas re: the next step once things settle down again. You may well need to step back a bit in the long term and accept the limitations. Yeah, maybe take those gigs like a normal teacher.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

I just got off the phone with the father. The father told me that I am now and will always remain the teacher. The wife thought I was undermining the parents authority yesterday, which I certainly did not mean to do. To be honest I do not know exactly how it happened.

The bottom line is that they will back me up and keep supporting the student. I just need to be less carefree in my communication with them.

An idea my friend told me yesterday to help avoid some issues was to give the student an even bigger workload each week. Just basically get his head down with so much material there wont be time for distractions. That seems a good idea.

I guess I'll need some super duper fusion book. Any recommendations?

And thanks Pol. You really helped make me feel better before that call.
 

LukeSnyder

Gold Member
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

It sounds like you have the situation under control now, but I just thought I'd drop you a line and tell you that it appears that you have done nothing wrong, and beyond that, are being self sacrificial. Dealing with parents can definitely be tough, fortunately I've managed to avoid any real altercations as of right now. I agree that increasing the workload sounds like an excellent idea :D
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

Thanks Luke.

I have decided to take a step back and just be the drum teacher. I told Pol earlier I felt like the help who had been reminded not to get too close to the family.

Boundaries eh? I did not seek this out. Another teacher has told me he thinks they got so close to get good discounts. It may well be true.
 

yesdog

Silver Member
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

I have an 11 year old that plays drums and takes lessons. I tried teaching him but it does not work ( the father/son battle ). I would never have him play anything different than what he is being taught. If he wants me to show him a new beat I will.
I myself am starting to teach drums ( beginner to interm ) I hope I will not run into problems with musician parents. I hope I get the pleasure of having a gifted student as you have.
W.Y I may PM you about some teaching advice.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

W.Y I may PM you about some teaching advice.
Any time mate. Glad to help.

By the way, I have loaded this kid with so much work this week he wont have time to deviate. He has begun using Virgil's Ultimate play along and has a tune to learn. Several double kick licks, two pages, and a classical snare solo. :)

Cannot wait to see how he goes. ;-)
 
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SickRick

Guest
Re: I need help and serious advicve from professional top flight drum teachers.

By the way, I have loaded this kid with so much work this week he wont have time to deviate. He has begun using Virgil's Ultimate play along and has a tune to learn. Several double kick licks, two pages, and a classical snare solo. :)

Cannot wait to see how he goes. ;-)
Well... I don't know this kid and possibly you have the new Tony Williams coming, BUT I do have around 15 students at that exact age (8-10), some of which are really talented. NONE of these kids and I really mean NONE has his / her main focus on drumming.

Kids that age have their focus on meeting friends and playing in the sandbox with them and I believe that is where their main focus should be because besides all the cool drumlicks they really really really need to learn about social skills that age and the best way to do that is by playing with other kids.

Allthough I might think it's a good idea to push kids to new levels drumingwise, I think this might be counterproductive to their personal development. And besides: Whenever I give my kids too much asignments all will happen is them to get frustrated and bored with drumming so even on this level it's counterproductive.

Again: You might have the new Tony Williams coming and all his natural interest is in drumming, so then cool and good for you (and him). But don't forget he is still a child and he can also start learning Virgil Donati licks when he is 16 or 18 and still do fine. Hell... I didn't even start playing until I was 15 and I guess you could say I still did pretty good for that.


I know all of this is terrible of topic and I know you are a great teacher (probably one of the best on this board), so don't take it personally. It was just something that came to my mind when I read your last posts.

Other than that: The parents trust you in teaching the boy, so they should trust you in decided which material the boy works on. Why should they invest in a teacher like you, if they still make the decisions about curriculum? That just doesn't make any sense to me.
 
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wy yung

Guest
No problem. No offence taken.

For perspective. This kid went through Gavin Harrison's Rhythmic perspectives in around 15 minutes. I know it's a relatively simple book but one would think it hard for a child. 15 minutes!

He has already completed several books. I gave him all that work for two reasons. First, to find limitations. Second to ease out things being given to him at home he mastered 2 years ago and that now bore him silly.

Although a child, when he talks to me about being bored at home, it is drummer to drummer.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
wow! that is really something! it sounds like he's so far along at such a young age, the challenge now is going to be keeping him from getting bored with everything. i mean, once he's mastered every book available, then what? does he play with other musicians at all? i'll bet he's at the point where he could start pushing some creative boundaries.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Mostly he plays with his brother. He has worked with my old professional funk band. See attached. His parents want him in school and joining a band is not a priority as yet. Another student of mine was for a time the world's youngest Fender endorsee. He plays bass. I want them to hook up but it is hard because the bass player is already a pro at age 10 and is busy also.

He's a great kid. I love the little guy and we get along like a house on fire. A top teacher here thinks noone could have taught him as well as I due to the relationship that developed. I've left him all my gear in my will. He deserves it.

Working with the band. I am on percussion.
 
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wy yung

Guest
Check out how relaxed his grip is.

That is what I teach. Drumming should be effortless.
 
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