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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Buzzing cellos and violin teachers scorned,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

PG ' Dear Alice,
I am so annoyed! I live in the Midlands, where my son learns the violin. His teacher, despite having a good reputation locally, was really terrible (paid him no attention, hardly ever gave him any music, didn't show up all the time) and so I decided to get a better one. Well, I did -- a much better one -- and he's charging ahead on the violin, but his first teacher has got her knife into him at the local orchestra and keeps putting him in the very back of the seconds. (OK, I'm not saying he just be leader, but he shouldn't be behind players who haven't gotten the violin grades he has, either!) I had no idea that, just by switching teachers, I was condemning him to life at the back of the 2nds!

' What should I do?

Ask Alice

Alice Dear PG,

So sorry to hear about your problem, which, however, does not amaze me. I happen to be currently ghost writing a book on how to succeed in the legal profession, and (take it from me) this kind of petty unfairness is pretty universal. The main difference is that, in the big cruel grown-up world, nobody cares, whereas you are in the pleasing position of being able to do something about it.

It is pointless to object to the dire violin teacher you've affronted, of course, but there ought to be someone that you CAN legitimately complain to, whether a conductor, a board member of the youth orchestra, or (if you have to) another teacher, perhaps (the other?) violin teacher in the youth orchestra, or the cello specialist. Teachers (like surgeons) will tend to support each other, though, so no business might result in this last case.

The way to approach your complaint is not aggressively, but much more in sorrow-than-in-anger. Your line should be that poor little Tommy (or Edgar, or whatever his name is) has been working his little buns off to improve and was so discouraged (the poor little mite) when he learned that half the people in front of him hadn't gotten the same grade as he had. It would have to be a very hard-hearted organizational member of the youth orchestra -- or conductor -- not to melted by this combination of noble suffering and ardent endeavor ...

And continue to be watchful afterwards. Hell hath no fury like a violin teacher scorned. A year may pass and then something similar may well occur. Keep your temper and you'll win through again. And maybe it's not such a bad thing for little Tommy/Edgar to learn that the world is unfair so early in life.

Especially, I'm here to tell you, if he cherishes any hopes for the legal profession ...

Ask Alice

? ' Dear Alice,
My cello is buzzing. Help!

Ask Alice

Alice Dear Jeremy,

Don't worry, this is not terminal. Your cello will not, repeat not, explode. What you have here is probably one of the following:

  1. a screw loose. No, this is NOT a personal comment!!!! -- the little tuning screws, especially when made in Romania, tend to buzz. Any luthier (violin expert) can tighten or replace.
  2. a coming-unglued cello. Again, no big deal. You'll have to take it to be opened up where the buzz is happening, the old glue scraped out and new glue inserted (at least a day to dry the glue).
  3. the spike may be too loose and rattling -- or even the tailpiece.
  4. a button. Yes, a button, on your clothes. More often than not, my eagle eye will spot a cardigan button or similar against the cello, buzzing away like mad.

However, there remains the small chance that the neck of the cello itself may be loose. This is dangerous -- not for you, but for the cello. Examine it carefully to make sure that it's still glued to the body of the cello. This is a more expensive repair, but the cello will still be OK.
Good luck!!

Copyright © 1 February 2008 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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