This is not a game for me

“Son, where did you go to school? If I were you, I’d write them and get my fucking money back.”
Dimitri “Jimmie” Viner, in discussions with his flight test engineers

A while ago I had an interesting conversation with a young woman who works as musician for the US military. We found some interesting connections between science and music, but what really struck me was how she got a music teacher fired for not helping her to become better.

Yup — and she was right.

When she found out that the high-credentials teacher who was giving the course for aspiring professional musicians could or would not give her more help than just some standard stuff you could say to every interpretation of the music piece, she first tired to find better teachers outside of the music school. When this failed, because the school did not want to cover the expenses, she switched to a course that was done by a young teacher. This teacher was not as experienced, did not have all those credentials the other teacher had, and she usually taught the students who did not want to become professionals, but her feedback was much more valuable than that of the high-credentials teacher.

Now, when a really good musician changes courses to an apparently inferior teacher this starts a lot of talk, and by the start of the next semester, all the students of the high-credentials teacher wanted to switch to the young teacher. The school was forced to draw lots who might actually make the switch. After that semester, the high credentials teacher took a sabbatical.

While it may sound harsh and brutal to get a teacher fired this way, it was the best choice. Like she said: “This is not a game for me” — it was about preparing her for the future, allowing her to be successful as a musician. A teacher who gives only the same standard advice for all students, who does not allow her to become better, should not be tolerated.

It was the right decision and I wish more people would act the same.