Student-Teacher Jealousy

Visitor's Question from a 21-30 year old Female
I am a 29 year old woman and have been learning classical music from my teacher who is a 32 year old man since the past 1 year. I am very attracted towards him but have not told him about this. He has always encouraged me by telling me that I am very talented and I have been his only student for the past 1 year. Therefore, I was the centre of his attention.

Since the last 2 weeks, a new student has joined the class who is a 11 year old boy and I am not sure why, I have felt jealousy because my teacher's attention has gone away from me. He keeps praising the new pupil all the time. Also, because of an illness, I am not able to practise my violin as before and have started making a lot of mistakes in my class which I possibly would never make when I had been in good health.

I feel very inadeqaute and also very guilty as I am an adult but am obviously behaving like a child. I have a lot of low self-estemm as I was sexually abused several times in my childhood and suffered anorexia in my teens. My music and violin are my only source of expressing my emotions and so I feel extremely inadequate and keep comparing myself to how I used to play when I was fit and healthy. I am trying my best to get over my illness ... but there is no guarantee of my recovery.

I would be extremely grateful if you could give me some advice on why I feel this way and nowadays, I also feel that I should leave the class as I am not able to play as well as I used to before. I am hoping that I will not break a relationship because of my childish behaviour. Please help. Advice
On one hand it may seem childish to you to be jealous. But jealousy has been around for thousands of years and has affected kings and queens, priests and generals. So for us normal people to be jealous sometimes is quite a reasonable thing! And the student-teacher bond is VERY strong and there have been hundreds if not thousands of books written about how powerful it is. The teacher is helping you grow and learn, the student is thriving with the attention. It's very, very natural for the two to become fond of each other.

Especially when music is involved, this can become quite potent. Like you've said, music is often a direct way to express emotions that might not be expressed otherwise. That's why love songs and serenading your loved one are such powerful things. So here you have had this teacher all to yourself for a full year, have been thriving under his attentive care, have been pouring out your heart and soul through your instrument. You had a special bond. And then another person came into it and is altering what you had before. I suppose you're lucky that it was an 11 year old boy and not say a 25 year old attractive girl, which might have made it even worse. But in any case, it's someone that is distracting the man who was so important to your life.

You definitely shouldn't leave the class. Playing an instrument isn't about being "the best" or about playing "perfectly". It is about expressing how you feel to the best of your current ability. If you're ill, that ability may be less than it was before. But your ability changes CONSTANTLY - you probably play better now than you did when you were 3 or 4, and might play better now than you will at 50 or 60. That doesn't mean that you were BAD those other times, just that your ability to move your fingers and do things varies over time. Your LOVE for making music should always be there and you should always enjoy what you can do. It's sort of like saying "old people shouldn't dance", to want to quit. Sure, old people might not be as graceful as a 20 year old with the same flexibility. But old people can get the same JOY out of what they *can* do.

Is there any way you can ask for separate class time? I can't imagine that teaching an 11 yr old and teaching you at the same time is fully productive. Time you used to get to focus on your skills is now being given to the other kid. You're paying the same amount, you should get the same level of focus. I would talk to the instructor sometime before class and mention that especially with your illness, you really miss having his attentive help to let you work on your skills without an audience. That you find it very distracting to try to manage in a class with a young kid. Hopefully he can arrange things so you each have your own separate time to work with him, and that way you can get the teaching in a stress free environment. If you are paying for him to teach you, you shouldn't have your money spent on sitting and watching someone else play, and listening to someone else get praised.

-- from Jenn
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