A year ago I moved to Germany to study composition. My first encounter with my teacher when we talked about having a lesson was him smirkingly saying: “be careful, i’m known to make people cry in lessons” and as I was at the moment writing a piece about my own physical health problems and other personal topics I of course asked him to postpone the lesson until i was done with the piece…These comments was the beginning of it.
I did never share this piece with him, it was too vulnerable, and how could i show something personal to someone who immediately tried to intimidate me.
My feeling was right and his style of teaching was this very old thing of saying that everything I came with as a student was “bad” or “not music” or “emotional shit” or will “not be taken serious” or “embarrassing” or “not serious”. Not being open to see out of his own perspectives and fears.
He also had this horrible habit of assuming things about his students: “this guy is lazy, you’re lazy, she’s not good for the group, etc” also sometimes he would say racist comments about the Latinos or Korean composer which made me super uncomfortable…which was really unprofessional, and not something that should be shared with me.
We the students would talk about these things but everyone who had confronted him, did not have stories of it ending well or getting better.
After a while, to protect myself i would try to distance myself from him as everything he said seemed to come from his own personal perspective but explained it as universally true – and thats how it ended up feeling. I began doubting myself and my artistic process more and more as i started to take on these feelings that he projected.
When I realised that I was loosing all my motivation and confidence i wrote him that i wanted to drop out of this big project he was supervising, due to lack of motivation and confidence. His first response was: “have you thought about that youre leaving the musicians out in the cold”.
After this the most horrible meetups started.
I tried to be honest about how i felt about his teaching to protect myself but he gaslighted me into believing that he had nothing to do with it but that it was solely my problem. And made me feel bad about even thinking that he had an influence on this. He also inserted this narrative: “you have been lying to me! How could you make me think that things were going well, you have been lying to me”.
He also got very aggressive as he would generally get when a criticism was towards him.
I told him that all his statements towards me and talks about other students made me feel uncomfortable but his response was: it’s just a joke! How can you not get that’s was a joke? I’m trying to motivate you!
He said: “if you’re so sensitive you shouldn’t study with me but with X”.
(Btw I already have a degree in composition and me being “sensitive” has literally never been a “problem” for me.)
After this talk i was left to believe that i was the one with the problems, and i was bad because i had lied to him. but as I continued studying with him it still got worse, even when i had told him that i felt his lessons was the opposite of a safe space.
He tried to make me feel alone “i never had a student that felt this way”, “i have done so much for you, and you don’t care”, “I don’t understand how you can think that im not a good teacher, I’ve never had this before”
Luckily i knew that i was not the only one who had problems, but if I hadn’t talked with other people i would have believed him.
After almost a year having experienced this i met up with him at a restaurant and asked if i could switch to another teacher as this was clearly not working out for me, and i needed something different. And then he got very personal and angry and yelled at me: “how can you say that im not open!? Im the most open guy! Nobody is as open as me!” The only thing i could say was: sorry but that’s just not how i feel.
And it continued where during the conversation where i would talk from my perspective of feelings he would project it directly as personal critique onto him. And that was firstly wrong but also made me feel very bad as if I was hurting him personally.
So in the end he verbally pushed my into a corner of: then you can’t study with me, and you can’t switch, so what will you do…
And i never wished to be in this battle but after having a person taunt you for 20 minutes and say bad things about you, how could i even think about going back to him.
I said: then i will quit.
It felt like my last resort.
After this i had a talk with another professor about switching but unfortunately I couldn’t switch fully and we would have to go into a dialogue with my current teacher. At this time after all this i just couldn’t function with the feeling that he would have any power or say in anything connected to my studies, so i ended up leaving the institution and Germany entirely.