Dear Alma: I’m in love with my student’s mother

Dear Alma: I’m in love with my student’s mother

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

August 04, 2023

From our agony aunt’s mailbag:

Dear Alma,

I am desperately in love with my student’s mother, a single mom of 4. She is 15 years older than me and doesn’t seem to know I exist. What should I do?

Please Notice Me

Dear Please Notice Me,

It’s exciting to be enamored. She sounds like a wonderful person. And the fact that she hasn’t noticed you means that you are acting in an appropriate way for a teacher. The last thing we need is for the kids to see you flirting with their mom. So, congratulation.

A couple of things. As a mom of 4, she is overworked, and has no extra time before or after school, so I would not ask for dinner. You cannot ask her out in front of the kids. You also want to protect your income, in the case that she is not interested, you want to be able to continue teaching her children. These are the parameters.

I would write a simple note, put in in an envelope marked “private” (don’t want the kids opening it in the car!) and hand it to her at the end of a lesson. Inside I would say that I would like the chance to get to know her outside of the brief moments at lessons. Would she be open for lunch some time during the week?

Keep it short and sweet, not too detailed so that she has the freedom to decide without potential awkwardness. If she turns you down, that’s life, but it’s certainly worth a shot!

Dear Alma,

I’m a violist trapped in the body of a double-bass. How do I get out?

Stuck in here

Dear Stuck,

There is nothing worse than being trapped. Sometimes it is beyond our control, but most often, the fence around us is created by our own fear. Fear of something new, failure, difficult work, change of location or income. I would ask myself how much I desire the other thing, and what are the parameters of my own personal standards.

Let’s, for a moment, remove that barrier. Here is a scenario.

Go to your local instrument dealer and rent a viola. Try it out at home – do whatever you want, even playing it like a cello for comfort. If it fulfills something in you, take the next step. Sign up for a weekend adult amateur chamber music workshop or orchestra. Try some lessons, or even try teaching beginning viola to kids. I believe there is only a matter of a short time between your caged life and a new, but related world, filled with Hindemith and viola jokes! You can only be trapped if you believe you have been duped into a life you don’t want or deserve. Take control, choose your own path, and remove those chains!


  • Hermann Abendroth says:

    “Dans la maison” François Ozon.

  • IP says:

    It’s fine, just leave his grandmother alone.

  • Big Bong says:

    Have a cold shower!

  • MMcGrath says:

    Ach so hilarious, Alma!

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if some variable(s) here was/were switched: the teacher, a gal, liking a mom; the teacher, a guy, liking a dad; the young female teacher liking a dad; or an elder female teacher liking a younger dad.

    An odd mention is “[she] doesn’t seem to know I exist.” How then does your love work? It seems rather superficial at this stage. If boy-teacher wants a cougar, sign up for a dating app a clear your schedule. Or maybe he has a hero-complex and wants to move his teacher role to fatherly role.
    Leave her a note marked ‘private.’ In the days of photos and sharing, he should be careful of anything that can be spread around easily, and cause embarrassment. “Maybe” he should move on and let her take care of her kids like she’s doing. And maybe she has a boyfriend.

    • Alma says:

      Dear Gerry,
      You will notice that there are actually no genders mentioned by the writer. This could have been submitted by either a man or woman, and my answer reflected that.

  • Mecky Messer says:

    Disclaimer for all readers:

    This site confidently claims to be a steward of culture…..

    …..which is why it started a clickbait, soap-opera-style series of articles otherwise found in The National Enquirer, or many an Over the counter publication.

    Such are the times….

  • IRA says:


  • Winddreamer says:

    …, I think that was a joke…..

  • SVM says:

    Dreadful advice on both counts.

    1st letter

    Remember that your customers are *not* your friends, no matter how friendly the professional relationship may appear to be; combining (or attempting to combine) professional and personal relationships is sometimes possible, but rarely advisable and always very perilous, and should be attempted only in the full knowledge and expectation that, once combined, the two facets become inextricable and interdependent (i.e.: if one facet should fail, then the other will almost certainly fail, too). If you must make the attempt (in flagrant disregard of professional boundaries), you should contrive your advances so that you can retreat gracefully without loss of professional dignity in the highly likely event that it becomes evident that the other party does not reciprocate your interest. And whatever happens, ensure that you do not allow any emotional or personal issues to taint your teaching (if you cannot compartmentalise the issue, you may well have to cease teaching the student implicated).

    2nd letter

    The saying goes that “the grass is greener on the other side”, but if viola envy is really troubling you, it may be worth trying the instrument. That way, you can determine empirically whether the viola is really a better fit for you, or whether you simply have a tendency to seek “greener pastures”. In the interests of protecting your good name and reputation, it may be advisable to start in an amateur context where you can do no harm. However, Alma’s suggestion that this might extend to teaching beginners is dangerous — Yehudi Menuhin argued that the vast majority of teachers do harm to their pupils, and teaching beginners is a very responsible task that requires enormous skill. The damage that poor teaching at this stage can inflict is immense, and often results in the pupil giving up or languishing with serious deficiencies for years to come. Hans Keller may have argued that the violin and viola are interchangeable, and that specialising exclusively in one or the other is a “phoney profession”, but extending that analogy to the double bass would be incredibly tenuous.

  • Confused Goldfish says:

    Dear Alma,

    I have no expendable money but desperately need a better instrument and bow. How can I as a student convince some rich older person after a concert that they should buy me one because I just won my first orchestra audition and have school auditions coming up?

    Yours sincerely,
    Confused and Poor Goldfish

  • Confused Goldfish says:

    Dear Alma,

    I taught private lessons in high school but cannot seem to start a studio in college. Any advice for finding students that doesn’t involve paying for an expensive website domain?

    Confused Goldfish seeking experience

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    Three words in one of these letters made me shudder ….. Rent a Viola!!!