The Music Teacher: Book summary and reviews of The Music Teacher by Barbara Hall

The Music Teacher

By Barbara Hall

The Music Teacher
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2009,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

The Music Teacher is a penetrating and richly entertaining look into the heart and mind of a woman who has failed both as an artist and as a wife.

Barbara Hall, award-winning writer and producer of such hit television series as Judging Amy and Joan of Arcadia, tells the story of a violinist who has accepted the limitations of her talent and looks for the casual satisfaction of trying to instill her passion for music in others. She gets more than she bargains for, however, when a young girl named Hallie enters her life. For here at last is the real thing: someone with the talent and potential to be truly great.

In her drive to shape this young girl into the artist the teacher could never be, she makes one terrible mistake. As a result she is forced to reevaluate her whole life and come to terms with her future.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The Music Teacher does to, and with, music teachers what Nick Hornby's High Fidelity does to, and with, record store geeks. What a smart alecky, unputdownable, brutally honest, heartbreaking glory of a book." - Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.

"This keenly observed and piercing character study of a complex, haunted woman grappling with the disappointments in her life and reevaluating her own ambitions should resonate with readers long after the final page is turned." - Booklist.

"[A] deeply felt meditation. . . .[Hall] presents music as a glorious metaphor for an approach to life." – Kirkus Reviews.

"Hall...doesn't shy away from the sour notes of lost dreams, failed careers and misguided intentions, and her novel, despite its heavier than necessary dose of navel-gazing, rings true because of it." - Publishers Weekly.

"Hall's portrait of these characters is full of humor and heartbreak, as their unconventional lives take unexpected turns." - Library Journal.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Cindy
Thought provoking read for any level of musician
After a childhood and young adulthood of piano and flute lessons, and providing music lessons for my own children, I found this book to be interesting and thought provoking. Even for the person who "plays the radio," the banter between the characters about the genius of popular culture musicians, and different styles of music is entertaining and fun.

Although the main character is going through a difficult period in her life, the author gives her a wry and witty sense of humor that I enjoyed. The book was quick to engage, but took me in a direction I did not expect. The angst she explores about talent and true music giftedness, and the love/hate relationship with music and the limits on her ability to create it, was insightful. The story line deals with how music has shaped her choices, perceptions and relationships, in ways both conscious and unrecognized. I'm sure our book club would have a lively discussion after reading this book.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by ANGELIQUE
The Music Teacher
The Music Teacher has well-fleshed out, fascinating characters but the book is ultimately unsatisfying because the plot was predictable and unrelentingly melancholy.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by carole
Of Orphans and Harmony
The book is written in the observant style you expect from someone with decades of experience in teaching children and young adults, a calm and detached voice. Her words speak as teacher and as frustrated musician,her other career. Her life as "an orphan" underlies her ability to relate to the other orphans of different varieties in her life. Her story is filled with detail of relationships with some of the many who enter and leave her life according to program. The family stories are observed from a safe distance and the author's running with "quicksilver" anger over her ex-husband or perhaps at life's natural course. The author knows exactly what she wants to say, is talented enough to say it right, and not afraid of saying what most keep private.

Her writing's power and ability to make the reader think is attributed to the characters she writes about, in their way forces of nature in their own right. These include a talented orphan teen who needs much but does not want the pressure of expectation; another whose mind is perhaps deteriorating as he hears voices but exerts a focused energy, a young lover who is full of wonder and hope ethereal sweetness. There is a mix of frustration at how difficult but necessary it is for her to share life with these people was, tempered with a wistful gratitude at being able to in many ways mature and learn to find joy with them in spite of her continuous desire to get in bed and hide under the covers in her trailer home.

The physics interludes are a lovely parallel theme for the story and a nice lesson. I learned a lot about how maturity sometimes does come with aging and that it sometimes means being willing to let yourself learn to accept the moment and enjoy it. In the end we are all orphans.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Teresa
Entertaining look into the life of a failed virtuoso
The Music Teacher profiles a women who wanted to be a great musician... and her life after she failed to realize her dreams. The book is an entertaining look into one women's personal and professional life- and what happens when she finds one student who really has what it takes. It is easy to read, easy to relate to the characters, and a great read. The end of the book tended to wax a little too philosophical for me, thus the "good" rating. I still enjoyed reading it and gained some insight into why people sometimes choose the careers they do.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Therese
THE MUSIC TEACHER
My first impression of this book was that the writer/narrator was going to invite me into her world which would be filled with music, angst, characters and her own transition in life due to her protege, Hallie. It is that, and more. The enjoyment of the characters and the struggles of Pearl, the music teacher, seemed so real I thought she was telling the story to me as it happened. This was an engrossing and enjoyable read!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Jodie
The Music Teacher
I really enjoyed the musical and spiritual aspects in this book. I am a Christian & a musician and several things she said touched me on both levels. It was a good read and one that I hesitated to put down. I was a little disappointed in the ending. It seemed to all of a sudden veer off into a strange direction. I really enjoyed her use of words and descriptive phrases.

...14 more reader reviews

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In addition to Judging Amyand Joan of Arcadia, Barbara Hall has written for the television series Northern Exposure, I'll Fly Away, Moonlighting, and Hill Street Blues, among others. She is also the author of eight previous novels, five of them for young adults. She lives in Los Angeles.

The publisher suggests The Music Teacher for readers who've enjoyed She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, Open House by Elizabeth Berg, Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler and Body Surfing by Anita Shreve.

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