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#1957795 - 09/12/12 09:34 AM mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?!  
Joined: Jul 2012
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missbelle Offline
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Hello fellow teachers!

I have about five years experience teaching piano, three at a private school that arranges the lessons and policies and payments. I have run into a possible situation, and need to know how to handle it.

I teach Monday and Wednesday afternoons. I had a cute little first grader walk in Monday, with her first "assignment" in hand that I have all new and returning students do- write down "Why I am taking piano lessons."

She had a typical answer, "because it will be fun" and we began a keyboard introduction. She still sounds out her words so I was going slowly anyway, and chose very simple exercises that my pedagogy professor taught us that I have not seen in any books. We were noticing patterns and highs and lows and dynamics, and finger numbers, and just exploring.

I asked her how this piano compared to hers, and she dropped that she does not have a piano or a keyboard, at all. Instead of offering a primer book, I suggested what I have dubbed a pre-primer book, that has her writing the music ABC's and recognizing note patterns going up, down, same, and quarter notes, but none of the book takes a keyboard to do.

Oh, mom was invited in, but chose to stay in hallway with brother.

When I went out to mom, she confirmed the no piano, and said that depending if lessons go well, that Santa might bring a piano. I suggested rental (great business close by has great deals) or even a keyboard, but mom seemed to find it odd that a piano would be needed right away.

I admit I floundered, having not encountered this line of thought before, and stammered, "well, it is a bit like air guitar vs. the real deal. I can offer some exercises and workbook pages and guide her during the weekly 30 minute lesson, but without practice, we will not get very far. I want to develop a sensitivity to touch and sound, proper hand posture, and let her play up and down the keyboard."

Forumites,
what more should I say?

Lessons are prepaid for the semester.

This is a very nice private school that also offers after school programs in photography, chess, strings, brass, woodwinds, dance, etc...in other words, finances are not a huge problem for these families.

My intro letter has suggestions for practicing, including no tv near the piano, learning the difference between practicing, playing, and performing, and how to build up small times into larger as you progress.

I never thought to state that you must have some kind of keyboard to take lessons!

Help! What more should I tell mom?


Learning as I teach.
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#1957816 - 09/12/12 10:29 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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piano_teacher29 Offline
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I was surprised at how many students I interview that don't have an instrument at home. When parents call and inquire about lessons it's one of the first questions I ask now.

I had one sweet 5 year old girl come for an interview and was so excited about lessons. Parents were purchasing an instrument "that day." She came back next week and her mom paid for a month of lessons. She said they bought a keyboard but when they took it homes several keys didn't work and they were getting a new one "that day". So each week I heard something different and this poor girl had no instrument to practice on at home. Since she started in the primer book the first few lessons were easy for her to grasp and we spent the half hour practicing what she should have done at home. Once the month was up I told the mom that until she had an instrument I can not continue lessons, it was unfair to the child and not productive for me as a teacher to start her from the beginning each lesson. That was 4 months ago, and from what I understand, they still don't have an instrument and the girl continues to ask about lessons.

One of the greatest lessons I've learned since I started teaching is that many people have no idea what it takes to become proficient at the piano. They think they can use a little keyboard and take for a year or they don't need a keyboard for the first few months. It's strange but it's also completely foreign to people who have never been exposed to music lessons. I cherish the parents that understand the depth of music lessons.

Since you teach a private school and the parent already paid for a full semester I would continue to push instrument rental if she isn't ready to commit. Tell her it's not an option, the child must have an instrument at home. Maybe there is a policy you can point out that explains this? Otherwise you'll have to discuss this with the store owner and perhaps refund tuition for lessons not taken.

Good luck...

#1957842 - 09/12/12 11:17 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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ten left thumbs Offline
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Like pt29, I see a lot of that attitude. "We're not sure if she'll take to it, so we'll wait with an instrument." I normally try to convince them to go for classical guitar, as a guitar is cheaper, smaller and quieter than a piano, but plays solo like a piano. That normally gets them off my back! laugh

#1957848 - 09/12/12 11:36 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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AZNpiano Offline
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Just be honest and upfront with them. If the parents are okay with the lack of progress, then go ahead and teach the kid.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1957890 - 09/12/12 01:10 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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Overexposed Offline
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Originally Posted by missbelle


I have about five years experience teaching piano, three at a private school that arranges the lessons and policies and payments.
Forumites,
what more should I say?


Hi missbelle,
I think that a conversation with your private school administrator would be in order.

This is one more case in which an administrator sets up lessons (omitting interview with teacher) and no one has discussed the basics with the new kid/parents prior to starting lessons.

Result: Another kid taking lessons with no piano for practicing.

I think administrators and private teachers all learn to screen clients more carefully after our first experience with a kid who slips into lessons with no piano at home. We wonder "Do we have to tell them they need a piano at home?!" And the answer is "Yes". (Although some administrators are likely ignoring the need for a piano at home...in order to bring one more student in the door.)

#1957919 - 09/12/12 02:18 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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missbelle Offline
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OP here-
While researching this on-line, simply by entering, "do I need a piano to take piano lessons?" in the search bar, I found this great article:
http://elissamilne.wordpress.com/20...-before-your-child-begins-piano-lessons/

Even the comments from other teachers and parents are good.

I had no idea, but I guess my music world has always been blessed to have access to pianos.


Learning as I teach.
#1957961 - 09/12/12 03:50 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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seems to me there could easily be a course designed for students without a piano or limited access to one. Just have to adjust commonly expected results. Simply introducing a child to the piano may spark some interest along the way - maybe in something other than the huge gangly piano. Everyone seems to think every kid walking thru the door wants to and should become an concert artist by age ??? or they are not worth the teacher's time. How many kids would be in scouts or sports if that was the expectation when signing up for tee-ball or brownies. Let them have some fun finding what they want to do with their life - its a trial and error process.

#1957978 - 09/12/12 04:42 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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Minniemay Offline
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I'm going to teach you how to bake a cake. Oh, you don't need any ingredients. You just read the recipe and pretend you're mixing them in the bowl you don't have. You can learn how to bake that way.


B.A., Piano, Piano Pegagogy, Music Ed.
M.M., Piano
#1957993 - 09/12/12 05:36 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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Para Otras Offline
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Technically, this exists:

http://www.artistryalliance.net/artistry_overview.html

The Introduction to Music book, if I'm not mistaken, requires no actual piano - and, in their philosophy, is supposed to be done before the student begins the other books, which are at the piano/typical method book style.

I don't necessarily agree, but it is an option.

Otherwise, the parents are - plain and simple - idiots for not investing in at least a rental. If it had to do with cost, I would explain to the students that we should cut lessons down slightly, reduce price, and start a payment plan towards a digital piano. Or a keyboard, and explain that we'd have music lessons for now, not piano lessons.

#1958001 - 09/12/12 05:46 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
Joined: May 2011
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bzpiano Offline
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Irvine, CA
Quote
explain that we'd have music lessons for now, not piano lessons.


Yes, I have a few very rude parents being so angry when I said that, somehow they just cannot understand it...


Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
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#1958005 - 09/12/12 05:48 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: bzpiano]  
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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Quote
explain that we'd have music lessons for now, not piano lessons.


Yes, I have a few very rude parents being so angry when I said that, somehow they just cannot understand it...
Then I would tell them exactly what Minniemay said laugh

My husband actually suggested I tell them about his surgical work when this happened to me before: "Well, he didn't have to practice on people, I suppose. He could have used the game Operation to learn how to conduct a surgery. It'd be the same thing for the piano. We can use a piece of paper and just pretend we are hitting the notes!"

Of course, I've never found myself brave enough to say this laugh

#1958029 - 09/12/12 06:20 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: Para Otras]  
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missbelle Offline
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You know, the students take one hour a week for general music at this school, mostly learning singing.

I could do my own music class of one, and do a Kindermusik style lesson.

That is actually a great idea!

I will run it by the director.

I did check the general policy handbook, and while it says supplies and materials and practicing, it does not specifically state that you must have the instrument at home.

???


Learning as I teach.
#1958143 - 09/13/12 03:35 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: Minniemay]  
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Originally Posted by Minniemay
I'm going to teach you how to bake a cake. Oh, you don't need any ingredients. You just read the recipe and pretend you're mixing them in the bowl you don't have. You can learn how to bake that way.


haha, I loved this and the original "air guitar" comment


"[The trick to life isn't] just about living forever. The trick is still living with yourself forever."
#1958152 - 09/13/12 04:44 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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It is quite a big decision to buy such an expensive piece of furniture though. Not to mention trying to figure how just how expensive the furniture should be.

I was lucky to be an adult and get given a hundred year old out of tune piano. I was lucky enough to have the old tuner be honest and tell me its real worth. It was good for me to see whether I had the sticking power. I practice every day for two weeks and decided I was dedicated enough for lessons. I practiced and took lessons until I started playing chords and could 'hear' how out of tune the piano was. I was lucky enough to be an adult and say to hubby "need to buy a new one" and we had a new one by the end of the week (this one is only 35 years old :P).

It worked perfectly because I was adult enough to make the decisions. From a mums perspective what do you do? Spend money and have it not used? Get a freebie and have the kid give up when it sounds bad?

Can the school give students daily access to pianos? Like a shared piano scheme?

#1958170 - 09/13/12 06:45 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: alsoTom]  
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ten left thumbs Offline
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Originally Posted by alsoTom
It is quite a big decision to buy such an expensive piece of furniture though. Not to mention trying to figure how just how expensive the furniture should be.



... which is a good reason to choose a smaller, cheaper instrument!

#1959762 - 09/16/12 03:45 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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missbelle Offline
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UPDATE-

I spoke with the fine arts coordinator and she offered to open a room with a piano before school for the girl a day or two each week. The mom said she would not know what to do with older brother during the wait time since he could not go to his classroom so early, plus it was too early for such a long day of school, so she declined. There is no availability after school, and of course, none during school.

Guess it will just be music class! Mom is ok with that. She wants "well-rounded children."

I am fine with a full-sized keys weighted keyboard for home practicing instead of a real piano, esp. for beginners. I will encourage mom to check out the local music store that has great prices on rentals ($50/month for an ok upright) and see how it goes!!

Thanks everyone!

Miss Belle


Learning as I teach.
#1959774 - 09/16/12 04:07 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: Minniemay]  
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Originally Posted by Minniemay
I'm going to teach you how to bake a cake. Oh, you don't need any ingredients. You just read the recipe and pretend you're mixing them in the bowl you don't have. You can learn how to bake that way.

thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb thumb


Piano Teacher
#1959803 - 09/16/12 05:07 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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I was going to ask if there were a neighbor, relative, or church nearby with a piano that she could use. But if she isn't willing to come to the school, then she probably would have excuses why the others wouldn't work either.

That being said, I do think there are things you can do to work with her. You can teach her to read a staff. You can also teach her the names of piano keys. Use her voice a lot - sing intervals, or even more basic, such as low and high. This is a great time for ear training. Play "match that note." Play "Name that Tune." Teach note values and read rhythms. She can clap them.

It's not the usual order of things, but they are all things a piano student needs to learn, so maybe giving her a head start in some areas will help her catch up in the others once she has an instrument.


piano teacher
#1960040 - 09/17/12 07:40 AM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted by missbelle
UPDATE-

I spoke with the fine arts coordinator and she offered to open a room with a piano before school for the girl a day or two each week. The mom said she would not know what to do with older brother during the wait time since he could not go to his classroom so early, plus it was too early for such a long day of school, so she declined. There is no availability after school, and of course, none during school.

Guess it will just be music class! Mom is ok with that. She wants "well-rounded children."

I am fine with a full-sized keys weighted keyboard for home practicing instead of a real piano, esp. for beginners. I will encourage mom to check out the local music store that has great prices on rentals ($50/month for an ok upright) and see how it goes!!

Thanks everyone!

Miss Belle


I don't normally suggest this, but even a cheap keyboard would be fine for a couple of months. However, it would have to be clear with the parent that after this time they would have to spend more money to buy a good digital or acoustic instrument. After this time, however, it would be clear if the child is taking well to lessons.

I don't like the "if piano lessons go well maybe there's a piano from Santa" thing. What is "well" and who determines it? The mother who obviously knows nothing about piano lessons? The same person who thinks lessons can possibly go "well" without any practice? Talk to the parent about how this is really unreasonable and sets up the child for failure - and a waste of her money!

She's better off renting and usually these places will take the rent payments and put them toward the purchase of an instrument after 6 months, or they can continue renting.

Another thing you may want to look into is at the child's school. Is there a piano that she could practice on, possibly during recess, before or after school?


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#1976472 - 10/20/12 09:08 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: Morodiene]  
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UPDATE-

She got a piano!!!!!! Do not know what kind, but from her description, it is not a keyboard.

She does not practice or do any work at home, not even "The Music Tree, Time to Begin" where much of it is coloring and numbers! She is stuck in early September, while my other students that began at her young beginning level, but with a piano at home, received Faber's Primer level. They are rocking on through.

And, now she has her arm in a cast. cry
Actually, it did not make much of a difference.
Two and three note black key patterns can be played by a six year old in a cast!

Lessons are at school and mom did not walk her up nor pick her up. I do not know how long she will have it. But she IS scheduled for Christmas recital!!
Yeah for pre-reader Christmas music books!


Learning as I teach.
#1976483 - 10/20/12 09:31 PM Re: mom says Santa may bring a piano Dec...began lessons Sept>?! [Re: missbelle]  
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Awesome! Even if it's not from Santa, it's still great.

Originally Posted by missbelle

well, it is a bit like air guitar vs. the real deal.


Want tickets to the Air Band in town? wink


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