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#2080006 - 05/09/13 08:04 PM Your studio complement
Cardinal201 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/19/12
Posts: 102
I noticed something interesting about my kid's piano teacher's studio the other day, and now I'm curious about other teachers' experiences.

My son's teacher has ~60 students in her studio, ranging from 4 year old beginners to Preparatory Level high schoolers. It's a big spectrum in age and level, yes, but what really strikes me is the wide differential in terms of student commitment (e.g. practicing, taking advantage of recitals, festivals, master classes, etc.). At the year-end recital this past weekend, only one-third of the studio performed (and not because of time, since the teacher said she would have built in intermissions/groupings had more students chosen to participate), and quite a few of those performers did not seem particularly prepared. I understand mistakes can happen due to many factors other than lack of preparation, but that really did seem to be the primary reason. Some students did not even have their pieces memorized. In contrast, those who were better prepared really stood out. My kiddo, who's pretty new to the piano, got a lot of kudos for "his talent", which of course was really nice of people to say, but in the back of my head I kept thinking, "Well, he practices... and not even a lot... just, you know, at all..."

Is it typical to have such a diverse complement of students? Or do most teachers have a certain "type" of student, e.g. one who views piano as just another once-a-week extracurricular vs. the somewhat more committed (I would put my own kiddo in this group) vs. the very serious student?

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#2080058 - 05/09/13 10:32 PM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1973
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
I think it might depend on the type of teacher, and how interested she or he is in accepting anyone who phones. Sixty students a week is a huge piano studio, generating big money. I wouldn't last a month running such an operation.

#2080072 - 05/09/13 11:13 PM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Nikolas Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 6491
Loc: UK
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
I think it might depend on the type of teacher, and how interested she or he is in accepting anyone who phones. Sixty students a week is a huge piano studio, generating big money. I wouldn't last a month running such an operation.
Yup. That!

at some point I had reached around 33 students and it was driving me insane, because I was trying to be very personal with each student and make everybody work they way I thought was right... Only it didn't work out this way and a few kinda... well... didn't do well in the final exams. They simply wouldn't study! and I knew that (it's always obvious to the teacher, isn't it?).

Point is that I was very specific to ALL parents that unless they study it's impossible of me to do anything. Piano learning isn't a course that one can 'sleep - learn' with a cassette playing while drowsing off!

So nobody got to complain to me and I don't think that I looked bad. In fact those who were studying with me decided to stay with me for the next year(s), while those who didn't study stopped lessons all together. Which works out fine for me I guess!

#2080078 - 05/09/13 11:37 PM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 7033
Loc: Orange County, CA
Most teachers have a range of students. Even the most well-respected teachers in my area have one or two (or twenty) "clunker" students. You can't possibly have a studio full of nothing but little Mozarts.

On the other hand, even the worst, most incompetent teachers will have one or two (or twenty) EXTREMELY talented students whose musical talents are going to waste.

I think I've mentioned in another thread that, if I fired all the students I wanted to fire, I'd have like five students left. I'm not kidding.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#2080118 - 05/10/13 01:57 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: Cardinal201

Some students did not even have their pieces memorized.

No kidding? I call them piano parties, not recitals, so there is no pressure to memorize.
I am a competent teacher.


#2080168 - 05/10/13 05:32 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Saranoya Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 968
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Sorry to butt in again as a non-teacher, but I object strenuously to the notion that if a student does not have their recital piece memorized, this automatically means they are ill-prepared and/or do not practice (enough).

I memorize all of my pieces, even the ones I will never play in public, because I can't not memorize. I routinely have pieces memorized *before* I can play them fluently, and my sight reading skills are nowhere near good enough to play anything fluently that I haven't memorized.

But out of twenty or so adult students who take lessons with my teacher, and with whom I have performed at an in-class recital twice now, I'm the only one who plays without having a score in front of me. That does not mean that I'm the most prepared, the most talented, the most committed or the most advanced student out of this group — not even close. In fact, we all agree (my teacher included) that the most advanced, talented and committed student out of all of us is in fact the one who is demonstrably incapable of playing anything but simple children's tunes without a score in front of him — but who (and these are my teacher's words, not his) "can sight-read almost anything instantly, and immediately plays it at a level most people only get to after weeks or months of practice."

Playing from memory is by no means the be-all and end-all that many people make it out to be. If I could choose between what I have now (the ability to memorize without putting conscious effort into it) and what that other student has (the ability to play almost anything from the score instantly), I would definitely go with the latter. Performing on stage with a score and a page-turner is perfectly acceptable in a professional musician. Not being able to play anything prima vista is not.
Plodding through piano music at a frustratingly slow pace since 9/2012.

Standard disclaimer: I teach many things. Piano is not one of them.

#2080183 - 05/10/13 06:57 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
Perhaps this teacher in question has to teach everyone in order to make ends meet.

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians

#2080209 - 05/10/13 08:16 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 15442
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, to have 60 students, does that mean they're mostly just half hour students? I really find that you can't do much in a half hour except with the very young beginners, and even then some can do a 45 minute lesson easily. It makes such a difference to both teacher and student. Sure, that means you can't teach as many students, but the quality of their education is so much better this way.

So I think perhaps that is one thing that the teacher is doing that could be causing a problem. We all have students that don't practice and don't represent us well, but I always feel bad when a student isn't prepared to be in a recital. I would say it's usually 1 or 2 students that don't end up being in a recital out of a studio of around 20. To have only 2/3 of your studio perform is indicative of a deeper issue here.
private piano/voice teacher FT

#2080230 - 05/10/13 09:22 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Cardinal201 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/19/12
Posts: 102
Thank you for the responses thus far, teacher and non-teacher alike! I agree that lack of memorization does not necessarily equal lack of preparation. What I meant is that a number of students who made significant mistakes in their pieces were playing with sheet music, so the mistakes could not be explained by the difficulty of memorization. Apologies if I was unclear!

#2080377 - 05/10/13 02:49 PM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
I require my students to memorize their recital pieces. Students who still need their music are more apt to make mistakes. I have never had a student unable to memorize one piece if given far enough in advance. Memorizing is a skill that can be started in the first month of lessons!

Perhaps this teacher is not worried about that, but as you have shown, people DO notice how a teacher's students perform. It may or may not mean that she's a bad teacher. I do think 60 is a lot of students (I've taught as many as 40, but 30 is really my favorite number...enough for a critical mass, but not too exhausting.) But as I mentioned before, she may have to for some reason or another. If she teaches groups, for example, that number may be more do-able. We have a teacher in town with a large studio like that, but she only teaches groups.

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians

#2080589 - 05/11/13 02:43 AM Re: Your studio complement [Re: Cardinal201]
Candywoman Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 1046
Quite possibly, the recital lead-time was insufficient. I believe you need a minimum of six weeks' lead time, preferably seven or eight weeks. If many errors were in evidence, it may be an indication she is pushing the students into music beyond their level. She may not be taking the necessary steps to really solve problems.


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