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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432033 06/15/15 10:42 AM
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joggerjazz - As the parent of an eight year old piano student, I believe it is very important to set the tone of how you want to run your piano studio. I would not be too thrilled if I had to deal with that family. For example, if you had a recital and that family was involved how would they have acted? Would they have ruined the experience for other families?

Since the child is 5, it's completely normal for him to test boundaries. What bothered me the most about your original posting was the father's lack of concern or willingness to address his son's poor behavior. For example, if my son had bounced one time on your couch, I would have told him to stop immediately and he would have because he would know that failure to listen would result in consequences at home. However you aren't going to change the behavior of a 30/40/50 something year old parent. In my limited experience of having one eight year old taking lessons for two years, I believe that having a concerned and involved parent is critical. You need supportive families who will take initiative and "back you up".

Good luck and be glad that student is gone.

Last edited by pianoMom2006; 06/15/15 10:50 AM.

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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432140 06/15/15 03:15 PM
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joggerjazz, do you give an initial interview? Or orientation, or audition? This is a great opportunity for laying down expectations (on both sides). Mr. Becker calls it an Orientation, but whatever you call it, it’s a great tool for identifying and screening out the student and/or parent you really don’t want to deal with.

My husband now teaches from a storefront studio, but for many, many years he taught from our living room. It presents a certain challenge when teaching from the home environment, especially when you do not have a designated space, a studio room, set aside for that purpose, to provide a professional, business-like atmosphere. A private living room can invite an undesirable degree of familiarity. It’s important, I think, to provide visual and verbal cues to the students and parents that, at least for the time that they are there taking lessons, this room is a place of business. Perhaps a lively “Welcome to my studio” sign resting on a music stand. Something that tells the students and parents, “This isn’t a living room, it’s a piano studio.” (Of course, it’s important too, for other members of the household to respect the space and time.)

During the course of his Orientation, Mr. Becker presents the Orientation Packet. One of the documents in it is the Benefits, Qualifications, and Expectations sheet. This is just a set of lists, all predictable, but there it is in writing: this is what you can expect of me as a teacher, and this is what I expect of you as student and parent. On the list: Respect yourself and others.

Someone mentioned ‘the kids must want lessons’. Meh. What do kids know? I’ll tell you what they know. They know whether this is their idea, or if they are there because their parents think they should take piano. So this is one of the questions Mr. Becker puts directly to the student at the Orientation. “Do you want to take piano lessons? Or are you here because your parents are making you do this?” The parents aren’t always happy with this question. But the answers are telling. Just the body language alone can reveal what sort of situation you’re dealing with. Does Suzi Q squirm and look at the parents for direction/permission? Does Bobby blurt out, “My mom says I have to.” Either way, it’s usually a relief to the child to start talking about the elephant in the room, if they’re there because mom and dad (or grandma) say so. His response to this student is usually along the lines of, “Ah…I see…well, let’s give it a try. It might be fun. You never know ‘til you try!” And by the end of that first lesson they’ve learned there are only eight letters in the musical alphabet, and they already know them, they’ve played a song on the piano (Two Little Dickey Birds), and they’ve had so much fun, they’re hooked. Maybe piano lessons won’t be so bad after all.

In the end, to answer your initial query, while there is no printed ‘rules of conduct’ here, it still boils down to the old adage: good fences make good neighbors. Creating and keeping good boundaries makes for a much easier relationship all the way around. That's why HappyPianoMuse is so happy. He has good boundaries.

Last edited by oldbegonia; 06/15/15 03:49 PM.

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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
pianoMom2006 #2432151 06/15/15 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoMom2006
What bothered me the most about your original posting was the father's lack of concern or willingness to address his son's poor behavior.

Bad parenting is nothing new, and it's not going away soon. I can fill this thread with a million horror stories from my days teaching in public schools.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432183 06/15/15 04:57 PM
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The problem here, of course, is the father whose failure to establish proper decorum lead to the mayhem in the studio. No question about that.

I've picked up from this thread here and there a more generalized sense of disdain for parents. Apart from the situation described above, though, it's hard for me to see parents as anything but allies, or at least potential allies. The structure and sense of stability they set at home is invaluable. But some people need time to grow into their role. Perhaps for some parents, piano can be the purpose that helps them develop their abilities. Not that I would tolerate the sort of behaviors the original poster described for more than a single lesson. But life is more complicated for parents now; and having a focal point of music can help them develop.

Someone raised the an issue with the word "insist" when it comes to children practicing as if the intrinsic enjoyment of practice should be enough. And if it's not enough, then, well, they're not cut out to be musicians anyway and better to find that out early before they waste their own time and that of the teacher.

That just doesn't line up with my own experience. Even today, practice is not "fun" in any immediate sense but when I'm well-prepared for a rehearsal or performance with my chamber ensemble, I'm pleased. And like everyone else here, I can see what a powerful anchoring and enriching force music has been in my life.

But kids, no matter how enlightened, can't see all ends and are capricious enough to skip practice when something better comes along. I think it's the parent's role to be the "prosthetic" sense of responsibility for the child until she's old enough to take that on. One might call this hovering or helicoptering, and I imagine that there is a line some parents cross in the drive to position their children favorably. But in the general case, I'd call it skillful parenting.

Part of the problem with putting the question of "Do you want to play the piano?" to the child, is that the child doesn't really know what it's like. What is it like to embark on a very long journey that's difficult, has lots of ups and downs, but is also rewarding? Even adults are notoriously bad at imagining what an experience is like until they're immersed in it. But I can't really argue with others who have found it useful in screening families.

My $0.02


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
oldbegonia #2432245 06/15/15 07:30 PM
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For BrianDX .... Sorry I ruffled your feathers a bit. Opposing opinions sometimes do that particularly if they are read more harshly than intended. A danger of the written word. And my trebuchet is armed and aimed at the parents rather than teachers. I think I do better on my blogs smile

But this lady says it all perfectly. With great sensitivity. And I commend her for giving each student " a try" ... she's braver than I am. I take the easy way out ... which is to "avoid impending disaster". blush

Originally Posted by oldbegonia

Someone mentioned ‘the kids must want lessons’. Meh. What do kids know? I’ll tell you what they know. They know whether this is their idea, or if they are there because their parents think they should take piano. So this is one of the questions Mr. Becker puts directly to the student at the Orientation. “Do you want to take piano lessons? Or are you here because your parents are making you do this?” The parents aren’t always happy with this question. But the answers are telling. Just the body language alone can reveal what sort of situation you’re dealing with. Does Suzi Q squirm and look at the parents for direction/permission? Does Bobby blurt out, “My mom says I have to.” Either way, it’s usually a relief to the child to start talking about the elephant in the room, if they’re there because mom and dad (or grandma) say so. His response to this student is usually along the lines of, “Ah…I see…well, let’s give it a try. It might be fun. You never know ‘til you try!” And by the end of that first lesson they’ve learned there are only eight letters in the musical alphabet, and they already know them, they’ve played a song on the piano (Two Little Dickey Birds), and they’ve had so much fun, they’re hooked. Maybe piano lessons won’t be so bad after all.

In the end, to answer your initial query, while there is no printed ‘rules of conduct’ here, it still boils down to the old adage: good fences make good neighbors. Creating and keeping good boundaries makes for a much easier relationship all the way around. That's why HappyPianoMuse is so happy. He has good boundaries.


And thank you as well for your thumbs up.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
oldbegonia #2432316 06/16/15 12:18 AM
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Reguarding interview, I don't tell students upfront for me to take them on they must go thru a formal interview. But I am obviously assessing them at the first visit to see if I can help them. If not, I tell them. This five year old had behavior issues at times during the lessons. At one point I asked him do you want to learn the piano and why? He looked at me dazed and just said searching for words to say 'to learn?'. Cutting a student off after one lesson is to me a little too fast. The father did comment to him in his round about way to behave and listen, but it went thru both ears. The kid was spoiled due to lack of discipline. I doubt he was ever spanked. He had four lessons which were prepaid for. The fourth lesson there were times he was testing me again with the pedal. After the lesson I called his father and told him to continue he has to start listening to me and behave. The father just said he will find someone else. I have no regrets.
When I was young I played with a player piano and rolls. I never asked for lessons. My mother asked if I wanted lessons and I said ok. I didn't have much reaction. I didn't know what it entailed. I wasn't forced to practice, I found it hard but realized there was a lot to learn. Speaking of forcing lessons on a student. I've dealt with a couple young students who cried at times after a year or so during lessons. They actually turned out to be good musicians and got over it. Growing pains. I think some kids have no idea what the piano has to offer and I believe at school they may go thru a period talking about the piano in a negative way with friends. We have to inspire them and show them the possibilities learning music has to offer them.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432370 06/16/15 05:56 AM
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Originally Posted by joggerjazz
The kid was spoiled due to lack of discipline. I doubt he was ever spanked.


Discipline ≠ spanking.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432392 06/16/15 07:34 AM
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Ojisan, I am enjoying your posts. smile You may not know that there an informal convention to put a footer in your posts letting colleagues know you're a teacher. (See for example the footer in AZNpiano's post a bit above yours). Some teachers found it confusing when non-teaching musicians and students came in: who is who and what to tell whom, how. wink

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432563 06/16/15 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by OjisanSeiuchi
The structure and sense of stability they set at home is invaluable. But some people need time to grow into their role. Perhaps for some parents, piano can be the purpose that helps them develop their abilities.

I kind of agree? It’s a shame to think that parents need this sort of training, but what else can one expect? What you’re dealing with here are gen x and gen y people who are now becoming parents. They’re still kids themselves. What do they know about parenting? So, sadly, yes, sometimes there’s a need to take them by the hand and teach them.

Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
But this lady says it all perfectly. With great sensitivity. And I commend her for giving each student " a try" ... she's braver than I am. I take the easy way out ... which is to "avoid impending disaster".

Why thank you! But to be clear, it is my husband who has the patience of Job with the little beggars. laugh And I suspect you and he have different ideas of ‘impending disaster’. In a way, you and I are alike. I’m not sure I would take on some of these kids, but he is undaunted. He’s had ADD kids, a couple of Asperger’s kids, a blind student, a young goth student who all but walks backwards she’s so at odds with her world, and godknowswhatelse. Some men like climbing rocks in 4 wheel drive jeeps, my husband likes teaching piano to kids of every kind.

Originally Posted by joggerjazz
He looked at me dazed and just said searching for words to say 'to learn?'.

Haahaa! Yeah, this child definitely reminds me of my 5 yo grandson. I knew his father at this age (in fact, his mother sang at my wedding, we go way back) and I don’t have much hope for this one settling down any time soon. Your student’s Dad has probably given up trying to ‘discipline’ the kids. I can tell you from first hand, physical discipline [read: spanking] is useless with this kind of kid. Not sure what the answer is, but it ain’t spanking. Parenting, like life, is not one size fits all.
This: ‘dazed and searching for words’, also reminds me of my youngest son. A twin, he had the dickens of a time learning to speak. His twin brother did more of the talking when they were little. They were separated in school, beginning in kindergarten. Even as late as 6th or 7th grade though, he had trouble constructing sentences. He’d get all the words out, but the significance of grammar eluded him. (He’s now in the Air Force, tending nuclear missiles, so he managed to figure it out. ☺) I wonder if this is a case of, among other things, the parents ‘helping’ the child by finishing all his sentences for him? Oh well, water under the bridge now.

I have a question for you, joggerjazz: The next time a prospective student presents with obvious behavior issues, and the parents are not effectively addressing said issues, will you duck and run, like TheHappyPianoMuse? …ahem…I mean, suggest waiting a couple of years?

[Oh, and one more thing before I close this post: I mentioned the “Benefits, Qualifications, and Expectations” page in the Orientation Packet. Turns out that info is on the front page of his website. See below.]


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2432696 06/16/15 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
For BrianDX .... Sorry I ruffled your feathers a bit. Opposing opinions sometimes do that particularly if they are read more harshly than intended. A danger of the written word. And my trebuchet is armed and aimed at the parents rather than teachers. I think I do better on my blogs smile

And thank you as well for your thumbs up.

No problem! I was a bit cranky the other day myself. As I said before, I like your general teaching philosophy, and my guess is your students are lucky to have you.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2432763 06/17/15 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
If you want to stimulate those cortices, then make sure the child is hearing beautiful classical music in the home.


You might find this article interesting:

Quote
“It turns out that playing a musical instrument is important,” Kraus said, differentiating her group’s findings from the now- debunked myth that just listening to certain types of music improves intelligence, the so-called “Mozart effect.” “We don’t see these kinds of biological changes in people who are just listening to music, who are not playing an instrument,” said Kraus. “I like to give the analogy that you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports.” It’s important to engage with the sound in order to reap the benefits and see changes in the central nervous system.


http://time.com/3634995/study-kids-engaged-music-class-for-benefits-northwestern/

The irony here is that the boy in OP could use a boost to his executive function skills but he is so not ready for music lessons:

http://www.hearingreview.com/2015/01/playing-musical-instruments-can-boost-kids-brain-power/

In our household, we have a sample of one and right now, it's hard to see any improvements of executive function skills after almost 2 years of music lessons but that's okay. She is doing what she loves to do and making music makes her happy so we can't ask for much more. Now, if it's actually been helping her develop better EF skills, I shudder to think where she'd be if she didn't start learning violin at age 3.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432827 06/17/15 10:05 AM
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joggerjazz: I'm coming rather late to this discussion, but I had one student just like this. However, it was not during a lesson, it wad during the interview. I had talked to the mother and observed how the child knocked over furniture and was basically a tazmanian devil in my studio. I did not sign them up for lessons.

I think doing these interviews has saved me so many headaches. It may be a waste of time for some, but better that than be locked in with someone who is clearly not able to have lessons.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2432844 06/17/15 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by BrianDX
"Oh, that's the sanity clause": Groucho Marx


"I don't believe in Sanity Claus!"

"Dignity! Always DIGNITY!"

And just to keep this post on topic, click here .


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
oldbegonia #2433023 06/17/15 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by oldbegonia
Originally Posted by BrianDX
"Oh, that's the sanity clause": Groucho Marx


"I don't believe in Sanity Claus!"

"Dignity! Always DIGNITY!"

I now plan to change my current GM classic line every six months instead of a year. I know that many readers of this thread are DYING to know what it will be. smirk


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2433181 06/18/15 10:24 AM
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A lot of these kids don't need piano lessons but seriously could be helped by martial arts. Getting a black belt looks good on college admissions forms or so my High School age son keeps getting told by his counselor. In a healthy, kids oriented studio, they learn to stand still and be quiet when necessary, the physical activity keeps them engaged and working in pairs during drills teaches cooperation. The intense exercise is good for not only physical well- being but also seems to have a therapeutic effect on the ADHD symptoms as well.

Sorry for the drift.

Kurt


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2433300 06/18/15 03:36 PM
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If martial arts isn't a good fit, kids could take ballet. Stand still, be quiet, do this, move this, don't move that. Be on time or don't come in, etc.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2437790 07/02/15 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by joggerjazz
Hi,
I first started teaching going to peoples homes but now have some students come to my home studio. For the most part there has been no problems until recently. I have a tuition policy but after dealing with this spoiled 5 yr old brat I need a policy on student conduct and was wondering what other teachers have worded in their policy. In short, I took this kid on and he ran around my home jumping on furniture like it was his playground and the father was way too lax in telling him how to behave. His father brought in snacks which left a mess. The kid put his feet on my keyboard, stood on the pedals with his full weight resulting in the sustain pedal to fail a day later as I was in the middle of performing with someone. He weakened a leather washer allowing the bolt to come through the pedal hole. When I told him and his father about this they seemed to not care one bit and the kid stood on the pedal again. He also was combative doing what I asked of him or pushing my hand away from the keys if I tried to show him something during a lesson. They didn't have a piano at home but a non touch sensitive 61 note arranger keyboard with no pedals. I told the father he'd need a full 88 weighed action. He said he didn't have space for it which I find hard to believe. Anyway, I called the father after a month of lessons and told him his son has to stop being combative and listen and do what I ask or he isn't ready to learn piano with me. His father just responded 'We'll find somebody else'. That's fine with me. I'm sure others have dealt with this type of student and I have worked with difficult students before, but this just was not a good fit. Can I ask how you word your policies reguarding conduct in your home studio?
Thanks much.


Completely agree with having a studio policy. But to maybe help you feel a bit better, no policy in the world would have prevented a situation like that. Kid was a brat with a submissive dad.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
dynamobt #2437806 07/02/15 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by dynamobt
The times they are a changing. I remember starting piano lessons when I was 5. My older sister was 8 and had also started lessons when she was 5. We were dropped off at our teacher's house on Saturday mornings for lessons. Our parents did not stay with us. Each of us had our half hour lesson and was expected to sit quietly while the other had their lesson. Two years later, my brother was added to the mix. Then, each of us had to sit quietly through two lessons besides our own. The expectation was that we would behave. We knew it. We knew there would be consequences if we didn't behave.

The extent of misbehaving consisted of drawing pictures on furniture that needed dusting. Our mother was a meticulous housekeeper. Dust fascinated us.

I don't even want to think what would have happened if one of us had behaved like the boy in the original post. I'm 63, so this was a while ago. I really do think parental expectations of kids has changed significantly.


My parents were the same way. Sadly, the way children are taught and disciplined has changed dramatically. If I even dared acted up in church, one look from my mom up in the choir loft would take care of me quickly. I am happy to say I have the same look if a student in a recital gets honestly bored and starts misbehaving. All I have to do is look and quietly just shake my head and that is it. It really all comes down to respecting your elders. Old-fashioned? Yes. But look where we are with many, many children and see what we have on our hands these days. We have been dealing with mobs of kids and teenagers going into stores and assaulting people and tearing up the place. Most recent one was a mob of 40-50 houligans went into a Walmart and ransacked the place and included pulling a person from their wheelchair to the floor.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
OjisanSeiuchi #2437817 07/02/15 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by OjisanSeiuchi
Originally Posted by joggerjazz
The kid was spoiled due to lack of discipline. I doubt he was ever spanked.


Discipline ≠ spanking.


Agree. My kids weren't spanked, but neither of them would have dreamed of acting out like that. It's actually not much harder to discipline without spanking than with.

Two mistakes you made:

You thought a stern look would have an effect on a misbehaving 5 year old. All the parents here just fell on the floor laughing.

You asked an essentially nonverbal 5 year old a question that demanded abstract thinking. Again, no chance of working.

What you should have done is given that child a clear limit the very first time he misbehaved. If he did not redirect easily, then he is probably beyond your skills to handle. That's an excellent test of whether the child is ready for lessons. (with you anyway - it is not impossible that somebody who works with kids like this might make some progress)

Oh, another thing. You described him as spoiled. That's an emotional laden value word that affects how you are able to view and communicate with him, and there is zero benefit to using it. Just describe the behavior, not the child - it works out better in the end.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #3025771 09/16/20 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
First of all I would never consider a five year old... No way! A baby is a recipe for disaster. And statistically a child who begins lessons very young does not continue and rarely ( unless very talented) continues for more than a couple of years... If at ten your daughter is still playing violin ... voluntarily ... without pressure ... then you have a very talented child and have guided her very well. If she's playing because she's "required" to ... then I rest my case. Sadly.


5 years later....

This thread stuck with me, in the back of my mind and I remembered the prognostication about my daughter's future. She is 12 now - (sorry I missed the 10 year mark) - and continues to practice avidly. Before COVID-19 shut down all concertizing, she soloed with our regional community orchestra, the youngest in their long history.

Talent? What is that anyway? So much has been studied and published about the systematic development of ability in different fields, including music. Genetics? - yes. But more so, effort and time.

In any case, I can just say from my own experiences, beginning small children (she was 3) needn't be a hopeless task, one full of torture for parent, teacher, or child. Of the children who started in her peer group, I'd estimate that at least half continue to play. But at age 3, she had no idea what playing the instrument would entail. Did we just get lucky and found the right interest to pursue? Or do we have the order wrong - that interest follows, not precedes, the pursuing, at least in children that young?


Full-time collaborative pianist
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