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Question about home studio policy and student conduct
#2431302 06/13/15 08:35 AM
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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.

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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431377 06/13/15 11:56 AM
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I don't teach piano; I barely know how to play one (but I'm learning).

I run a movie theatre.

I consistently enforce a behaviour standard here and if kids (or teenagers, or anyone else) start being disruptive I will tell them (once) that "the theatre is not a gymnasium" or "be quiet, other people are trying to watch the movie". If the behaviour continues I will tell the kid and his parents to get out of my theatre immediately. That's a bit easier to write here than to put into action at your location, but the secret is to not shrink away from the confrontation, difficult as that may be. If you enforce a consistent standard of behaviour, word will get around. I used to have to throw someone out here maybe once a year or so, usually a teenager. But I now can't remember the last time I threw someone out; it's been a couple of years at least.

Again, the secret is consistent enforcement of what should be common sense. Tell people that outside snacks are not permitted; post a note to that effect on your door if you have to. That solves the problem of people messing up your place with a plate nachos and cheese.

I also wouldn't leave your prized 14th century Queen Anne chair in your studio when it's being used by members of the public; make sure that your stuff is either easily replaceable or commercial grade (and indestructible).

Remember the saying of "the customer is always right?" That's actually wrong. Some customers are more trouble than they are worth. Don't ever be afraid to fire a bad customer.

I don't think you need to post an actual list of rules, since you're working from your house, that is your home. But you do need to make it clear that bad behaviour in general is not tolerated. Enforce that. Consistently.

If I was in your position and the kid started running around and jumping on your furniture I would tell him once to settle down, and then tell him to leave the minute that it happens again. "I don't tolerate this kind of behaviour and you can no longer come here for lessons." You'll lose a few customers that way but you didn't want that kind anyway. You didn't decide to become a piano teacher so you could moonlight as a ringmaster at the lion tamer's cage, right? Just bear that in mind and, again, don't be afraid to fire a customer. Yes, the word will get around when you do that. And that word will act to your benefit over the longer term.

Last edited by FrankCox; 06/13/15 11:58 AM.

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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431403 06/13/15 01:20 PM
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Frank has said it. This is not about written policy, it's just about the rudiments of decency for a visitor in your home, even if it's a weekly visitor.

Be grateful if this kid and his pop are out of your studio and out of your hair. Don't let them return.

However, a piano teacher today must, imo, accept that sometimes he or she will have beginner students who do not own an acoustic piano, or even a full digital piano.

And sometimes piano repairs do arise owing to teaching.

You could have a policy about bringing food or drinks into your home. You could simply forbid them altogether, but some potential students will find you pretty dreary if you do.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
FrankCox #2431412 06/13/15 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Frank
I used to have to throw someone out here maybe once a year or so, usually a teenager.


I am curious, do you usually give them refund if they had not finish the movie?


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431418 06/13/15 02:06 PM
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Absolutely not! Why would I give someone a refund when it's his own behaviour that got him thrown out in the first place? Why should I reward that rather than get some compensation myself for the aggravation?

Really, though, this whole thing is a minor, nearly non-existent issue. It happens very seldom.

My wife just reminded me about what happened the last time I threw someone out. A big (overweight) girl of about ten with a smallish mother was at the show, and the girl decided that she was going to start clomping up and down the aisle, loudly and continuously. I told her to stop and her mother that this needs to stop. It didn't. I told the mother that they need to leave, right now. The girl started screaming, dropped to the floor and refused to move. The mother said, "I can't make her do it." I said, "I can" and picked the kid up and carried her outside with the mother right behind me. I said, "Which car is yours?", she pointed it out, and I put the kid down on the seat.

I was actually a bit surprised that I could pick that kid up and carry her since I'm not a very big guy myself. But I was pissed off so I did it anyway. I was waiting for the kid to try to bite me or something but I think she figured out that she would regret it if she tried so nothing happened.

Episodes like that are extremely rare. Most of the issues come from people whipping out their cell phones during the show and, as I explain over and over again, they light up the room! So I have a notice posted at the entrance to the theatre telling people to turn their phones off and I play a policy trailer at the start of every show that says the same thing. I still have to tell the odd person to turn their phone off but even that is rarely required now.

But the answer to your question once again is, heck no. No refunds are provided for acting like a jackass.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431453 06/13/15 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by joggerjazz
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.


I'm "gobsmacked" as they say in Britain. I cannot believe what I just read. ONE lesson with this behaviour and the child and father would be shown the door. No negotiations, no excuses. Open door. And usher ( if you can keep from kicking) OUT. mad No teacher I've ever met would tolerate this behaviour.

First of all I would never consider a five year old. Not even if he arrived in a powdered wig and spoke fluent German and his doting parents insisted he was a reincarnation of Wolfgang. 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. Which is plenty of time to decimate your furniture and try your patience to the max ... without learning anything very much.

My rules are firm and simple .. and non-negotiable. And I have had virtually NO problems with students, missed lessons, payment, bad behaviour or anything else. I am truly a "Happy PIano Professor" because I establish rules ( for the parents) at the first interview.

No child under eight. (I've stretched to seven for an exceptional girl)
All lessons in my studio
No "make-up" lessons. Lessons missed are charged ... unless I cancel.
Child must be able to read simple children's book or reader.

And ... drum roll .... the child must WANT to learn the piano.

I point this out as my priority to the parents. If they're looking for another "activity" to fill in their child's time, they'd better find another teacher. And if they dare to pull the "We'll find another teachers" ... then rthey get the horse laugh and the interview is at an end. No one tries that arm twist on me. I have no compunction about flaunting my credentials and letting the parents clearly know that I will be in control.

Then I ignore the parents as the child and I sit down to explore the miracles of music ... with games, little laughs now and then, lots of encouragement and some stellar concert level playing ( as a treat now and then) ... It works. The students are rarely a problem .. it is almost invariably the parents. The little bratty five year old is bratty because his doting father allows it.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2431504 06/13/15 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
And ... drum roll .... the child must WANT to learn the piano.

OK, I'm wondering just how many children at the age of 8 know what they want to do with their life in ANY category.

I'm OK with parents "suggesting" their child try music lessons. My guess is, after a few weeks or months it will become obvious to both the child and the parents if this is the right course.

Now I'm sure most teachers run into many parents who force their kids to take lessons, and the kids are non-too-happy about it. That's flat-out wrong IMHO, easy call there.

The weird thing is, I now wish my parents had insisted on lessons when I was young. But in the neighborhood I grew up in, no one was doing things like that.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2431554 06/13/15 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
[quote=joggerjazz]
First of all I would never consider a five year old. Not even if he arrived in a powdered wig and spoke fluent German and his doting parents insisted he was a reincarnation of Wolfgang. 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. Which is plenty of time to decimate your furniture and try your patience to the max ... without learning anything very much.


Thanks for the response. Not sure I agree with this statement. I have taught kids at 5 and after a year some are very well on the path to learn the piano, especially if a parent follows up on their lessons and encourages them. I also taught young ADD students who were very difficult to teach but turned out very talented.
Granted, I could of said that's it after one or two lessons with this child, but I like to give the kid a chance. In this case, I think I disliked the father more than the kid due to his lack of concern. I think if I kept teaching him and reminded the child of his behavior he could of possibly turned it around. But, I had no interest butting heads with a parents unconcerned reinforcement of proper conduct in my home.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431572 06/14/15 12:28 AM
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Originally Posted by joggerjazz

Thanks for the response. Not sure I agree with this statement. I have taught kids at 5 and after a year some are very well on the path to learn the piano, especially if a parent follows up on their lessons and encourages them. I also taught young ADD students who were very difficult to teach but turned out very talented.


I really enjoy teaching ... and guiding children towards a real joy in and love of music. But I recognize a few facts ... of course there are always exceptions but I flow with the stats. If a child starts lessons at 6 and studies until he's 9 ... then his friend who is also 9 also joins my class, by the age of about 10 and a half ... they're both at about the same level. The learning capacity of a 9 year old is exponentially SO much greater than a 6 year old. And when they learn faster, it's easier for them and they're less likely to balk at practicing and whine about "stopping lessons".

ADD is another matter. I've worked with amazing success with ADD. I developed a good trick with one of my first ADD students.. Her mother was invited to sit in and watch. I simply didn't pay attention to her until she stopped squirming and flailing around. The first lesson she spent a lot of time on the floor making odd noises. After about fifteen minutes she came up to me and stuck her face into mine ... utterly puzzled that I was just sitting there writing on a notepad.

I said, " Oh ... THERE you are Lauren .... I couldn't see you before. I can only see you when you're sitting on the bench. I have "piano teacher eyes". And I laughed. Of course she knew I was teasing. But it was an opening which I employed with great success. She was acknowledged when she sat still. And when she played anything reasonably well, she got a lot of praise.

About three months into her lessons, I had a headache one day and when she arrived I said, " I have a headache and maybe if you play really nicely you can fix it for me. " I rubbed my forehead and made a woeful face. Well she controlled herself so well, I forgot the headache and began to get into the lesson. When she got up to leave she looked up at me and said, " Miss .... how is your headache? Did I fix it?"

As I led her and her mother out, I assured her that she was "magic" and that she'd cured my headache better than medicine. When she smiled proudly at me, I had tears in my eyes, Not only had she learned to control herself, she'd learned empathy. I remember that little girl with great affection. She studied for several years and then teenage activities took over. ( Her mother also touched me deeply when she said that the piano lessons did more for her child than the therapy she was having ... and I blubbered and teared up again .. . laugh

Parents are the main problem. I interview the parents first. It's much easier to tell a parent who is difficult that you"ll put their child on your "waiting list".

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431656 06/14/15 10:14 AM
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"... You didn't decide to become a piano teacher so you could moonlight as a ringmaster at the lion tamer's cage, right? Just bear that in mind and, again, don't be afraid to fire a customer..."

A whip and a chair--- just what I was thinking, as I read this story. Come to think of it, I believe lion tamers also carry a pistol.

It has been a while since I have seen such an act in person, but as I look back I tend to doubt that the lions took the stage props too seriously. Yes, the lion tamer cracked the bullwhip a few times, but he never touched the big cats with it, and I suppose they knew that he was not about to shoot such an expensive performing animal.

Still, I appreciated the spot of color in the story about how to handle a bad piano student.

But the movie theater manager's comment was the most succinct, and I really had to smile:

"...the answer to your question once again is, h*** no. No refunds are provided for acting like a jackass."

Even though we may have to take summary action for their good and ours, we're far better off if we can keep our sense of humor... even as we illustrate the necessary lesson in deportment with a dose of psychodrama.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431680 06/14/15 11:45 AM
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I have had a few situations that were similar but not this bad. Usually when I interview a very young student under 6 they cannot sit still (though occasionally they are more mature than some of my nine year olds which is why I dont turn them away point blank)

Here is how I handle these situations (especially when the parents are not being helpful) I will bring them over to the piano and perform a "test" if they can mimic a few movements on the piano and remain focused for between 5-10 minutes before I move to rhythm games then I will give them a one month trial. If not, I very quickly tell them that their child is not old enough to start lessons yet and to contact me when they are older. It never even gets to the point where the child has a chance to touch the piano if they are running all over the room. In that case I just let them know that they simply are not ready and that their best bet is to wait or go to a group class.

But I certainly would NOT have allowed the child to come anywhere near damaging the piano. If the parent would not do anything I would gently put my hand on the childs shoulder and nudge him/her toward their parent while firmly but kindly stating that he or she is simply too young.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431691 06/14/15 12:31 PM
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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.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431698 06/14/15 12:52 PM
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I'd like to make a distinction between young children and ill-behaved children (of any age). Many 3- and 4-year-olds are ready for lessons provided the lessons are taught in an age-appropriate way. Many children are not ready for lessons until age 6 or later. I have had many beautifully behaved 3- and 4-year-old students, some who required reminding as to behavior but only occasionally, and some who clearly weren't ready for lessons so we stopped after a couple lessons.

You had an ill-behaved child, and a father who wasn't helping.

I think you did the right thing in raising your concerns with the father, and the father made a choice, which was to look for a teacher who would accommodate poor behavior. If I were you I'd be relieved!

The only thing I'd suggest is that since you said "the father was way too lax in telling him how to behave" that suggests to me that you did not tell the child how to behave, instead expecting the father to do it. Did you say anything during the lesson about standing on the pedal, jumping on furniture, snacks etc.? If you can get comfortable with calmly and firmly stating limits out loud, it might help nip problems in the bud sooner next time. The piano lesson is your domain, you make the rules, and you have every right to state them and enforce them!


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
hreichgott #2431750 06/14/15 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott

The only thing I'd suggest is that since you said "the father was way too lax in telling him how to behave" that suggests to me that you did not tell the child how to behave, instead expecting the father to do it. Did you say anything during the lesson about standing on the pedal, jumping on furniture, snacks etc.? If you can get comfortable with calmly and firmly stating limits out loud, it might help nip problems in the bud sooner next time. The piano lesson is your domain, you make the rules, and you have every right to state them and enforce them!


My initial responce to the way he was behaving was to give him a stern look. The father at first did say something to him, but
did not get put off by his conduct as if to say well this is what he's like deal with it. I told him not to play with the pedals a few times but he kept testing me. In the future, I will add to my policy children must behave themselves at all times and respect my home. And will not hesitate to get rid of them after one warning.
Thanks

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2431772 06/14/15 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse

First of all I would never consider a five year old. Not even if he arrived in a powdered wig and spoke fluent German and his doting parents insisted he was a reincarnation of Wolfgang. 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.


Given what is known about brain development at this stage, I think that deferring musical training until age 8 is a very bad idea. By lumping all young children into the category of "babies", one is missing out on some golden years of music development. Practice habits can and should be established very early. The wiring of the auditory and motor cortices is so susceptible at this age. My own daughter began her violin studies at 3. She is now 6 and very accomplished. She, like most of her young peers, whether pianists, violinists, cellists, whatever, are capable of learning and have parents who insist on practice and work patiently with them. My experience with young children just does not coincide with the declarative assertion that they quit lessons to a greater extent than those who begin later.

This case, as almost all have pointed out, is a case of a parent who cannot discipline his child - plain and simple. The age is only minimally a factor.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
OjisanSeiuchi #2431796 06/14/15 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by OjisanSeiuchi
Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse

First of all I would never consider a five year old. Not even if he arrived in a powdered wig and spoke fluent German and his doting parents insisted he was a reincarnation of Wolfgang. 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.


Given what is known about brain development at this stage, I think that deferring musical training until age 8 is a very bad idea. By lumping all young children into the category of "babies", one is missing out on some golden years of music development. Practice habits can and should be established very early. The wiring of the auditory and motor cortices is so susceptible at this age. My own daughter began her violin studies at 3. She is now 6 and very accomplished. She, like most of her young peers, whether pianists, violinists, cellists, whatever, are capable of learning and have parents who insist on practice and work patiently with them. My experience with young children just does not coincide with the declarative assertion that they quit lessons to a greater extent than those who begin later.

This case, as almost all have pointed out, is a case of a parent who cannot discipline his child - plain and simple. The age is only minimally a factor.



The proof of the pudding is that when a child finally stops lessons, which most will do unless they opt for a professional career ... will they ever touch a piano again? Ask the next ten adults you meet if they took piano lessons as a child. Then ask them if they touch a piano today. There's the answer right there. If you want to stimulate those cortices, then make sure the child is hearing beautiful classical music in the home. From the day you bring him home from the hospital. Skip the pop music.

If a parent hovers over a child and makes sure every moment of practice time is accounted for, of course the child will learn something ... some may seem exceptionally "talented". But they're being force-fed in the majority of cases. I notice you say "Insist on practice" . I would insist on learning to read and write, but music is a joy not a burden. Look at the whiz kids on YouTube ... almost none of which have an ordinary childhood replete with usual activities. And I would question how many of them love music. Some do. But certainly not the majority

Many years ago I took a four year old after his father assured me the child couldn't stay away from the piano. I tried everything. I broke the lesson up into smaller segments, I devised games, I made decals for the kays. I even wrote simple note music with smilie faces on the notes. I stuck to five note to start with. The child couldn't sit still and squirmed and fussed. I finally told the father her was too young. The father left in a huff after assuring me he'd find a "better teacher". I met him a few months afterwards and he boasted how well his boy was doing. Then about a year later I met him again and asked about his son. He pulled a long face and said his son had "decided" he didn't want to play piano any more. Child was a little over five. What a waste!

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.

I would risk losing a "genius" in favor of the majority of my students learning easily and quickly ... and above all loving their music. laugh

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2431826 06/14/15 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
The proof of the pudding is that when a child finally stops lessons, which most will do unless they opt for a professional career ... will they ever touch a piano again? Ask the next ten adults you meet if they took piano lessons as a child. Then ask them if they touch a piano today. There's the answer right there.

OK this is about the third of fourth time you have used the phrase "ask so and so.... There's the answer right there".

What do you think will be the answer? I'm curious. I know five adults in my circle who took lessons as kids, and then stopped for some time. I would think that would be the norm. Now advance time forward. All five are more than just touching the piano. That's 100%. I would like to know specifically want your experiences save been.


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Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
joggerjazz #2431852 06/14/15 11:27 PM
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My piano teacher way back when just happened to be married to the principal. Acting up at lessons would have been like pulling on Darth Vader's cape.

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
BrianDX #2431879 06/15/15 12:26 AM
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Originally Posted by BrianDX
I know five adults in my circle who took lessons as kids, and then stopped for some time. I would think that would be the norm. Now advance time forward. All five are more than just touching the piano. That's 100%. I would like to know specifically want your experiences save been.


If I asked people "in my circle" ... that would be people in the arts ... singers musicians, writers and scientists. That's a group weighted in favor of some interest in music. I'm not talking about people who "stopped for some time" ... nor people here in PianoWorld. I'm talking about people who had "piano lessons" as children .,.. and that's a lot of people ... neighbors, co-workers, people from volunteer work, church members ... many of the parents who bring their children to my studio had piano lessons and "don't play anymore".

Sure I can cherry pick five people in "my circle" who still play the piano ... and it would look like an impressive 100%. I deal with reality. I work my way around reality. I give my students every possible chance to learn and to love music. I'm fortunate in that I can at this stage of my life, pick and choose. And I don't mean choosing the talented ones ... I mean choosing in terms of age and parent's expectations. My proudest moments weren't the most talented, they were the ones who struggled to learn. who wanted to learn. Last week it was a lady in her sixties who wants a particular Beethoven sonata way beyond her level. But I know she'll learn it bit by bit ... and she knows she'll have to do her regular work along with that sonata. It's a challenge for us both. And I love it! laugh

Re: Question about home studio policy and student conduct
TheHappyPianoMuse #2431978 06/15/15 08:38 AM
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 2,182
2000 Post Club Member
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2000 Post Club Member
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 2,182
Originally Posted by TheHappyPianoMuse
Sure I can cherry pick five people in "my circle" who still play the piano ... and it would look like an impressive 100%.

OK, now I see why some folks are really getting annoyed here. I didn't "cherry pick" anything. It turns out only 5 adults that I know took lessons as kids. Yet, without really knowing the facts, or really knowing who I am, that is what you decided to assume, because my experience does not fit your "facts".

I'm sure you are a great teacher (see, since I really don't know you, I'm assuming the best). You are free to feel anyway you like about such topics as young children taking lessons, recitals, Guild auditions, etc.

However, I have to tell you, that you sometimes come across as rather smarmy and a know-it-all. In this forum, where many teaching professional post (and have philosophies that may not match yours), you may be wise to dial that stuff down.




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Curriculum: Faber Developing Artist (Book 3)
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