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I teach a 10 year old boy who was a transfer student in Level 1 Bastien and disinterested in the songs in that book. I quickly moved him within a year to Level 3 of PA, with a constant stream of supplementary music. Rarely do I assign my students something they are not interested in learning. Over the last 6 months, I've noticed he makes selections, then returns the music the next week. I mentioned to Mom that if he makes a decision, he should stay with it. I feel like I am becoming a "return policy" teacher for him. For my last holiday recital, he said his dad doesn't want him to play religious themed songs, which I completely accepted. After many discussions and pieces played, he really wanted to learn a Rollin song for this upcoming recital, but I just received a text message from the dad asking if he could learn something else for the recital which is 5 weeks away. Besides the piece sounding complex, I am not familiar with it, and perhaps some of it is ego, but I'm beginning to resent that they were satisfied with method books before, and now, are becoming excessively selective. My music library is huge and constantly expanding, pieces are picked with great care and conversation with my students. Am I being too strict in standing my ground as I did with the mom, who was in total agreement? I am willing to teach it eventually, but not for the recital. I'm interested in other teachers' experiences in similar situations.


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That piece looks ____, there isn't time to prepare a new piece to be performance ready for the recital; I'll be happy to look it over in January. Thanks for your continued support in Johnny's music lessons!

(a parent)

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Maggiegirl, that's very nice. Right now, I'm not feeling very nice. frown This is the 4th time they've handed back beautiful music the student loved, as well as commenting on me finding new venues for my recitals (which are held in a hall on stage, with the use of a 7' new Steinway piano to perform on!) and the fact that some songs are heard at each recital. I'm ready to let them go. I will use some of your suggestion.


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Tell the parents that playing religious pieces will not make their son religious... Tell them to get over their bigotedness.

Let the pupil have a bigger say on what he wants to play. If Schoenberg drives a 10 year olds passion for playing the piano, then let him play it and tell the parents to be less selfish.

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I can't believe these people actually wanted you to find different places for your recitals too???? Seriously? Someone would actually ask something like that?

Ok then, well, following in MaggieGirl's best teacher impersonation footsteps, here goes-
"Oh, I'm soooo sorry, something has just come up and I have to rearrange my entire teaching schedule going forward. And I'm sorry, I tried my best, but I don't have a spot for you on my new schedule. Good Luck!!!"

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Originally Posted by Incongruous
Tell the parents that playing religious pieces will not make their son religious... Tell them to get over their bigotedness.

Let the pupil have a bigger say on what he wants to play. If Schoenberg drives a 10 year olds passion for playing the piano, then let him play it and tell the parents to be less selfish.


Hi Incongruous, the thing is, this piece is not religious at all and it was one of a few pieces I played for the student. The student selected it. Now the parents are telling me he can play that after the recital, they want him to play _______ for the recital.


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Originally Posted by blueston
I can't believe these people actually wanted you to find different places for your recitals too???? Seriously? Someone would actually ask something like that?

Ok then, well, following in MaggieGirl's best teacher impersonation footsteps, here goes-
"Oh, I'm soooo sorry, something has just come up and I have to rearrange my entire teaching schedule going forward. And I'm sorry, I tried my best, but I don't have a spot for you on my new schedule. Good Luck!!!"


blueston, I'm more inclined to tell them that either he plays the piece he selected, or he can opt out of the recital.


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I would just do what the parents want this time. Ask them to take extra lessons if the piece seems hard. But to avoid this problem in the future, you need to take several steps:
1) About 7-8 weeks before a recital, make sure at least two of his pieces would make good recital pieces. If you think the parents want flashy, find something flashy. Don't mention the recital.
2) At about 4-6 weeks before the recital, tell him the recital date and then pick from what he's currently playing. You pick based on which are most ready. He can comment on your decision and sway you, but it's one of the pieces you've already begun.
3) If the parents quibble, which they won't likely, explain that it takes six weeks to prepare for a recital and other pieces won't be learned in time.

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Hi Candywoman, thanks for the suggestions. I've already acquiesced last year during the recital selection process. I also agreed to let him learn Fur Elise, which IMO, he was not technically or musically read to learn, and his final performance showed that. I finally talked to the mom about his pattern of "loving" a piece, then returning it. We agreed that he should learn to make decisions and follow through. It's the dad who is making the decisions. I'm from the old school. I would never think to return music that I told my teacher I loved and really wanted to learn.


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Are you loaning them music and then having it returned? Maybe they would commit if they had to buy all their music?

I'm sorry, your student's family sounds really pushy and stressful.

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MaggieGirl, yes, I am loaning the music. if they had to purchase it, I'm sure the parents would still find a way to make the final decisions.

An interesting point is that they said they listened to the song I gave him online and decided it was too "sad." I have been unable to find any of the composer's songs online to listen to, even going so far as to send her an email asking where I can listen to her songs, but didn't receive a response yet.


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Originally Posted by Incongruous
Tell the parents that playing religious pieces will not make their son religious... Tell them to get over their bigotedness.



I'm an avowed atheist. I also play recorder in an (secular) early music group that meets in a church. Eighty percent of what we play is sacred. It doesn't give me pause at all. In response to the quote above however, I would offer that the right to not participate in expressions of faith that are not true to one's beliefs is as protected as anyone else's right to express that faith.

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Well, let them find something they like and let them learn it in a short amount of time before the recital.

If the recital goes well, then you have nothing more to worry about.

If the recital tanks, that's not really your problem.

Put the onus on the parents.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Well, let them find something they like and let them learn it in a short amount of time before the recital.

If the recital goes well, then you have nothing more to worry about.

If the recital tanks, that's not really your problem.

Put the onus on the parents.


I am a re-learner rather than a teacher, but I do not agree with putting the onus on the parents for a likely recital failure... as each performance failure affects the future performances of the student. Wouldn't it be better to build up 'successes' in the memory bank, rather than 'failures'? IMHO, the failures contribute to stage fright that is difficult to overcome. A failure affects the student, not the parent.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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The issue is the teacher has selected with the student a piece for success. The parent wants to override it and cause a potential failure.

My guess is even played poorly, the parent will swell with pride at their child's performance. No harm will be done emotionally. But they will continue to push what they want - they went as far as suggesting alternative recital places! They have overstepped their bounds.

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You have here two parents who do not see things the same way.
Then they do not confer with each other before contacting you. So you get conflicting and ever-changing feedback from them.
Must be tough on the student as well as on you!

I think you're right to do as you already have done -- make a plan that works for the student's development and learning at this stage, be positive with the parents when they can support that, and try not to respond too much to demands from one or the other of them that you change things. Either don't respond, or find what in there might possibly be a good idea and respond to that ("Sounds like he really likes that challenging piece and I think it would be a great experience! Let's plan to start it in April or so.")



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Originally Posted by MaggieGirl
The issue is the teacher has selected with the student a piece for success. The parent wants to override it and cause a potential failure.

My guess is even played poorly, the parent will swell with pride at their child's performance. No harm will be done emotionally. But they will continue to push what they want - they went as far as suggesting alternative recital places! They have overstepped their bounds.


Maggiegirl, that is correct. They wanted him to learn a piece last year that he was not ready for technically. They posted his performance on FB, and received very positive remarks from family members. The performance was not a total flop, but lacked musicality, even tempo, and had many technical failures. This piece they have just "selected" is also beyond his ability, but that is not the point for me. The point is that I am not comfortable with parents dictating their children's repertoire, unless it for religious reasons. I am more than happy to teach pieces upon request within the student's ability level, but this family is trying to control too many issues. They need to find another teacher.


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Originally Posted by hreichgott
You have here two parents who do not see things the same way.
Then they do not confer with each other before contacting you. So you get conflicting and ever-changing feedback from them.
Must be tough on the student as well as on you!

I think you're right to do as you already have done -- make a plan that works for the student's development and learning at this stage, be positive with the parents when they can support that, and try not to respond too much to demands from one or the other of them that you change things. Either don't respond, or find what in there might possibly be a good idea and respond to that ("Sounds like he really likes that challenging piece and I think it would be a great experience! Let's plan to start it in April or so.")



I've done that with several other pieces, (and for my last recital). I was not going to answer the texts from the Dad, but then the Mom followed up with a lengthy duplicate request. I admit my response was not as kind, especially since we already discussed this issue and she was completely supportive. I told her that we discussed this issue before, that I've never had a student return music before, and this is the 3rd time now. If he wants to participate in the recital, I suggested he practice the piece he selected from me.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
Originally Posted by hreichgott
You have here two parents who do not see things the same way.
Then they do not confer with each other before contacting you. So you get conflicting and ever-changing feedback from them.
Must be tough on the student as well as on you!

I think you're right to do as you already have done -- make a plan that works for the student's development and learning at this stage, be positive with the parents when they can support that, and try not to respond too much to demands from one or the other of them that you change things. Either don't respond, or find what in there might possibly be a good idea and respond to that ("Sounds like he really likes that challenging piece and I think it would be a great experience! Let's plan to start it in April or so.")



I've done that with several other pieces, (and for my last recital). I was not going to answer the texts from the Dad, but then the Mom followed up with a lengthy duplicate request. I admit my response was not as kind, especially since we already discussed this issue and she was completely supportive. I told her that we discussed this issue before, that I've never had a student return music before, and this is the 3rd time now. If he wants to participate in the recital, I suggested he practice the piece he selected from me.


Just who is the teacher here? Is there any way that the three of you (mom, dad, and teacher) can have a conversation about this? Maybe even a conference call if the parents are divorced if they are on speaking terms - if not, forget that idea.

I would simple ask them why they are paying you to be the teacher when they are hindering your attempts at doing your job? Explain how important it is that the student connect with the assigned music, and how that can actually be damaging to his ego when it's not "good enough" for mom or dad.

On top of that, as the teacher, you have carefully selected music for him to choose from that will both allow him to grow while highlighting his best skills in a performance. You want him to sound his best, and no one wants to here someone ALMOST play the Moonlight sonata (or insert whatever piece they are pushing).

Lastly, by "returning" music, they are undermining your efforts. If they would like to teach their child piano, then they should discontinue lessons with you.

Last edited by Morodiene; 11/03/15 07:29 PM.

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Thank you, Morodiene. I completely agree. i feel undermined, to say the least.


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