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Originally Posted by ANZ
1) Really great students who have outgrown their previous teacher (or maybe the teacher moved).

2) Really bad students (perhaps even kicked out of their previous teacher's studio!) who are in dire need of rehabilitation.


Originally Posted by Keystring
How about a third camp - The ones who were unlucky enough to have a bad teacher.


Fourth Camp: None of above category, but either his teacher move away or he just move away.

Now, my question to all piano teacher, can you tell which camp transfer students are during your first interview?



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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
dogperson, you are unique in my world of students. I assume you were recommended to study with university teachers because of your ability. I would be able to discern that if I were to have an interview with you. But, in my experience, this has never been the case. I would rather risk losing one good student that accept 20 who don't want to put any effort into lessons. It is draining on my spirit, and I have compromised a lot of my teaching philosophy because I truly believed that my enthusiasm, belief in students, and love of music would inspire these transfers. Not the case, again, in my experience.


The point I am trying to make is this: rather than having an arbitrary rule for declining a student, do an interview/assessment: why did they change teachers? how much do they practice? what are their note reading/sightreading skills? do they ask appropriate questions and listen? what other activities do they participate in?

From your original post, it appears that potential students who do not meet particular criteria receive no further consideration... Was this a misunderstanding?

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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org

Fourth Camp: None of above category, but either his teacher move away or he just move away.

Now, my question to all piano teacher, can you tell which camp transfer students are during your first interview?



Why yes. It's not that hard. If you run the intake audition correctly, that shows up very clearly.

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Originally Posted by Nikolas
Really nobody should judge students because of any kind of rules, or anything. AZN would hate my guts probably! grin

Why would I hate you? At least you have ability!!

One of the best students I've ever had came to me after trying out five other teachers. I thought he was one of those "teacher hoppers" who was just out shopping for the next quick-fix. But, again, it's not everyday that a kid walks into my studio and auditions with level 10 pieces. I finally had to pass him on to a higher authority.

I've had plenty of transfer wrecks who've only had one teacher before me, and I'm so ready to pass them along and wish them luck (or not!).


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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Now, my question to all piano teacher, can you tell which camp transfer students are during your first interview?

Don't you ask the students??????


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I am focusing this year on structuring a more comprehensive interview process to help weed out the slackers. I am also not going to accept any transfer students who have had more than one teacher before me. I think a grade or evaluation every semester may also help to send a message that I am serious about a level of commitment to lessons. Those who do not pass the grade will be let go.

I'm glad you are also searching for better student!!

However, I think you should accept students who've had more than one teachers. Having had more than one piano teacher is not really an indication of a bad student.

Also, some of the transfer student horrors come from the parents!! Be sure you grill the parents during the interview process, too. When parents have no sense of commitment to lessons, it will be one nightmare after another. You probably don't want "teacher hoppers," either. I just said good-bye to a teacher hopper who is in 1st grade, and she's already on her fifth teacher. It's not the kid's fault--her parents are CLUELESS.


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Hi AZN, another thought, this is not exactly a consequence I intended when setting up my studio, but it might lead to the kind of studio-weeding-out and studio-building over time that you hope for.

I do not have any kind of entry audition at all, nor do I evaluate students based on perceived ability. But I expect everyone to practice every day or close to every day (5 days a week or more). My whole studio knows this is the expectation.
Does every student practice daily every week? No. They are kids, teenagers and busy adults. But most of them practice 5 days or more most of the time.
When they have busy seasons in sports, homework, drama etc. we decide whether to take a temporary break from lessons or whether to modify the practice schedule, also temporarily.

I do not kick out students for failing to meet practice expectations. But we discuss practice habits at just about every lesson. If what they did over the week was helpful we talk about what they did that was helpful. If they need a talking-to they get a talking-to. For children, I always try to keep the parent within earshot of these conversations and quite often I actively include the parent.

If they reach a point where they know they just can't or won't sustain my practice expectations they tend to come to me and raise the issue of quitting. To me, honestly, this makes sense. If you have taken lessons for a while and know enough to be able to play for fun on your own, you don't have a goal of high achievement on the piano, and you've gotten to the point where you can't or don't want to put in the kind of practice you need to get better than you are, why continue lessons at all? There is lots of great music in many genres available for you to play for fun. The world is full of musical opportunities that aren't piano lessons, and whatever you learned in piano will only help you in those other areas. I had two very musical students quit just within the last month for exactly this reason. They might be back when other factors in life allow. One of them I suspect will come back, the other probably not. Of course I will miss them. They are very fun to work with when they are practicing well. But there's little point in working with a student who isn't practicing well in the long term. Except perhaps for the general value of being around a positive and supportive adult, but why would I flatter myself that I am the only positive supportive adult available? They have teachers and families and friends and neighbors. And those don't require the parents to pay a weekly fee.

Anyway, when the inconsistent practicers quit, or when people who can't practice much temporarily take a break, it leaves room for me to work with new students and those students know what the practice expectations are, just as the old ones did. So the students I do have in lessons at any given time are students who mostly practice 5 days a week most of the time, plus a few students/families who are really trying to make that happen even if it often doesn't. They have a range of ability but they all make progress and I enjoy teaching them.

I have zero students who come to lessons but never practice at home.

Maybe I'm getting a reputation for being demanding but I think it's ok.

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Wonderful thoughtful post, Heather. Sooner or later adolescent and adult students come to the realization that playing an instrument simply means regular, daily time alone practicing. This seems so basic to us as teachers, but it often dawns on a student mature slowly over time.

I don't think preteens or young kids grasp this, though. It is tougher to motivate them, and that's probably more true today than a generation or two ago.

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Peter, isn't it part of a teacher's responsibility to continually remind those students of the necessity to practice? I do that at least every other lesson. I tell my students not to think of it as "practice" but rather "playing the piano." I encourage them to improvise, try to play along with cds/radio (it amazes me how few students tell me they don't listen to the radio or play cds - even when they purchase books with cds included).

I tried to compare one boy's baseball practice to the need to do the same with piano. He promptly said they don't practice! smile

I've sent out reminder emails to parents outlining practice expectations, as well as including it in my policy and in my initial meet and greet.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
I am focusing this year on structuring a more comprehensive interview process to help weed out the slackers. I am also not going to accept any transfer students who have had more than one teacher before me. I think a grade or evaluation every semester may also help to send a message that I am serious about a level of commitment to lessons. Those who do not pass the grade will be let go.

I'm glad you are also searching for better student!!

However, I think you should accept students who've had more than one teachers. Having had more than one piano teacher is not really an indication of a bad student.

Also, some of the transfer student horrors come from the parents!! Be sure you grill the parents during the interview process, too. When parents have no sense of commitment to lessons, it will be one nightmare after another. You probably don't want "teacher hoppers," either. I just said good-bye to a teacher hopper who is in 1st grade, and she's already on her fifth teacher. It's not the kid's fault--her parents are CLUELESS.


I include parents in the interview as I'm sure all teachers do. If I sense an absentee parent or the complete opposite, eventually, the lessons end up with me suggesting a break. I always leave the door open for a return to piano, once they are willing to commit.

I just removed 2 from my schedule this week, and I am so relieved. One new student missed more lessons than she attended and pulled several no shows.


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My experience working in a music store is that the majority of parents who sign their child up for lessons view it as a weekly class, rather than a private piano lesson that they show up for (or don't) with little or no expectation to make significant progress. IMO, there's a huge difference in a class and a private piano lesson.


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Originally Posted by chasingrainbows
My experience working in a music store is that the majority of parents who sign their child up for lessons view it as a weekly class, rather than a private piano lesson that they show up for (or don't) with little or no expectation to make significant progress. IMO, there's a huge difference in a class and a private piano lesson.

And I have absolutely no problem with these students as long as they enjoy their time! I have non-practicing students who just enjoy doodling on the piano. That's perfectly fine with me. At least they want to be there and they look forward to their "practice session" with enthusiasm.

It is a problem when such students EXPECT progress, or that their parents want them to take tests or go for competitions.


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When I look at teachers with very strong studios, a common underlying observation is that they seem to have (for better or worse) several things that serve as "hooks" - going above and beyond what the standard studio offers.

Some examples:

- The teacher either has some connection with an orchestra or forms their own, giving his/her best students a chance to perform concerto movements with orchestras. How cool is that, and what serious student or parent would want to pass that opportunity up?

- The teacher offers merit-based scholarships for students who show extreme effort and improvement.

- The teacher has fancy studio newsletters, that highlights all of the studio's achievements and activities to come for the month/semester. This newsletter can possibly find its way into hands of parents whose kids study with other teachers......

- Aside from the two standard annual recitals, there are significant other performing opportunities within the studio (ie. masterclasses with famous pianists, weekly play throughs, "theme" concerts, etc.)

....You get the picture. Serious and arts-appreciating parents will be impressed with the happenings in the studio, and reciprocate accordingly. Doing all these things, of course, takes a considerable effort and finance, but I have seen examples of it paying off.

Aside from these things, professional visibility definitely helps. There is a teacher in my MTAC branch who organizes events left and right for the whole branch - things that nobody else thinks of doing (Sight-reading competitions, duo festivals, composer of the month..). Of course, these events are open to our whole branch, but naturally, her name comes up as the one who organizes things more than anybody else, and parents with long antennas catch on.

If you are lucky enough to be a famous concert pianist or have a position at a prestigious university, good students will of course be served to you on a silver platter regardless of your teaching capabilities. But generally, for most teachers with good students, they tend to follow the logic above.

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I guess as I read this thread that it is not actually so much about attracting these students who have innate talent etc., but rather identifying them when they appear. That's the only thing that makes sense to me when you talk of brand new students who have never had lessons before, because they won't know anything yet, and there is no demography or similar.

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Originally Posted by keystring
That's the only thing that makes sense to me when you talk of brand new students who have never had lessons before, because they won't know anything yet, and there is no demography or similar.

But what I'm trying to say is that there are brand new students who DO know a thing or two. It is not true that all beginners start from scratch at zero; I've been harping on this fact not only in this thread but also whenever we have threads on ear training. There are plenty of things little kids can pick up on prior to receiving music instruction of any kind, and one can't simply assume that the starting point is zero for everyone

For example, my most recent beginner, a younger sibling of a current student, is blazing through his primer book; his older brother doesn't have half of his musical ability. In two months he will be more "advanced" than some of the other kids who have no innate ability or musical aptitude. It is precisely this kind of "better" student that I would like to bring into the studio.


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I think that with each new student, whether beginner or transfer student, it's a gamble. You cannot tell what will unfold over the ensuing months and years of lessons. Sometimes people blaze ahead, and sometimes they linger. I just enjoy observing the rhythm of learning.

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Originally Posted by ANZ
For example, my most recent beginner, a younger sibling of a current student, is blazing through his primer book; his older brother doesn't have half of his musical ability. In two months he will be more "advanced" than some of the other kids who have no innate ability or musical aptitude. It is precisely this kind of "better" student that I would like to bring into the studio.


Are you sure that is not because the younger sibling heard the music in the same method before, that is why able to pick up faster?


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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Are you sure that is not because the younger sibling heard the music in the same method before, that is why able to pick up faster?

I don't use the same method book for both siblings. The younger brother is extremely intelligent and musically talented.


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Is the difference between the siblings something you could have picked out at the interview, or does it only become apparent after teaching them for a while?


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Originally Posted by PianoStudent88
Is the difference between the siblings something you could have picked out at the interview, or does it only become apparent after teaching them for a while?

It was immediate and, in this case, quite obvious. Older brother is one of those plodders.

I've taught another sibling pair with a similar dynamic. Older sibling quit lessons within two years. Younger sibling is simply magnificent.


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