Respect for Piano Teachers and Business Practices

I’m gun shy about approaching this dimension of piano teaching, but I know my closeted colleagues are perhaps waiting vicariously for a public airing of this topic.
Verboten for many. And when I last dared to post about business-related issues as pertained to independent contractors, I feared my readers might shoot back some retaliatory comments, not necessarily in the spirit of wholesome sharing.

I must admit that the economy has dampened the interest of many parents to enroll their children in piano lessons. It might be the first luxury item to go. What about tennis lessons, I ask, or horseback riding? They might be on the bottom of the take-out list, along with Chinese food on Christmas Day, for some.

All I can say, is through a decades-long teaching era, I see some awakenings that are sorely needed.

In a recent calamitous confrontation with an adult student, I found myself defending my right to charge monthly fees, not acquiescing to periodic cancellations without an agreement to MAKE UP the lost time. For this pupil, it was, “I am a good client,” and need “flexibility.” But what did that really mean?

What is flexible for one, is a dip in livelihood for another.

And I pondered, what would fully employed individuals in the corporate cosmos think, if the boss on top, said, we need to close the shop, and take off pay. Your guaranteed salary is on hold. Maybe this has happened? But perhaps not as a regular, chronic matter of course.

For some piano teachers who have the fall back of a second income-producing spouse, the “flexibility” mantra might be insignificant and worth a sympathetic ear.

But in the world of piano teachers whose husbands have been laid off, or where one spouse or unmarried individual is the sole $$$-generating earner, the empathy for the canceling student may rightly fall by the wayside.

Too often a money transaction, or payment for services has greater meaning and symbolism than is associated with its Webster dictionary definition.

I’ve seen some people cancel on me as I brave a steep incline to my studio, or after his/her lesson actually started.

Should the piano teacher be up in arms if already paid? Well, not necessarily. Still if he/she is traveling to the venue, and could otherwise be gainfully occupied in another locale, it could become a serious impediment. (They say time is money)

Over at the Facebook Art of Piano Pedagogy forum and elsewhere, in closed door sessions piano teachers are chattering about this and that glitch to a smooth-running practice, but trust me it does NOT take up the greater site space. If it does, there might be an avalanche of criticism unleashed against the poster, with armed camps forming. In some cases, contributors have been known to seek exile.

For the most part, the piano teachers I know hum along and brave the occasional, heart-throbbing punches to the gut.

Sometimes, I become temporarily overwhelmed with what I’m seeing in this modern day world, with less focus on the arts and humanities–and a growing, blase attitude toward the value of piano lessons in the educational universe.

Yet I’m always interested in feedback barring vindictive and personally-leveled insults.

So let the discussion begin, from anyone and every perspective.

Humorous, tongue-in-cheek links:

“I could write a book called PIANODRAMA”

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/i-could-write-a-book-titled-pianodrama/

PULLS and TUGS.. Two sides of the Piano teacher/student relationship

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/pulls-and-tugs-two-sides-to-the-studentteacher-piano-lesson-relationship/

Piano Lessons and Drop-out Rates:
http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/piano-lessons-and-dropout-rates-how-the-initital-interview-is-better-than-a-crystal-ball/

My Pedal protector and other Bay Area favorites:

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/my-pedal-protector-and-other-bay-area-favorite-things/

Skimming the Surface or Getting Deeply Involved?

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/taking-piano-lessons-skimming-the-surface-or-getting-deeply-involved/

Piano, Long nails, and Peer Pressure

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/piano-lessons-long-nails-and-peer-pressure/

A Piano Teacher’s Worst Nightmare!

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/a-piano-teachers-worst-nightmare/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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2 Responses to Respect for Piano Teachers and Business Practices

  1. Harriet says:

    I have a friend who is an amateur musician and is taking piano lessons, to boot, who said she chose her teacher mainly because he didn’t mind if she cancelled at the last minute, etc. I told her that’s not the way to find the best teacher! She also said that if a kid wasn’t serious about music, she wouldn’t pay as much as I am charging for cello lessons (and believe me, it’s about at the going rate). I think we all have to stick to a business-like approach. The customers who appreciate our skill will seek us out, and who needs those who don’t? OTOH, I am not relying on this as main income. But there do seem to be people who are successful without compromising on the business aspect.

  2. Harriet, Thank you for your riveting response. What you said needs to ripple in waves through the community of teachers and students. Respect is the minimum requirement to conduct lessons and it goes both ways!!!

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