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A taboo subject: When the “other” piano teacher snatches your student

If I survive this blog with any students remaining in my studio, I will live to tell another hair-raising story. In the meantime, it’s a pertinent moment to expose pupil-snatching for what it is.

While we know about kidnappings of children, human trafficking, elephant poaching for ivory, and the rest, nobody bothers to examine the less conspicuous turnover of piano students that has tentacles of suspicion surrounding it.

A pupil snatch is just one of those events that can happen out of the blue or be meticulously planned.

And the way it plays out, has variations in and around piano studios throughout the country.

A few confidential e-mails sent my way from colleagues confirmed the worst. For some teacher victims, the snatch would have taken place out in the open at a local music competition.

Real case scenario #1

The piano teacher has taught the student for at least 3 years, having brought her from a primer level transcription of the Brahms Lullaby in C Major, to a full blown, highly polished rendition of the Schubert Impromptu in Eb Major, Op. 90.

Ooh, ah!! It’s the piece de resistance that mom demanded. (I meant requested)

And on the Big Day of the EVENT, a flawless performance is delivered!

By all accounts, it should have earned the student a first place Gold Medal and $500 award. But all that remains as tangible evidence of the student’s presence on stage, is a dull-looking Certificate of Participation that’s crinkled on the edges. (Last year’s recycle?)

Tiger mom is at a loss for words. She has no one to blame but the Piano Teacher who is a moving target at best. She wants to beat it out of there a.s.a.p after telling her pupil that winning isn’t everything.

A lurking wolf in sheep’s clothing prowls around, sensing a unique opportunity to snatch the student as she and her mother are in the throes of shattering disappointment.

The wolf, no relation to Peter, comes out of hiding and springs forward. She drools over the student’s performance, praising it to the sky. In a flash, mom and the wolf (of exotic ancestry) cozy up at a distant bench. You can see their silhouetted shadows in the dim lighting.

The real teacher, aging quickly before her own eyes, senses a dangerous tryst playing out. It has all the markings of a swift pupil TAKE in one fell swoop.

She knows that the wolf will claim its prey, and spit out any remains of herself as active teacher.

The Tiger Mom, willing to scapegoat anyone but the judges, makes the current teacher her sacrificial lamb, and wanders off with the wolf, never to return to the former den of safety and security.

It’s a fait accomplis.

Situation #2 (Teacher Betrayal by a parent, with the long-term goal of instigating a pupil snatch)

A disgruntled mother brings her never-practicing child of 8-years old to an audition with another teacher. (It’s behind the current mentor’s back)

In the course of a probing interview, (as it should be) the prospective teacher does a bit of investigating as she instinctively smells a rat.

She asks mom if the child has studied piano before.

Not behaving like a sophisticated two-timer, mother blurts out that her red-haired son took lessons with a teacher in Clovis but the “chemistry” was as bad as a dog cohabiting with a rattle snake.

The teacher-to-be senses danger pronto and calls upon her ESP and/or crystal ball to nail the name of the mentor being betrayed. She wishes she had an audio recorder for the defining moment of Truth.

Suddenly it gushes out–an aging member of the Music Teachers Association has been channeled as the potential victim of a snatch.

It’s in the nick of time, before the prospective teacher is hoodwinked into taking the newbie.

Before the whole mockery of an interview is concluded, a surreptitious text message is sent to the betrayed so she can assess what she wants to do next.

As it turns out, mom is in arrears $300– and must pay up, shut up, and disappear.

Mission accomplished!

Lucky for both teachers, the snatch has been nipped in the bud.




11 thoughts on “A taboo subject: When the “other” piano teacher snatches your student”

  1. Hmmmm, I’ve not come across this…..yet, though I suspect that it might soon. I do have the odd students who don’t practice and never improve, and then get frustrated at their lack of progress. It’s been frustrating as a teacher because the kids are too young to understand that the reason they are not doing well is because they are not practicing, and the reason they don’t enjoy piano lessons is because they are frustrated. If they just practiced once in a while, they’d be happy!

    I referred a guitar teacher’s name to their parents recently, and the parents gave me rave reviews about him, that their kids really liked him, so that makes me wonder if I’ll be teaching them again next year. I’m “not as fun,” because they’ve been playing piano for the last 2.5 years and are “over it” whereas he is cool and exciting and the kids are having fun, even though to learn any instrument well takes time commitment and repetitive practicing . Not fair, not right, but that’s what the parents see.


    1. Your comments resonate with me and probably other music teachers as well. Yes, I, too, wish that students would realize that putting in the dedicated practice time will make playing the piano a lot more gratifying. (they wouldn’t be otherwise “frustrated”) I’ve heard the “fun” mantra from one end of the state to the other.. And yes, fun comes from applied practicing. There are no shortcuts.

      So hang in there, you’re in good company with those of us who hope that our thorough approach to teaching will be someday appreciated.


  2. Nothing is fun until you can do it properly… It takes a lot of hard graft and determination to conquer the mammoth task of playing the piano well. Most students want instant gratification these days which makes the piano seem less fun than, say, playing a piano app on an iPad!


  3. Thanks for the links, just investigating those now.
    I am sure if I was a child growing up in 2013, I’d find it pretty hard to knuckle down and get on with learning the piano. There just wasn’t that much to do when I was a kid, but now there’s too much choice. Choices that numb the brain, not enhance it!


    1. Over-scheduled kids is a big, resonating fact of life. They tend to too much, too little, hence “skimming the surface.” And yes, how could they fully enjoy piano or any another endeavor, if the involvement is passing and superficial.


  4. Great post! Funny story. It would be funnier if it weren’t so dead-on. Those with ethics do seem to lose out… sigh … but honestly, some parents are not worth dealing with. It’s the unethical teachers that are really bothersome, though.


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