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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.