Piano lesson dilemna

hilltop_gwMay 31, 2005

About a year ago a family asked me to teach their children piano lessons. I'd been asked many times before by others and declined but my kids were older/gone so this time I said yes. In the meantime I also added another neighbor girl as a student. Bottom line is I hate it. I'm an excellent pianist and I get along great with the kids and they like coming, but I just don't enjoy it. I have a home office that I work from & lessons mean missed phone calls & rearranging that work schedule. It's not really a money making endeavor anyway. It ties me down and we're constantly having to change schedule due to school activities. Lessons are supposed to be a half hour, but the parent's of the one girl just drop her off & don't come till she makes the long distance phone call home asking they come pick her up so the half hour turns into an hour (she's helped me cook supper, hang drapes, etc. while waiting for her parents). The kids are terrific & talented so that's not an issue. Problem is there is no one else in the immediate area to teach. Several others have recently asked me to teach their kids & I've declined. If you were in my shoes, should I force myself to continue teaching for the greater good of the kids or fess up to the parents that I really don't care to teach and give them a months notice to try to find someone else even though it might no lessons or them having to drive a distance to find a new teacher?

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It seems that the parents are seeing you as the flexible one...able to change because of their other inflexible needs.
You and your work needs are just as important as any other. I wouldn't maybe withdraw the lessons straightaway. I would state that the lessons are from x to y, and if the child misses a lesson, then the parents are still to pay for that lesson but you will forward a "homework" practice sheet to be practised at home. Exactly what happens with my two boys! If they miss two lessons (maybe because of illness), then they are entitled to a free "catchup" lesson. And rightly so. Your time is money and the parents should treat that with respect.

If their childrens musical education is so important to them, then they will endeavour to make sure their children attend. I know I do and I appreciate and respect their music teachers skill and time. Look at it this way...would they expect their school teachers to rearrange the childrens chool day to fit in with other schedules. No!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 7:29AM
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I think if I hated it so much and it really wasn't worth my time , I would stop. I'd probably give them longer than a month. I'd give them until school started or something like that so they would have a chance to look around.

I agree, your time is valuable. You shouldn't have to change your schedule to meet theirs. If they want to practice with you, they come during your hours.

If there are really students wanting to play, maybe they could get a group together and pay to have a teacher drive there.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 4:29PM
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Hi -
my husband teaches saxophone and clarinet and has had some of the same issues. He resolved them buy teaching through a music school. When he taught at home the students would hang around forever. He also charges enough so that it is worth his time - $30 / half hour, $50 / hour. I would suggest raising your rates and see what happens.

I feel bad for the girl whose parents are always late. Mine were the same way. (sigh)

It is easy to get emotionally involved. It is supposed to be business, but these are kids, and they don't draw lines the way adults do. Since summer is coming, maybe you could declare a vacation - and decide not to resume in the fall.

Or you could have them give a final recital and call it quits.

I know how difficult this situation is. I hope you find a happy way to resolve it.
Best wishes - Amy

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 5:12PM
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Thanks for your replies. We live in a very small rural community. It's difficult for me to treat it like a business when the people are all friends struggling to make ends meet and we've been blessed beyond measure. They're all dealing with work & school schedules & we're self employed and have the flexibility. I need to learn to state my concerns openly.

The lessons themselves are rewarding, watching the kids take pride in what they've learned. The downfall is rearranging my other work obligations, missed phone calls, and missing other work opportunities for an $8 lesson. Plus Hubby didn't realize how dependent he was on me till I became unavailable for the times blocked off for lessons. I'll probably stick with it for awhile.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 8:46AM
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Where my DD takes horseback riding lessons, they have a few bad apple parents that constantly don't show, show late, show at the wrong time, etc. Lessons are $25, and they have now instituted a $15 fee, for not making lesson on time, or any other type thing that means they have to juggle, lose money, etc.

You just need to put a list of policies, such as a late pickup fee, in writing. Publish it. This is a business and you have to at least have the policy in place. Some parents are late once in a while due to circumstances beyond their control, and don't mind paying when it happens. Others are inconsiderate of your business needs, and take advantage. They will stop it once they have to pay a fee, or they'll leave.

I also think $8 is too cheap!! But I'd charge an extra $8 for no-shows, and charge $5 per 15-minute increment they are late.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 9:25AM
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No matter how much people are struggling toprovide lessons for their kids unless you want to do charity work $8 is riduculously low for any lesson.

Since the school year has already ended I'd just tell them that teaching has not been as enjoyable for you as you had hoped or just that it's not working out for you & you feel badly but will no longer be able to provide lessons. If cyou continue to provide during the Summer then use the week of the new school semester starting as the cut off.

IF you do feel that badly then it's time to up the lessons ALLOT. My child takes many lesson (dance, ice skating, swimming & Spanish), although music is not one of them & I don't think triple that is outrageous for a 1/2 hr lesson.

You also need to write up a contract staing you will charge them lets say a $10 for every 15 minute that they are late. You are after all not a baby sititng service. what is you had another lesson following theirs?

I see no reason with your compromisng yourself & taking pity on these families if youhate it. A few months ago I had started baysitting my neighbor/friend's 2 kids & I HATED it. I felt terrible after 3 mos telling her I no longer wanted to do it BUT a friend of mine put i this way - "nothing stays the same & that I provided some short term relief for her". I stopped sitting & I now appreciate my time more.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 6:22PM
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I taught lessons for a while several years ago. Since I was trying to get established (I have many years of performance in classical and jazz, yet no musical degree - I'm an Industrial Engineer) and didn't want to screw with taxes, I offered free lessons to one family (2 Jr. High brothers) and bartered with another family for the father and daughter. I also travelled to their homes in my town.

A few experiences:

The brothers were always prepared and ready to start on time. No issues. (they were also my pastor's kids). Very talented and received much encouragement from their parents as well as from their teacher :) They were not new to piano lessons either.

The father and daughter were 1st-time students and there was no commitment on the part of the father - a peer of mine in the church. Many times, I would show up at their home and they would not be prepared, often not even home! There was a practice among my piano-teaching peers (the professional ones) to charge by the month. This allowed them to keep track of a regular monthly income (comparable to a salary) rather than a part time hourly-type payment. (not to mention the additional fuel to get to and fro).

Currently, my debate with my wife is, "which is better / more productive? To pay a professional for my 5 year-old's piano lessons, or to teach her in the home myself."

Feedback here or at my email would be appreciated!

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2005 at 5:14PM
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My DD's speech therapist has a daughter who needs speech therapy. She is opting to pay another pro to do the therapy, because it's just different when it's your own child to get them to do the practice exercises, etc. It probably depends a lot on the child's personality. In her case, it works better to pay another pro to do it.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 12:05PM
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Since you're giving 1/2 hour lessons (hard to picture the usefulness of longer ones for beginners) Insist the driver stay for the duration of the lesson. Couch it in terms of a change in philosophy to "involving the family" if necessary. There is nothing the parent can accomplish in the 5? 10? 15? minutes of non-commuting time they have during the lesson that they can't do as easily before or after. It sounds like you're being used for babysitting.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 3:52PM
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Sounds like there are things you do like about teaching..I don't know anyone who'd like being used as a babysitter. I teach violin and have had people treat me like that, and also have had people forget to come to lessons. Like any relationship, I think you have to spell out your limits.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 6:07PM
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Dear hilltop,
Aren't you glad that your piano teacher didn't hate to teach? God gave you the talent that you have. Leonard Bernstein said that it is the duty of every musician to teach. I believe that life should be about pleasing, glorifying and serving God, and that each of us should try to discover how He wants us to serve Him. If God has placed you in an area where there is a need for a piano teacher, and people want to pay you to teach them, it seems obvious that God wants you to teach. Knowing you are pleasing God will give you the greatest joy in this life and in the eternal life that awaits those who love and serve Him.
With love and blessings in Christ,

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:34AM
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Okay, I don't know about all that, but Irwin, hilltop asked three years ago!

Hilltop, God wants you to charge more. Then you won't be burned out. $20 per lesson, minimum.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 6:28PM
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Wouldn't God want us to think for ourselves ?

The piano teacher is not a good one, if her heart is not in it. Best to go to a teacher that loves it !

My daughter did piano lessons for years. For half an hour a week. I waited outside for the half hour, or went for a walk, or talked to my son, it turned into a real special half an hour each week. It was expensive, sometimes a real struggle to pay for it, so I made sure we where there on time every week. I didn't want to waste a minute !

I wonder what hilltop ended up doing ?


    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 1:29AM
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Wow - just found this post after so many years. My update - I quit teaching piano lessons. My heart was not in teaching. I dreaded it. I had no knowledge of music theory, just knew how to play piano. I enjoy playing and continue to play for church and at the nursing home.

I totally disagree with irwin's comment. I believe in God and using talents, but if the heart is not in it, why continue? I don't think God wants us to be going through life doing things we don't want to do. It just takes us away from the areas we do love and drags us down. I'd rather give someone else, whose passion is music teaching, the opportunity to teach and earn money than to be guilted into continuing.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2012 at 12:17PM
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