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#1173495 - 04/02/09 08:45 PM The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student
Scruffies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/09
Posts: 58
Loc: California
I posted the following on the Adult Beginners forum thinking new students might benefit from inputs from various teachers on what to expect from the first meeting that really establishes the whole teacher/student relationship. ProdigalPianist suggested that I repost here since here is where the teachers are... lol.

Note: I am assuming a new Adult student.


"Seems like a number of issues on this forum arrise from teacher/student misunderstandings with many comments coming from the professional teacher community.

So I am wondering how teachers approach the first meeting with a prospective new student to establish a good understanding of the student's proficiencies, student's musical interests and goals, and the expectations (practice time, etc.) and time needed to achieve them. I am assuming each teacher has a fairly set process they use to determine how to proceed.

Assume an adult who took some piano lessons years ago, has forgotten most of it, calls you up and schedules an initial meeting with you.

So from our teachers I would be interested to know:

How long is your initial meeting, and do you include some instruction or is the first meeting more of a consultation to establish the student's proficiency levels and an overall game plan? How much do you charge for this initial meeting?

How do you communicate student specific expectations of progress? Do you use a written plan or is it ad hoc?
Do teachers set "progress review" benchmarks, perhaps scheduling a longer meeting once or twice a year, to review accomplishments to date and progress towards the mutual goals?


Do you cover in your first meeting a list of the most important items and issues you want to get agreement from your student? Is there a FAQ kind of list that you hand out, and what are the most important of those?

Basically, I am interested in hearing from our experienced teacher community how they approach a new student and what the new student should expect from the initial meeting to hopefully start a successful relationship that avoids some of the issues discussed in this forum. "

Comments Welcome...

/Scruffies - Noob student and self taught ATM.
_________________________
/Scruffies

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#1173502 - 04/02/09 09:00 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Scruffies]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11704
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I make the initial meeting a half hour long, at no charge. This is my way of getting a feel for a student to see if I can help them and if our personalities mesh. After teacher for several years I've gotten a 6th sense about students and which personalities is best to refer elsewhere.

I generally show them around the studio, ask them to play something for me if they know any piece (heart & soul or whatever!) and give them my policy. I ask them what their goals are in piano, and if they play or played any instruments and if they sing. I show them the books I like to start out with and give them an idea of how long it would take for most students to get through, and I may play a piece or two from the end so they know what the end result would be after 6 months or a year of playing. This helps give them a realistic measure on their goals. I discuss with them the importance of practice and what they can probably plan on doing to make good progress. Then we improvise, which is always a lot of fun (I make it quite simple and enjoyable for even the most timid of students!).

Those are the main points. Often a prospective student will have questions of their own, and I let the conversation go where it will. I want to speak a lot with them rather than just divulge information, so that we can develop a rapport.

I used to have a FAQ list, but I stopped using that because I found that usually it wasn't read. They barely read my policy let alone any other information I throw at them! smile
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1173536 - 04/02/09 10:29 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Morodiene]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Scruffies asked for info: "Basically, I am interested in hearing from our experienced teacher community how they approach a new student and what the new student should expect from the initial meeting to hopefully start a successful relationship that avoids some of the issues discussed in this forum. "

There is no avoiding issues, you can't remove them from your life, they are there at the most unopportune time, and you have to keep your wits about you while they are happening. The problem is that people vote with their feet at the first sign of a problem where "staying power" and a bit of patience would resolve the issue with a little effort.

The teacher and the adult student don't mesh as quickly and easily as kids do with their teachers. There is a little resistance because no one likes judgment or correction voiced in their direction. The problem with that is the teacher sees it as necessary instruction and a positive step toward progress when they ask the student to do something, anything, nothing in particular. The adult student takes it as a control issue, or an insult, or a judgment about ability, worth and value.

It's a gentle correction given with a smile.

It's really hard to bond with someone when the one on one instruction puts the emphasis on how is the student understanding and doing the lesson for this week. You can't avoid the possibility of hurting feelings, or bursting bubbles, or making someone cry.

Not that the teacher did something to incite that, but people are full of feelings just waiting to happen and the frustrations that are built into learning the piano are sure to happen when y ou least expect it. We can't contain things that are pent up and causing us to see ourselves as we are in a realistic, objective event like a piano lesson.

To truly enjoy the lesson one has to be willing to solve the puzzles music presents us. Learning piano is all about music, composers, sound, movement, rhythms....but what it's all about is the inner you and how you respond to things in your world when challenged and frustrated by something that is much harder than you ever thought.

I had a new six year old for her first lesson today. She transferred from a KinderMusic program but has not played piano before. She was delighted with her work, she said today's lesson was like solving a puzzle and it was lots of fun. She said she was going to practice each of the 4 songs I gave her 7 times each so she would be ready for our lesson next week.

Her expectation seems to be that she is going to love this and give it her best shot.

We need to see more of her attitude blooming across the music world and less of the "gladly the crosseyed bear" who shows his or her consternation because he or she played it better at home, or the teacher who keeps messing the student up.

The little student with a sense of fortitude plugs away on the adventure of the journey while putting in the time and effort to get themselves somewhere in music.

If this sounds harsh, you might wonder why I can say these things - ask me how my day went and was it the kids or the adults who were the "testors" and "stressors" of my day.

The new little girl was a godsend! My 8th year student was full of surprises after his visit in California with his piano teaching grandmother who listened to his latest accomplishments.

The 3:30 8 year old sweetie on Spring Break who totally forgot the lesson - Dad is home from from Afghanistan and the family was doing errands - big apology given and a reschedule for tomorrow.

The 5PM interview, cancelled yesterday's 5PM interview and rescheduled for today which was cancelled at 11:30 because her daughter was misbehaving all week (Spring Break) and she didn't want to bring her to my house because the girl would consider it a "treat". Yesterdays interview was cancelled because all of a sudden she forgot she had a doctors appointment and couldn't be in two places at ones. How true! Then she asked for an interview time tomorrow, but earlier. I said no I can't do that tomorrow is full for me. She said I'll call you this afternoon, I said I can't talk until 5PM, I teach from 12:45 until then so please call me at 5PM or keep the appointment today, either one. This all by e-mail of course. No one came, no one called. Exactly as I expected. Now I assume I'm the difficult teacher they almost had the rotten luck of getting involved with. See how it goes?

The two interviews next Monday, I hope make the cut, one is an adult. She seems determined and joyful that she is returning to piano. Most of the other 16 inquiries since January 1st have not answered my invitation to interview and get acquainted and have a lesson too, one hour in time frame. So which is worse to contact the teacher but forget to connect, or to make an appointment and then cancel, cancel, cancel.

When people think that a piano teacher earns a lot of money for giving lessons, it is really all those extra hours we put into the business that no one ever notices, add those to the workload when you analyze the cost of lessons. If only I had on office assistant to keep track of it all!

Am I tired today? Yes. Although there were fewer students - Spring Break - I worked very hard today - trying to keep everyone happy and engaged in the world of music.

Some cooperated grandly, others didn't.

Long story! Not exactly what was asked for by the OP is it! But, I saw the key word "issues" and then "start a successful relationship that avoids some of the issues"....I don't know whether to groan or laugh this evening.

Isn't it desirable that the relationship might be a two way street with reciprocity, understanding and kindness to make both teacher and students and parents involved in the music program pleased to know and work with each other? Age shouldn't matter.

Sermon - story over. I'm going to have a piece of chocolate cake. I deserve it.

Betty

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#1173557 - 04/02/09 10:58 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
Betty
What a terrific rant! You cracked me up!I had a similar day and I went for both cake and ice cream.
There is something (or lots) to be said about this pervasive sense of entitlement. There is this need to be the center of the universe, a requirement to occupy all of your attention just because that person is there gracing you with their presence. No matter they are the one in need and you are the provider of that need.. They still feel that things must be done their way, the universe temporarily modified to center upon them. I am not a piano teacher but a "provider" of some needs. I am completely understanding of the angst, drang and sturm many people experience upon realizing that they need a service. Yet I have consistently found that the more you give, they more they "need" and 'require" and the less they "respect". People are not ready to relinquish an iota of control. They actively "need", and 'want" but "it' must happen without much effort or introspection. Luckily not everyone is so but, arguably, a surprising proportion of the population is.
I will be less cranky in the morning.ANd I will probably regret writing this..

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#1173569 - 04/02/09 11:21 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

The teacher and the adult student don't mesh as quickly and easily as kids do with their teachers. There is a little resistance because no one likes judgment or correction voiced in their direction. The problem with that is the teacher sees it as necessary instruction and a positive step toward progress when they ask the student to do something, anything, nothing in particular. The adult student takes it as a control issue, or an insult, or a judgment about ability, worth and value.

I know you do find this to be the case, Betty, but I actually don't find it divides down age lines. Some people mesh more quickly with me as a teacher than others, and I with them. The vast majority of my (many) adult students over the years have welcomed correction, and actually the hardest student to take correction I ever had was a nine-year-old girl.
(edited to add:)And then there was that 14-year-old boy...


Edited by currawong (04/02/09 11:42 PM)
Edit Reason: addition!
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1173573 - 04/02/09 11:40 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: currawong]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
But to answer the original question, my approach seems to be similar to Morodiene's. After the initial contact, we meet for up to a half-hour, at no charge. We talk about their goals, previous experience, tastes in music, and if they've played before I ask them to bring something to play for me, emphasising that it doesn't matter how rusty they are, it still gives me some idea. I map out some sort of way forward based on what they say, what I observe and what their goals are. I make sure they know that regular practice is the key to progress, and give them the information they need about my policies. We reassess this plan as we go along, and I do see it as a two-way street. I try to make sure they know why I advocate certain things, and no-one seems to think I'm too scary to approach if they have any issues smile
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1173621 - 04/03/09 03:09 AM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: currawong]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2893
Loc: UK.
I try to do as much of the initial interview as possible over the phone. There's little point in arranging a consultation only to find out that it is a totally unsuitable match for whatever reason. By the time we get to the first meeting it is (almost) assumed that they are going to take lessons. Of course they are free to go elsewhere if that is what they decide. I do charge for the consultation at the normal hourly rate. It is usually half hour. I figure that if they are serious about lessons then they will not mind paying this small fee for my time. The phone call is free of course!
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#1173664 - 04/03/09 06:26 AM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Chris H.]
lotuscrystal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/22/08
Posts: 304
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Betty..sounds like you need a holiday more than your students! lol :)(great rant...I can empathise)

Personally, I treat the initial meeting like a first lesson. I don't 'write' anyone off...and definately don't forumlate any judgement from a first lesson. I treat it as if 'they're in' and off we go...rappor is something I take the lead in initially when taking on any new student.

If problems come up later and occur consistently and cannot be resolved, then it's time for action...

The only time I can recall a 'first lesson' student not working out is when I elected to 'try out' the younger sibling of one of my students. I had been notified by the parents that the sibling had ADHD and they did not have much of an expectation that the child would be able to focus or sit still long enough for music lessons..and they were correct.

smile

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#1173833 - 04/03/09 01:28 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: lotuscrystal]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
I may have missed this in other teachers' posts, but I generally tell older students, both teens and adults, that starting in with a new instructor takes some time - for both of us, before we're meshing fully. Generally, several months. Are they willing to stick it out for 3 months to give it a chance?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1173834 - 04/03/09 01:29 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Oh, Chris, I notice you charge for you interview. Does this filter out a large number of perspective students?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1173893 - 04/03/09 03:16 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
FYI for the teachers. There seem to be a lot of posts and questions from people who come to the ABF about 'what is normal' and 'is this to be expected' and 'why is my teacher doing/not doing' something. This from people who have not asked the teacher, or occasionally have asked the teacher but not gotten a very good response. It is possible that input from teachers on how to approach/ask questions will increase the success of these interactions.

For Example: The most recent was a beginner who has been playing all pieces hands separately and then moving on to the next piece, without ever learning the piece hands together. The student was (not surprisingly) anxious to play HT practiced a piece HT after having learned it HS, and the teacher wouldn't listen to it because, the teacher said it "wasn't possible" for them to have learned it HT. Now, I can (and did, if you read the thread) come up with a scenario or two of why the teacher would say that or what is going on, however, I remain a bit surprised that so many students are reluctant to ask the teacher for an explanation.

Note, I didn't say "demand" an explanation...but I think it's reasonable that an adult might be more comfortable in a learning situation where the teacher's 'roadmap' or plan is more explicit...ie-upon being asked, the teacher might say, "Oh I never want my students to play HT until ___." And that's all it takes. It might be easier to be patient if the student knew "OK, I will play HS for X amount of time before playing HT and this is important because ____."

Without that, the student really feels lost in a situation where they have no idea what to expect in the coming weeks or months. A schoolkid is more used to this situation (maybe) but I remain a little at a loss at why a student would feel so uncomfortable asking for simple information that is going to make them feel more secure about the _process_ of learning a musical instrument.

I would think a student who (cares and) has a general understanding of the plan and process along with a ballpark timeline (assuming X amount of practice per day) would have more success and a better lesson experience than a student who has no idea what is going on, what to expect, and what the plan is?

This is not a matter of not respecting the teacher's knowledge and experience and challenging the teacher...it seems to be a matter of simple ignorance and confusion.
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#1173920 - 04/03/09 04:20 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Scruffies]
Scruffies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/09
Posts: 58
Loc: California
Thanks for all the great replies...
_________________________
/Scruffies

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#1174004 - 04/03/09 09:02 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Scruffies]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11704
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Prodigal,
I agree. However, at some point the student does have to be an adult and ask those questions. I *love* it when my students ask questions at any age! Except if they are asking things to delay playing, which students of all ages have done when they're not prepared for lessons wink . But definitely, ask for clarity in something that I've said. I may think I'm being perfectly clear and transparent, but my communication is only as good as what my listener understands.

Betty,
I feel your pain! I had a voice student whose father had been trying to set up an interview since December - December! - and we finally met in mid-February after several schedules and re-schedules of said interview. After that interview the father set up a lesson time and we were to start the following week. I received a call from the dad a few days later canceling lessons, saying they decided to take lessons with her school teacher (who had referred the student to me in the first place!), and assuring me that she would want to start lessons with me in the Fall. I've decided that my studio will be full by that time, should it ever really come around. smirk
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1174021 - 04/03/09 09:19 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Morodiene]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Probably a wise decision!
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1176841 - 04/08/09 04:30 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Wombat66 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/05
Posts: 262
Loc: Cornwall UK
Teachers, sorry to butt in on your forum again (I find it really interesting, and can’t resist!), but as a non teacher I don’t see why you give your initial consultation to a prospective adult beginner for free.
Your time and expertise is a valuable commodity – which is why people like me keep coming again and paying for the privilege.
Nobody walks into an off licence (?other wise known as liquor store across the pond or bottle shop down under) and expects to be given a free bottle of wine simply because the recipient has not tried that particular brand before.
If a prospective student is too tight to pay for the first lesson, you’re probably better off without them. If they don’t like you and never come back for a second lesson it’s up to you how hard you chase them for the money, but if they come back again then surely that first lesson was worth something?
Also, Betty if students continually cancel lessons at less than 24 hrs notice I’d charge them for the lesson, that’s what I do with my consultations. If the student doesn’t like it and moves on you’ve got rid of them, and if they pay up and keep coming back then you get paid for your coffee break – surely a win - win situation either way?

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#1176856 - 04/08/09 04:50 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Wombat66]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Thanks, Wombat66,

My policy for enrolled students clearly has the statement that there are no refunds for missed lessons, and that lessons will be made up at the discretion of the teacher, depending on 24 hour notice being given. Overwise, it is a forfeited lesson.

WHen an interview cancels or doesn't show up, I'm out. The value of my hour is $40, and as an interview-lesson, one hour is $25. I am not going to be able to make that offer anymore. It is a disadvantage to me in every way. I will be charging a fee for interview appliable to the tuition fees if they enroll in June. Otherwise, they are paying for their first lesson, whether they enroll or not.

I had a horrible week with 3 interviews scheduled, and no one showed up, 2 cancelled by e-mail a few hours before, one didn't call or come. The good news is this helps me glean exactly what I don't want from my schedule, by not accepting them. The bad news is that I offer the interview and first lesson combination - a great value - for free. So missing that after scheduling it is a real problem. I'd even go so far as to say a "problem person".

I am also going to try registration from my web site when it is ready which enrolls the student in a short program as the testing point for full time entry. The testing works in two ways, is the student progressing and enjoying it, the location is workable, the timeframe schedule works, the fees are affordable - and for the teacher, the student and family meet the criteria that I have as a profile for a promising student.

I don't like working with people who carry bad behavior or attitudes with them, or who don't take their practice work at home seriously as it makes my job next to impossible.

Students need to want to be here and doing the work. I present the opportunity to work with me and the guidance I have to offer. How well we do depends on our good relationship and our ability to communicate. We both have to be making an investment of time and effort.

Thanks Wombat66 for such respect and evaluation of the disadvantageous situations we encounter when we teach. You made my day and I'm sure other teachers also appreciate your post.

Betty

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#1176885 - 04/08/09 05:20 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
buck2202 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/09
Posts: 216
Loc: Cleveland, OH
As an adult student I'd agree with Wombat66 that a free consultation or reduced-rate first lesson doesn't seem fair to teachers.

An adult student in particular needs to have a level of self-motivation to be a worthwhile use of your time if you're a high-level teacher. If the student isn't motivated enough to try out lessons without the incentive of a "free trial," I'd say it's less likely that you as teachers would have a rewarding relationship with them. There are music stores that offer low-cost lessons suitable for people who are unsure of the idea in general (not to say that you can't find an excellent teacher at a low-cost music store..I think I did). But if you charge rates that you think are fair based on your experience and qualifications, and you want your students to be committed to their study (within reason), I wouldn't worry about incentives like free consultations. I think John is on point when he says
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
that starting in with a new instructor takes some time - for both of us, before we're meshing fully. Generally, several months. Are they willing to stick it out for 3 months to give it a chance?


I can understand the need to draw new students into your studios in tough times, and I can't say whether free trials are the best way to do that. And I also understand that it's difficult for an adult student to gauge their own interest in lessons at the beginning. But regardless, your time and skills are valuable, and you shouldn't frequently get burned by your own generosity.


Don't stand up your piano teachers! mad

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#1176895 - 04/08/09 05:44 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Wombat66]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Wombat66
Nobody walks into an off licence (?other wise known as liquor store across the pond or bottle shop down under)

Ah, a master of three languages! smile

Well I actually agree with Wombat even though I'm one of those who don't charge for the first meeting. I don't consider it a lesson, however, more a preliminary interview. It mightn't take the full half hour, and I like to let them talk and tell me anything they feel is relevant. It's just my personal choice not to charge for this, and I'm not doing it as a marketing strategy or incentive. I fully support those who do charge.
PS I only have relatively few students. If I had many such interviews I think I'd be charging too.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1176966 - 04/08/09 07:39 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: currawong]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Betty, I have a slightly different take on the problem....don't know if it'll work for you.

My fee structure is no secret, and if a parent calls out of the blue (it happens) who hasn't looked at my web-page, I politely tell them they should look at it, because it will answer 90% of their questions, including fees.

But when they come to meet me, I give the student a short lesson, perhaps 20 min or so, but I am evaluating the student's learning potential as well as where they are at, if a transfer. I can learn a lot from this short session and can gently back out if things don't seem to click.

Sure, I'm out some cash, but I feel it's more of a "loss leader" if you will. The parents can go away happy that they've found the right teacher, with less angst about what may initially to them seem high fees. And I can feel satisfied that I've got a potentially great student.

The key, as it were, is to eliminate the "Lookie Lou's" before they ever get inside your studio.

Perhaps adult students should be treated differently, even if this seems unfair, because adults have differing agendas than parents who are enrolling their child for a course of study.

If the student is interested, has already researched you, and is wanting a trial lesson, then, by all means, charge. In fact, you might consider telling them that you'll be glad to start them on such and such date, but they must pay for an initial package of weekly/bi-weekly/monthly lessons, so that you can both assess and adapt to their learning style, and that they, in turn, have a chance to practice and learn what you teach them. You might set the number of lessons pre-paid at 6 or 8. Payable upfront before the first lesson.

If they balk, you should thank them for the call, and suggest they contact you again when they are ready for piano study.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1177000 - 04/08/09 08:39 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
John contributed: "If the student is interested, has already researched you, and is wanting a trial lesson, then, by all means, charge. In fact, you might consider telling them that you'll be glad to start them on such and such date, but they must pay for an initial package of weekly/bi-weekly/monthly lessons, so that you can both assess and adapt to their learning style, and that they, in turn, have a chance to practice and learn what you teach them. You might set the number of lessons pre-paid at 6 or 8. Payable upfront before the first lesson.

If they balk, you should thank them for the call, and suggest they contact you again when they are ready for piano study."

You are saying exactly what I am going to be doing as a next step preventative from the turmoil of interviewing people who are not serious about making a piano lesson committment.

Prerequisites:
1) They need to have a piano available and not just a 44 key one that is 20 years old, or much less, none at all with no intentions of buying one. If they have an acoustic piano they need to have it tuned.

2) If they are so busy they are going to have to keep rescheduling for lesson date or take a long break, I'm not interested. Application of time and effort for piano lessons and practice is a big committment, and if you know going in it's not going to be easy to keep schedules, I don't want to be accepting of half vast committments, where the responsibility for successful lessons is all mine.

3) My studio policy is firm. If it's not agreeable to the client, we should first discuss the problem, but more than likely, any negotiation will work better for you than they will for me. I'm not likely to change my business plan without it being a decision I want to make. One exception creates a precedent that will now apply to all future comers. When I make decisions, I make it for occuring sometime in the future, not immediately based on a demand.

4) I am thinking of doing enrolling through my new website (soon) and offering a get acquainted period, as you suggest, with which to test the water. I was thinking 10 weeks to your 6-8, and yes, paid up front. Then we could conferance to discuss what we've been seeing and do we, do we not, want to continue.

5) I'm thinking of putting my contract on the website so that we can get to the bottom line in a hurry. I spent a lot of time in emailing prospective students usually the mother, and providing information to them. Then I reserve the hour for them, and at that point, I think we should have been able to find out much sooner if they were willing to sign the contract in the first place. It talks about the services they receive and the way we will do business together.

So the idea of registering, enrolling and agreeing to a contract is going to be changing soon and will be their first sign of committment to me. Not what it is now, the conclusion of the courtship. It's the only way of qualifying their intentions about piano lessons at all, but specifically with me.

I have a sentence in my studio policy that says I do not teach in chaos or confusion. That kind of says it all.

My lady who rescheduled for Thursday after cancelling Wednesday, and then cancelled Thursday, too, really thought that I would be willing for them to come on Friday. Extreme behavior exactly fits in with the chaos and confusion I'm wanting to avoid.

I asked my husband to pick up some aspirin when he was out today, and he brought me back 2 bottles. I really only wanted one! He knows I've had a difficult time lately, and I guess he was doing his symbolic, supporting role, to keep me supplied with the headache pills. I think he's sweet, but two bottles is overkill. At least, I hope I won't need them every day.

Thanks John!

Betty

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#1177057 - 04/08/09 10:12 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Betty, another possible approach or perhaps addendum would be to institute a rescheduling fee. Say $15 if rescheduled within 48 hrs, $25 for 48 - 96 hr, $40 for rescheduling past that time (in other words, a paid makeup!).
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1177072 - 04/08/09 10:41 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Thanks, John,

A penaltyfee,huh?

I'd rather have a big bouquet of fresh flowers or a plant or chocolate or a gift card or a handwritten apology along with the solemn vow, "This will never happen again".

Let's keep tossing the ball back and forth and see what happens with our brain storming.

Isn't it amazing that we've done it year after year, operated music studios, and it seems that today it is harder to communicate and be heard than ever. Or maybe more effort is required to get the clients attention about things that are important in our mutual support of each others goals and successful outcomes.

If I had to use a blank paper and some crayons about how I've been feeling lately, it would be one very black page, tediously colored in with a small throbbing red heart in the middle, and on the page in the upper right, one dropping tear. Charlie Chaplin did pathos well, and I kind of think that feeling translates to my art well as I've described. Or, should the tear be red, to represent blood....hmmmmm, sweat, or tears?

Betty


Edited by Betty Patnude (04/08/09 10:42 PM)
Edit Reason: Punctuation!

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#1177233 - 04/09/09 08:22 AM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Betty, I don't think I'd label it a penalty fee. How about a "Flexibility" fee?

Fundamentally, the student has purchased an hour of your time, at a specified time. Now they want to purchase a second hour of your time, at a discount!

You can't resell that first hour, so it really belonged to the student. They are truly obligated to pay for it. But of course, most students are just like us, we see only what's most advantageous for us, not the other person's perspective.

So I find it's necessary to frame the issue from their perspective. Something like: well, I have students who've missed lessons for various reasons, and if you give me 48 hrs notification, I can schedule them in. When students cooperate, we all get more out of the program, and you'll be able to be scheduled in next time one of them must miss a lesson.

Perhaps part of the problem is scheduling. Do you intermix your tuition based students with fee for lesson students? When I tried that a few years back, it was an unmitigated disaster, much like what you're experiencing. I finally got to the point that I take only tuition based students, regardless of age. My tuition based students don't get makeups, just the privilege of rescheduling within the week, if an opening is available. Call it a tough love, use it or lose it student motivation program. It works!

By the way, I've been working on my fee schedule for next year, and just to leave the door open to students who may need an occasional lesson, I've decided to put them in at 90 min only, fee TBD, but probably around $75.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1177326 - 04/09/09 12:32 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
I guess Scruffie has heard plenty by now, but I'll answer the questions anyway.

"How long is your initial meeting, and do you include some instruction or is the first meeting more of a consultation to establish the student's proficiency levels and an overall game plan? How much do you charge for this initial meeting?"

Referral from another long-time piano student, fifteen-minute phone interview, hour-long first lesson at full price. First four lessons, paid in advance, with the understanding that it was "on probation," for both of us. During this time she found out what I could do, what my problems as a musician were, whether I would show up and pay up, whether I was too scary to let in the door, whether I could learn.

"How do you communicate student specific expectations of progress? Do you use a written plan or is it ad hoc? Do teachers set "progress review" benchmarks, perhaps scheduling a longer meeting once or twice a year, to review accomplishments to date and progress towards the mutual goals?"

Teacher tells me in plain English exactly what she expects, in detail, with instructions for addressing my problems and issues. No written plan, I make notes afterward or sometimes during, and she marks the score with phrasing, fingering, etc. Every lesson is a "progress review" if you mean that she sees if I apply what I have learned, from toetips to fingertips. It's like a trip to the fire, but it's amazing how fast an hour can fly by.

"Do you cover in your first meeting a list of the most important items and issues you want to get agreement from your student? Is there a FAQ kind of list that you hand out, and what are the most important of those?"

No, and no. The understanding is that she teaches and I practice and put the time in, otherwise it is going away. I can see how such documents could work for some teachers, but mine does it "on the fly." After several lessons we discussed missed lessons, make-ups, etc., just because I wanted to know. She said, "If you're sick, stay home. If you have to miss a lesson for some other reason, give me as much notice as you can--- at least three or four days. We'll either arrange a refund as appropriate, or I'll reschedule if I can." However, she knows I show up on time, every time and make my best effort to do what she asks me to do. If it were otherwise, she might have given a different answer.

"Basically, I am interested in hearing from our experienced teacher community"

Well, you're out of luck there... but this is the way one experienced teacher handles it.

I am sorry to know the headaches some teachers have with students and parents who are irresponsible, disrespectful of your business, or are in too much chaos for learning to have a chance. I used to be in a business where I got clients through public advertising, and I found that I just had to accept that a certain amount of winnowing through was part of the process. Later I found that my customers had had the same problem with people in my business, so when they found someone who suited them they were loath to let them get away. The good ones, you keep, the bad ones, you thank and say goodbye. There will be some write-offs, there will be some whiners, there will be some things that have to be made right no matter where the fault fell. They are just line-items in the cost of doing business, included in the overhead. And remember, it is just a job, it is not worth a nervous breakdown. There are some people only God can help.
_________________________
Clef


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#1177378 - 04/09/09 02:12 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17771
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

4) I am thinking of doing enrolling through my new website (soon) and offering a get acquainted period, as you suggest, with which to test the water. I was thinking 10 weeks to your 6-8, and yes, paid up front. Then we could conferance to discuss what we've been seeing and do we, do we not, want to continue.


If I am remembering correctly, I think you said on a different thread that you were no longer going to hold initial consultations on an unpaid basis... is that right? If so, does this mean that any prospective student who approaches you for lessons is going to have to commit to and pay (in advance) for 10 lessons before meeting you in person?

If so, that's entirely your prerogative, but given your other comments about having a hard time recruiting and retaining students, I'm guessing this new policy will be counterproductive. I know that I would not agree to pay for 10 lessons in advance with a teacher whom I had not met in person.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1177424 - 04/09/09 03:46 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Monica K.]
John v.d.Brook Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7345
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Monika, it's really hard to know what to do. Tacoma, just north of where I live, has been really hard hit by this recession. There are adults with time on their hands, and my guess they are thinking how to occupy themselves productively. Also, parents still want the best for their kids, but paying for lessons when one bread winner has just gone on unemployment becomes a major problem (I've faced several of those myself these past months). I tend to agree that 10 lessons may be a bit too much, but then, Betty has a good reputation, so parents can decide if they want her services or not.
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#1177427 - 04/09/09 03:51 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Monica K.]
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Thank you Monica, for your rapt attention to topics I previously posted and for asking for clarification of what I meant.

I don't have a hard time getting inquiries, I have had over 16 emails from prospective students since January from 2 different piano teacher directories where they have read my profile and seen my rates. I offer on those websites the free lesson introduction of one hour time.

When I e-mail back, I get info such as not owning a piano, so I give some info about necessity to own a piano, etc.

I ask about their goals, their background, very little info comes back to me so that I can be prepared to conduct an interview as to their needs. I want student info in advance.

Some never return my first email to them - I will send two more emails - one in about 5 days, then another in 30 days. If no response they are placed in an incomplete inquiry file.

Of the 3 who booked appointment with me last week, there are a total of 5 hours set aside (one rebooked) which no one showed and has not emailed. Wouldn't this convince you that to offer this is self-defeating? I still have a number of inquiries to finish following through with as to the free lesson - introduction as they contacted me from the sites that still have that offer posted. It takes a while to get this changed on the sites I use, and in my policy. O think I will put a time limited offer on it before I remove it and then start the $25 fee.

I had also stated before that I would charge $25 for the first lesson starting in June - even if it were an hour at $40 fee.

I am going to offer 3 ways to start lessons and the student may choose 1 of them, or all 3:
1) one lesson at $25 as the interview lesson which will apply to tuition if they start within 30 days.

2) The 10 lessons as a trial period (either one hour, or one half hour) before they commit to a year round schedule and payment plan. Of, if they are happy in 10 week programs where they could take a break in between, I'm prepared to schedule for their convenience.

3) The year round program from which I need 30 day notice to terminate.

4) I had a big drop in the studio last September when it was time to register for the new year. It was an economic disaster plaguing many families, and many decided to be cautious in their spending for the year. It was devastating to me in that it was the first time I had lost more than one student at a time. Boeing our biggest employer in Puget Sound was talking layoffs, and has and will continue to. Also two of my long term piano students have moved to lessons with their band instruments which is very important to them. Both girls, a hs freshman, and a 7th grader, have said they wish to be music teachers, and they need the exposure and development in band as much as piano. The older girl is a percussionist and has been jazz band pianist, and the younger girl plays trumpet and french horn. I believe they are life long musicians, and I will see each of them again and again as their is a long tern 8 year friendship with the older, and the younger is my granddaughter.

5) As far as trouble retaining, I haven't had that problem except for #4. I keep students for between 5 and 8 years. The students I now have have been with me almost 2 years or more, with one new student starting last week.

I don't think my processes for interview are that much off as from 1980-1993 I had 40 students, and 1993-2006 25-30 students.

Here in my new location since 2006, I have had up to 19 when 10 of them left last September.

During this past year I conducted interviews of which nothing has happened later. If the situation was right for them, I think they would have been eager to enroll, but I don't think people are making such decisions in the positive ways they used to be able to do. I think this is an overall lack of faith in our countries economy and fear at the personal level to spend money that may be needed for other things.

Push has come to shove.

Ask me about my $1100 a month medical plan and medicines for my husband and I. That definitely is our push coming to shove budget concern with the arrival of medicare into my life.

Betty

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#1177437 - 04/09/09 04:01 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17771
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude

Of the 3 who booked appointment with me last week, there are a total of 5 hours set aside (one rebooked) which no one showed and has not emailed. Wouldn't this convince you that to offer this is self-defeating?


Absolutely... and I've said on other threads that I think it is entirely reasonable to charge for the initial interview. Piano teachers are professionals and deserve to be compensated for their time.

What I was concerned about was that your previous post *seemed* to suggest you were adopting the single policy of asking for a 10-week commitment, paid in advance, before students and their parents had even met you, because I did not think that would be very effective in attracting new students. Thank you for clarifying that this is not the case.

Given the choice of the 3 options, I can't imagine anybody going for #2 or #3, especially if the $25 trial lesson fee is applicable to later tuition.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#1177445 - 04/09/09 04:22 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Monica K.]
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
As a consumer in a frightening economic climate I seriously doubt that I would be willing to make a 6-10 week downpayment on lessons before the first ever lesson with a teacher. Keep in mind that piano and piano lessons are important to me, and that I respect and value piano teachers.

I would be willing to pay for an introductory session, and think that Betty's idea of applying that money to the future lesson package would make me very happy as a consumer.

Just because you do your due diligence to check out a teacher and his/her studio and think that the two of you would be a good fit, does not mean that you will necessarily 'click' when the butts hit the piano bench' wink In my personal experience, I was friends with my teacher for 4 years before I ever took a lesson from her...and both of us did wonder whether the student/teacher relationship would work or would change the friend/friend relationship. It is possible that one or both of us would hate me taking lessons from her...because me as student and her as teacher are, in a way, pretty different than me as older friend and her as younger friend. I mention this because you would *think* that knowing someone, and seeing them perform as a piano performance student, for 4 years would tell you whether or not the student/teacher relationship would work - but that was not the case!

In that light...walking into a studio, meeting a person for the very first time and being expected to pay in advance 6-10 weeks? Well, more power to you if your reputation is such that this works for you...but I worry on your behalf that it won't. (I hope that isn't insulting)

I can't speak for other posters but I would like to say that I post comments like this in an effort to help piano teachers who read it gauge consumer reactions. It is hard to evaluate a potential plan from another person's point of view, so I hope that my input might be informative. When you have spent so much time on one side of the bench wink it is difficult to get a realistic picture of the view from the other side! That's why I think dialog between students and teachers here is really wonderful.

I sympathize with teachers and certainly hope that my input is taken in the spirit in which it as meant - which is not at all to criticize.

edited because I can spell but apparently I can't type


Edited by ProdigalPianist (04/09/09 04:25 PM)
_________________________
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

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#1177446 - 04/09/09 04:23 PM Re: The Initial Meeting with a new Adult Student [Re: Betty Patnude]
buck2202 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/06/09
Posts: 216
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: Betty Patnude
I am going to offer 3 ways to start lessons and the student may choose 1 of them, or all 3:
1) one lesson at $25 as the interview lesson which will apply to tuition if they start within 30 days.

2) The 10 lessons as a trial period (either one hour, or one half hour) before they commit to a year round schedule and payment plan. Of, if they are happy in 10 week programs where they could take a break in between, I'm prepared to schedule for their convenience.

3) The year round program from which I need 30 day notice to terminate.


As a student, I like #s 1 and 2 in particular as incentive. I live a few minutes away from the Cleveland Institute of Music which people tell me has a very good preparatory and continuing education division for people wanting to take lessons. But when I was looking to start, it turned me off from them that my only option was to sign up and pay for an 18 week semester up front without some sort of a shorter trial period. I may be misrepresenting their policy, as it isn't very detailed on their website and I've heard different things from others recently...but I was looking to have my first lesson ever, and 18 weeks up front seemed to be an awfully big commitment when I had no idea what to expect. So, I went to a music store where I pay weekly, and I suppose I was a little lucky to find a good teacher that way.

I would no longer be scared of paying 18wks up front, but I'd certainly still appreciate a "get acquainted" period. I think you're on the right track, Betty. An interview and option of a trial period would have gone a long way for me.

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