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#1416804 - 04/14/10 01:28 AM Persuading parents
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
I need some suggestions on how to persuade wishy-washy parents to commit more time and energy (and $$) to their kids' piano lessons. These are elementary students who are pretty self-motivated. Their parents are the ones who are noncommittal.
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#1416828 - 04/14/10 03:11 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: AZNpiano]
Elissa Milne Offline
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Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I find that people tend to find reasons to support the course of action to which they are already committed - it's rare to be able to convince someone through the power of your arguments of something that they haven't already started thinking for themselves.

The children will probably have more hope of being persuasive than you will.....
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#1416876 - 04/14/10 07:32 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: AZNpiano]
keystring Offline
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Registered: 12/11/07
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Loc: Canada
AZN, may I ask what specifically you want them to commit their time and energy to? If the child is motivated, then I imagine this child is already practising, and the parent can't do that for the child. Trying to imagine it, a parent would:
pay for lessons and provide transportation, pay for material and maintenance of the instrument, provide an environment and time when practising can take place (no t.v. blaring in the same room, a quiet environment, and maybe scheduled time), be ready to listen and show interest.

May I ask what is missing that you wish they would do? Maybe any of us remiss in some area could also take note.

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#1416916 - 04/14/10 08:47 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: keystring]
Morodiene Online   content
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Perhaps he's referring to a better instrument to practice on, longer lesson time, or participation in competitions or recitals? Those are usually the things that I run up against with students who are more enthusiastic than the parents. However, in this area, there are some students who simply cannot afford longer lessons. Some people are very reluctant to come out and say that, where others are more transparent. Sometimes you just have to mention it and hope that when they are able, they will go for it.
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#1416964 - 04/14/10 10:08 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Morodiene]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Well, there is also the issue of parents who don't show much enthusiasm or put out much energy on behalf of their kids' musical efforts. Over time, this can send a pretty strong signal to the kids that music doesn't matter much. Yes, there are self-motivated go-getters who will take the world by storm, but I suspect most kids ultimately are influenced to some degree by the signals they receive from their parents about what is important and what is not.
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#1416972 - 04/14/10 10:32 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Piano*Dad]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
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Loc: northern California
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Well, there is also the issue of parents who don't show much enthusiasm or put out much energy on behalf of their kids' musical efforts. Over time, this can send a pretty strong signal to the kids that music doesn't matter much. Yes, there are self-motivated go-getters who will take the world by storm, but I suspect most kids ultimately are influenced to some degree by the signals they receive from their parents about what is important and what is not.


+1!!!

I am hoping to get some insight and ideas from this thread, too.
My students have their big spring formal recital coming up next week and while most are motivated, many parents are not. Parents are busy with their other children and so many, many activities, and I think this plays a part in not being able to fully commit to our standards in the studios.
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#1416983 - 04/14/10 10:42 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Barb860]
elfenbein Offline
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Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 45
Loc: USA
My favorite (?) gripe is parents who don't invest in a good instrument until the kid "shows promise" or in other ways proves him/herself. Argh! Then, if said kid wins first or second place at a competition - DESPITE their lousy instrument at home - the parents say, "See, he's doing just fine."

Any ideas?

P.S.: I am not talking about a $50,000 grand piano. I am talking about a decent instrument where all the keys work, and where you can make dynamic differences. Something that stays in tune for longer than two weeks, and where the pedal works.
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#1417002 - 04/14/10 11:13 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Barb860]
Juli_et Offline
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Registered: 11/27/09
Posts: 34
Loc: On, Canada
I do not think there is much someone can do. I was a self-motivated child and teenager and it was painful for me but I do not think anyone would have change anything. My parents are not into music at all. I showed musical interest early. I had a small organ when I was young given to me by my aunt. I played by hear things I heard on the radio. When I was 12 years old I entered a musical program in high school where I learned to play clarinet but they also taught us some keyboard basic which I felt in love with it right away. My grandmother had a piano and I borrowed some music book. I learned by myself Fur Elise (the easy part only) and other stuff. I spent hours on the keyboard. I begged for an acoustic piano and lessons for 3 years before it happened. I was then 15 years old when they finally bought an old upright (100 years old junk) piano. But then again my mother told me "well you can read music so you can play, you don't need lessons". At one point they finally agreed on lessons and it is not because they were busy with other children (I am a single child) or no money because they were always ready to pay me other stuff they were more interested in (which I was not very interested in). The piano was in a heated attached garage so no interference with TV in the living room. A lot of time my mother yelled at me to stop practicing because she did not like the piece I was given. One Christmas I asked for piano books and I specified classical. My godfather bought some but he was told by my mother "modern" music (which my mother thought pop music) but actually I am not sure in English but in French "modern" refers to 20th century classical so I ended up with some Shostakovitch, Kabalevsky, Bartok and many others in an anthology which my mother hated. It was then a source of conflict because I wanted to play some of them and my mother did not want to hear me practicing it but it was because of here I did not end up with Mozart because she specified "modern"...After high school I went to college and at the end of college, my parents came to my recital and my father fell asleep during the recital...I am now 31 years old and I married a rock/jazz guitarist that I met in college and music will always be part of my life.

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#1417072 - 04/14/10 12:55 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: keystring]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: keystring
AZN, may I ask what specifically you want them to commit their time and energy to?


1) Get a better piano.
1a) Get your piano serviced by a technician!!
1b) When's the last time you got your piano tuned?

2) Stop changing lesson times to suit the kid's other activities.

3) 30-minute lessons are for beginners, not kids who are playing sonatas.

4) Do kids in second grade really need five extracurricular activities?

5) Does it take three weeks to get a freakin' book?

6) Show up on time! I really hate giving 54-minute lessons.
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#1417092 - 04/14/10 01:15 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Morodiene]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Perhaps he's referring to a better instrument to practice on, longer lesson time, or participation in competitions or recitals?


All of the above! Some parents refuse to pay for competitions or take their kids to recitals. Money is not the issue with these parents; it's willingness and priority.
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#1417117 - 04/14/10 01:39 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: AZNpiano]
Dorrie Offline
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Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
AZN -
As a parent, here's what I think


1) Get a better piano/get piano serviced etc

Since you don't (I think) go to the student's homes, you may be perceived as lacking credibility on this one. But, a simple direct statement, delivered periodically would appreciated by me - even better if accompanied by a suggestion. This may need to be repeated to sink in.


2) Stop changing lesson times to suit the kid's other activities.

Hmmm, if not done to excess, this may be a sign of committment- they don't want the child to miss the lesson altogether. I often tell my children, well you can only go to xyz if I can swap a lesson time.

3) 30-minute lessons are for beginners, not kids who are playing sonatas.

Again- be as direct with the parents as you are hear. Susie needs an hour lesson. 30 minutes is not working. Many teachers in my area have a "policy" that 30 minutes are only for the first year and/or kids under x age.

4) Do kids in second grade really need five extracurricular activities?

No. At least not all at once. 1 music plus 1 sport per season plus one other (religious school OR scouts or something else) is way more than enough.

5) Does it take three weeks to get a freakin' book?

Only if they ordered from Sheetmusicplus. For routine stuff available locally it should be available by the next lesson. Agreed.

6) Show up on time! I really hate giving 54-minute lessons.

Inexcusable to be late, although I do think teachers should consider an hour lesson to be about 50-55 minutes with 10 mniutes for meet/greet/exchange info with parents and take a little breather oneself.

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#1417721 - 04/15/10 08:14 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: AZNpiano]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3250
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Perhaps he's referring to a better instrument to practice on, longer lesson time, or participation in competitions or recitals?


All of the above! Some parents refuse to pay for competitions or take their kids to recitals. Money is not the issue with these parents; it's willingness and priority.


I wonder though if some of this isn't just miscommunication of goals.

Your goals are pretty clear. These are the actions necessary to produce a skilled pianist.

The parent may have little interest in producing a highly skilled performer. Many, maybe most parents think they're getting a general musical education that they somewhat resent the public school system doesn't provide, but that they think is important. Put in that context, the parent may be quite committed, but just not share your goals.
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#1417943 - 04/15/10 01:33 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: TimR]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
Gosh, my studio policy takes care of most of these issues. And I have gone to student's homes to check out their instruments so I know what they are dealing with at home.
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#1419977 - 04/19/10 11:54 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Minniemay]
elfenbein Offline
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Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 45
Loc: USA
Minniemay - just curious: how do you deal with a student/parent who refuses to get a decent instrument? Perhaps you don't have that kind of student but could you pretend?

We piano teachers, unlike most other instrument teachers, don't get to see our students' instruments at every lesson.

Oh, by the way: the stool/bench they sit on is just as important as the piano! I remember my piano teacher telling the story of one student who always played with a lot of tension, and she finally found out, during an unrelated home visit, why: his piano stool was so wobbly, he had to hold on for dear life to not fall off ...
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#1420013 - 04/19/10 01:01 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: elfenbein]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I inquire about their piano at the interview. I don't accept students who have only a keyboard. I also ask them when it was last serviced and give them cards from two different technicians. If ti gets to the point where they are not having the work done, I tell them I will not continue lessons until the piano is repaired or tuned.
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#1420058 - 04/19/10 02:33 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Minniemay]
elfenbein Offline
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Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 45
Loc: USA
smile That reminds me: when I was on sabbatical (lived in a different city for 18 months), I travelled to piano students' homes to teach which was an interesting experience. What always got me were the parents who, during the phone interview, said (about their instrument), "Well, we only have a [dadada] - I don't know if that is good enough for lessons."

I always thought that was such an odd thing to say: how can something that they doubt would be "good enough for lessons" be possibly good enough for day-to-day practicing??
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#1420066 - 04/19/10 02:55 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: elfenbein]
Minniemay Offline
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Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
There are all kinds of analogies you can use. Would you expect your child to play basketball with a flat ball? Would you let them go to dance class in jeans? Would you have them do their homework with a broken pencil?

If you instrument isn't in working order, you are wasting your money.
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#1420113 - 04/19/10 04:26 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Minniemay]
AZNpiano Offline
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
There are all kinds of analogies you can use. Would you expect your child to play basketball with a flat ball? Would you let them go to dance class in jeans? Would you have them do their homework with a broken pencil?

If you instrument isn't in working order, you are wasting your money.


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#1420130 - 04/19/10 04:53 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: AZNpiano]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
Some parents require a lot of educating. As I was the first person in my family to have any kind of music lessons, it would have been very helpful had my teacher explained things to my parents.

My mother honestly thought that it shouldn't matter that I had a poorly working instrument or a teacher who could barely play intermediate music herself. In fact, mom said that to me more than once.

She really believed, if I had any talent, I would have been like those kids who start at age whatever and are soloing with the Boston Symphony a year and a half later. Since I wasn't, that was "proof" that a better piano and better teacher wouldn't have helped anyway.

I now firmly believe that teachers of beginning students should investigate very carefully to find out what parents believe about music instruction and work to educate them when they are lacking.

Those stories about prodigies that overcame this-or-that difficulty to become world famous musicians approximately 5 minutes after they first touched a piano do more harm than good in some ways.


Edited by ProdigalPianist (04/19/10 04:59 PM)
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#1420139 - 04/19/10 05:06 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: ProdigalPianist]
elfenbein Offline
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Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 45
Loc: USA
Sad but so true.

One of my college professors once told us that the only way to change someone's mind is to change their values first. One has to value piano lessons before one can understand why a decent instrument (and bringing books to each lesson etc) are important.

What would have changed your mother's mind, ProdigalP? What kind of educating would have helped? I have never had a parent that extreme, but the tendency is often there ....
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#1420160 - 04/19/10 05:34 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: elfenbein]
ProdigalPianist Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
It would have been less changing her mind as educating her about what it means to take piano lessons and why a quality instrument and instruction matter.

Maybe using an example that would make sense to them...back in the days of stick shift you could have said, "you can't learn to drive well on a vehicle that has a broken transmission"...

Although that could backfire as some cultures make a virtue out of "overcoming" such things and believe it makes you a better 'whatever'...maybe a better one would have been "you can't tell when to air up the tires if the tire gauge doesn't work"

Music was, and remains, a total mystery to my parents. They don't understand that proper technique is something that can be taught, they don't understand what practice is (they thought when they heard me do detailed practice it meant I wasn't very good as I couldn't "just play it"). They've been misinformed by the 'cult of talent' stories they have heard. They don't understand that the truth of the matter...that what a great pianist can do, who has been well taught and worked hard, is so much more impressive than some savant who just sits down and is able to play a Beethoven Sonata the first time they touch a piano!
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#1420179 - 04/19/10 06:30 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: ProdigalPianist]
Jeff Clef Offline
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Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4441
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...when they finally bought an old upright (100 years old junk) ...my mother told me "well you can read music so you can play, you don't need lessons". ... The piano was in a heated attached garage so no interference with TV in the living room. A lot of time my mother yelled at me to stop practicing because she did not like the piece I was given. One Christmas I asked for piano books and I specified classical....so I ended up with some Shostakovitch, Kabalevsky, Bartok and many others in an anthology which my mother hated. It was then a source of conflict because I wanted to play some of them and my mother did not want to hear me practicing it but it was because of here I did not end up with Mozart ...at the end of college, my parents came to my recital and my father fell asleep ...I am now 31 years old and I married a rock/jazz guitarist... music will always be part of my life."

When I was 31 years old, Juliet, I had a lot to say about my parents, too. Now that I'm nearly twice as old and they are gone, I'm feeling a lot less critical, and appreciate more fully the great burdens they carried on their backs for their whole life. And part of their burden was not understanding the rather unusual kids they were dealt; or knowing how to hold down a job and keep the household going, while also knowing all about how to be all-star parents.

I see some bright spots in your story, and I have to admire your perseverance; your enduring love for music shows like a bright, warm fire. Certainly, we would wish our parents could have supported our interests with their attention. And a better piano--- oh yeah! With a sound-insulated practice room; our piano was in the living room with the TV, and the parents wanted to hear the TV after work and not the piano.

These days, I've come to realize that listening to a beginner (or anyone) practice can wear on the nerves, especially if they're already frayed. When I was that age, I was not able to understand the other person's point of view, or their problems. I did not understand how important it was, for me, to know how to forgive and to forbear. (I still have a problem with it, but I've gotten a bit better.)

Your letter has some good food for thought for parents. I'm glad you have more support for music in your life now. Get yourself a nice piano and keep going with lessons. Your mother may, literally, never have heard of Mozart and less still, have known how to appreciate the modern Russian composers--- but now... I say, go for it. That's an example you can show your own kids that will help them in life, no matter what interests they have.

--- Clef


PS- Our family piano came from my grandmother, too. She paid 500 bucks for it, secondhand, during the middle of the Depression, so my mom could have piano lessons. Back then, that was real money and a real sacrifice (and a real commitment). She wouldn't have known what was a good instrument or a poor one, but she knew that giving the kids a chance was worth what she had to give up to make it possible.

I just say this because I've found it makes me a lot happier to think of the love that was there, than it does to think about what wasn't there.

So go live your dream. I wish you the best of good fortune with it.
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Clef


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#1420187 - 04/19/10 06:41 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Jeff Clef]
currawong Offline
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Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
I just say this because I've found it makes me a lot happier to think of the love that was there, than it does to think about what wasn't there.
Well said, Jeff - terrific post. thumb
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#1420236 - 04/19/10 08:23 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: currawong]
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Terrific post indeed.

Aging has few advantages, but one is perspective.

I guess I could say many similar things about my own background. I had a mother who valued music, but who had almost no ability herself. when she was young she struggled against the forces that dictated the training of a well-to-do 1930s child and thus rebelled against her own parents who pushed music as a 'finishing school' skill for young ladies. Yet when her time came to be a parent, she was a firm force behind my own music education. A firm force, but not a particularly well educated one (given her own rebellious musical ignorance). I learned on the ancient broken down upright that she had 'used' when she was supposedly learning how to play. It was a piano, after all. She had no clue about pianos. I could easily blame her for shortchanging my education, or alternatively, for pushing back against my own adolescent rebellion when I too wanted to quit. After all, wasn't she just forcing me to do what her parents had tried to force her to do?

Yet when I was fifteen, my parents finally understood that the depression era Gulbransen was a handicap, and they got a grand piano for me ... an entry-level Howard-label Kawai. This piano helped me to understand how to make music and it propelled me to develop a genuine work ethic. But it was far too late to master the piano.

I suppose I did blame my folks for things, mostly for their ignorance. The piano teacher we sought out when I was sixteen minced no words ... "I wish I had gotten a hold of you years ago." That stuck with me. Again, a potential source of blame. But like Jeff, now that I'm older I understand the many constraints under which my parents were operating. They had full time jobs, and they had no real clue about music education, or college choice in the 'modern age,' or many other things that seemed desperately important to me in the years immediately after I became an 'adult.'

Heck, I'm beginning to side with J.R.R. Tolkien's claim (about Hobbits, of course) that adulthood doesn't really begin until age 33. smile

Now that they're gone, I can't tell them just how much I appreciate how hard they worked for me.
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#1420262 - 04/19/10 09:25 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Piano*Dad]
Barb860 Offline
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Registered: 04/11/09
Posts: 1646
Loc: northern California
Piano Dad, I played an old Gulbransen, too, similar story to yours. At age 16 my family could afford to let it go and give me a better instrument. They did the best they could for me and like your parents, they're gone now and there's so much I wish I could say to them in appreciation.....
But instead, what I can do is appreciate what the parents of my students do for them, and focus on that, rather that complain so much about what they won't and don't do.
A student of mine has an old clunker piano and that's literally all they can afford, she loves taking lessons, and they are doing the best they can.
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#1420278 - 04/19/10 09:56 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Barb860]
Nguyen Offline
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Registered: 10/25/09
Posts: 430
Loc: Massachusetts
Juliet, Jef Clef, Piano*Dad et al,
Some brilliant posts… I’m moved.

As I read all these posts, I was thinking, are we a little one-sided? Music is our love, our passion, our top priorities beside work and family. I’m sure other parents have other priorities, sports, arts, dance, martial arts…?

I’m into sports and dance, but not so much arts (drawing and such) or martial arts. If my child is into martial arts, I guess I’ll try to be understanding and supportive but I don’t think you’d see much enthusiasm. Who knows, I might even sleep through his drawing contests/exhibitions and whatnot.

For those parents without musical background or interests, I guess there aren’t much teachers can do. I do think they value music somewhat because their kids are having lessons.

Educating parents is a good point but I don’t think it should be a teacher’s burden. If parents are interested, they would find ways to educate themselves already. What do to? I hope we will do our best to inspire musical love & passion. Who knows, you might end up with a few great first generation musicians. smile
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#1420332 - 04/19/10 11:26 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Nguyen]
elfenbein Offline
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Registered: 03/30/10
Posts: 45
Loc: USA
In defense of Juliet et al., I don't think anyone was *blaming* their parents. I think it was simply an acknowledgment that there wasn't enough support. My mother made sure I had a good piano and an excellent teacher (whose tuition was almost more than she could afford) but when I excitedly asked her after a recital what she thought of my Bach Italian Concerto, even she managed to say, "well, you know ... that's not really my style of music ..." I was crushed. She wasn't terribly diplomatic ...

Saying "this is how it was and I wish it had been different" is not the same as *blaming* one's parents.
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#1420346 - 04/19/10 11:47 PM Re: Persuading parents [Re: Piano*Dad]
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5976
Loc: Down Under
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Now that they're gone, I can't tell them just how much I appreciate how hard they worked for me.
Yes. Yes. And if only I could.
_________________________
Du holde Kunst...

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#1420412 - 04/20/10 03:04 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: currawong]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5590
Loc: Orange County, CA
A couple of my family friends have purchased a baby grand for their kids, who play the piano super, super well. When I tried their pianos, I cringed. They haven't had it tuned for years. And all the keys were uneven, in dire need of action regulation. I made my case rather bluntly to these parents. They gave me the cold shoulder. It's like, they've already made the investment to upgrade to a baby grand and paid a zillion dollars for lessons, and that's enough. Their piano teachers (one is a world-class pianist!) obviously couldn't get through to these parents, either.

I have to keep on reiterating myself. These kids play so well, and they devote so much time to practicing, it is a SHAME that they have to do it on a subpar instrument. And money isn't even the problem. It's ignorance. Plain and simple. Ignorance.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1420414 - 04/20/10 03:06 AM Re: Persuading parents [Re: currawong]
landorrano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/06
Posts: 2472
Loc: France
Originally Posted By: currawong
Originally Posted By: Piano*Dad
Now that they're gone, I can't tell them just how much I appreciate how hard they worked for me.
Yes. Yes. And if only I could.


Yes but, if they were still here you probably wouldn't tell them.

Life is funny that way.

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