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#1549335 - 11/02/10 02:20 PM rant about phone call
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
I met a retired librarian who is new to our city and to our music club. She moved here to be close to her daughter. Anyway, she said she'd like to teach piano a couple of days a week. And she has at least once recently played piano for a friend's cocktail party.

She ended up calling me today to ask what the going rate for piano lessons is. I told her the amount generally charged for 30 minute lessons ($15) and she said "Oh, my GOD! That's highway robbery!" I explained how there is a lot of planning etc involved, but she again said her line about highway robbery.

I feel ticked off. There is someone sitting on a retirement plan from working as a librarian, criticizing what piano teachers charge. And with no teaching experience, little performance experience, limited education and little passion for piano playing...thinks she'll hang out her shingle...while rattling off her criticism about what professionals charge.

I'd hate to take another call like that. I tend to answer questions directly. But wish I'd had a better response to her criticism. I could have said "But someone with no experience teaching, little music background, little performance experience, limited commitment to teaching and little to offer generally charges much less." If only I could have thought of that and given myself permission to say it. (Maybe I'll have the opportunity at the next music club meeting.)

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#1549342 - 11/02/10 02:26 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5510
Loc: Orange County, CA
I know how you feel...

I live around several piano teachers who are 10 or 20 years past retirement age. They haven't raised their rates since 1972.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1549350 - 11/02/10 02:33 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
There is a teacher here charing $5 for a 30 minute lesson! She's quite old now, and I personally know one of her students who was in the same level of lesson book for over 2 years (we are talking piano adventures, which is not fast moving anyway!)

Ya get what you pay for!
_________________________
~Stanny~

Independent Music Teacher
Certified Piano Teacher, American College of Musicians
Member: MTNA, NGPT, ASMTA, NAMTA

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#1549352 - 11/02/10 02:34 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Also, Hubby is often paying the bills!
_________________________
snobbyish, yet maybe helpful.
http://keyboardclass.blogspot.com/


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#1549368 - 11/02/10 02:52 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
I could have said that yes it can be highway robbery if the family is only receiving babysitting instead of professional education.

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#1549371 - 11/02/10 02:55 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
david_a Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/11/09
Posts: 2913
There has been a major shift in expectations over the past (X number of years, I can't say).
_________________________
(I'm a piano teacher.)

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#1549376 - 11/02/10 03:00 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
A suggested retort:

"No, it's actually completely legal, and I don't conduct my business on highways. If you are making an analogy: that charging $15 for a half hour piano lesson seems to you like I am holding people up at gunpoint and taking their possessions, then I suggest you talk to some victims of violent crime so that you can learn first hand how repugnant this analogy is to anyone with experience of being held at gunpoint and robbed. Further, if your point is that charging a rate of $30 an hour in any way resembles theft then you might do well to take a beginners course in running a small business. This hourly rate is not a wage, and it appears to me that you have made a basic error in accounting in deeming it to be thus. $30 an hour will result in a wage that returns from 50 to 65% more than the federal minimum wage once my costs have been deducted and all my working hours have been taken into account, putting my wage (calculated on a pro rata basis) well below the average wage in this country (which for women is about 2 times the figure I earn, and for men about 2.5 times the income I will receive this year). Further still, in this country a charged rate of $30 an hour for a professional who has studied for many years and in addition has gained experience in the profession resembles not robbery but charity, and it is only in charitable circumstances that you would find other kinds of professionals placing such a low value on their work. Thank you for sharing your views with me: your idiosyncratic and poorly informed economic perspectives remind me what a great country we live in."
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1549396 - 11/02/10 03:21 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Now, now, Calm down!

Of course, we would have all thought the same thing: What the Friggin, samhill, ^%$#@!(*&^%?

I wonder if she has an MILS degree. My wife, a librarian, frequently reminds me that the clerk who checks books in and out of the library at the front desk is not a librarian, but a desk clerk. Perhaps you can use this analogy somehow to your advantage the next time you chat with her.
_________________________
"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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#1549420 - 11/02/10 03:45 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Lollipop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/09
Posts: 820
Loc: Georgia
I do think there is sticker shock when people hear what lessons cost. I've learned to not take it personally. Many people haven't priced out lessons since they took their own, many many years ago. They are reacting to the huge jump from then till now. Think about what you would think if you hadn't bought gas for 30 years - or 60. Generally, after they've thought about it for a little while, they come around.

I do not give a "per 30 minutes" price anymore - just a "16 week semester fee." Somehow, although it's a bigger number, it is more palatable. And then I can explain that I don't break it down into an hourly fee, because there is so much time I spend outside of the student's time, and that the lesson fee covers my planning, shopping time, expenses, planning and hosting recitals, emails and phone calls, etc. I use this to also explain why they don't get a refund for a missed lesson.



Edited by Lollipop (11/02/10 03:46 PM)
_________________________
piano teacher

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#1549448 - 11/02/10 04:22 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Lollipop, you're right that it's best not to take it personally and not to quote an hourly rate. I'll can give an honest answer by saying that most teachers charge by the semester or by the month. And I can quote semester fees that professionals charge.

John, I like your idea of asking this "librarian" if she has a MILS (Masters in Library Science? Or Media Information? Not sure what this stands for.) and if she considers the clerk who checks out books to be a librarian. This particular woman is living independently on retirement pension from being a librarian, so I'd say she has the degree. At least that was my impression from talking with her.

Elissa, well said. If only I could have thought of that.

I still feel zinged by the call. I thought she called to initiate a friendship and perhaps get together sometime. Instead I was just used to get one piece of information and then insulted. Yuck!


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (11/02/10 04:25 PM)

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#1549460 - 11/02/10 04:40 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
Well, it's easy to think of what to say when the moment has passed... I was also just thinking you could have said "oh excuse me, there seems to be something wrong with the phone connection: it sounded like you just said the words 'highway robbery' - how funny is that!! Sorry, what was that you were just saying?"
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1549474 - 11/02/10 05:01 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7393
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
MILS = Masters of Information and Library Science. They have to take 15 or more grad hours in the information sciences (ie computer technology) on top of a regular masters degree. Many librarians have two masters degrees, one in library science and the other in an applied subject, which is the focus of what ever library they are working at. One of their primary tasks is collection development and source discovery, which means they have to be fluent in the language of their user base.
_________________________
"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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#1549490 - 11/02/10 05:25 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
If this woman approaches me again (at music club meeting) I might tell her "If you're asking how much I think YOU should charge, I think you should charge $20 per month. That way you can know that your students will be getting their money's worth." (Ha! Ha!)

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#1549492 - 11/02/10 05:28 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Elissa, I like the phone connection idea.

John, thanks for further info about MILS.

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#1549537 - 11/02/10 06:33 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5300
Loc: Europe
Ann, just to make you feel a bit easier, it's not apart what's happening with composition, but coming from young and inexperienced so called "composers". I've seen one too many ads on various forums, offering tracks for $5, per track. Assuming it takes a few good hours to create a track (regardless of length, btw), as well as the amount of money one needs to spend to build a studio (*ahem* everything THEY are using is cracked, as opposed to my dearly bought stuff!), you can understand that they are charging around $1 per hour for their work!

When in fact I charge lots more and any other professional in the industry does as well!

Honestly, I wouldn't have kept my mouth shut to such a comment! Then again, I'm a hot headed Greek so better not take my 'advice'! laugh
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1549548 - 11/02/10 06:47 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Nikolas, I like the idea of your a hot headed response! But I am always too passive in these situations...always avoiding a confrontation. In all honesty, I will not be speaking to this woman again. Even if she shows up for club meetings, I'll find that I'm busy with someone else. I'll be polite, but distant. That's my pattern. If she asks me a direct question, I'll just have a vague answer...or smile and walk away.

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#1549611 - 11/02/10 08:17 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
My first response would be...

'Why do you ask?'

If she states that she would like to begin teaching I would suggest that this is a very bad idea given that she has no qualifications and no experience. Perhaps if she were to invest in some training she might begin to understand why professional piano teachers charge what they do.
_________________________
Pianist and piano teacher.

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#1549614 - 11/02/10 08:25 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Chris H.]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
My first response would be...

'Why do you ask?'

Brilliant! Asking a question turns it around and the response given will give you all the clues you need (usually) as to why this woman does not see the value in piano lessons.

By the way, music teachers may be the lowest paid 'degreed' profession.
_________________________
Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1549622 - 11/02/10 08:33 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Chris H.]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3165
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
My first response would be...

'Why do you ask?'


That is a great response to burn into your memory. I learned to use it whenever someone asks a question that they have no business asking, or that I do not want to answer. It really shuts them up, or exposes them.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1549632 - 11/02/10 08:46 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
And what if they answer "I want to know". This tactic relies on commonly held thresholds for shame.

But it therefore will be effective 99 times out of 100 (or 200/300/400, depending on how shameless the people are who you meet!)
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1549637 - 11/02/10 08:53 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Chris H.]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Chris H.
My first response would be...

'Why do you ask?'

If she states that she would like to begin teaching I would suggest that this is a very bad idea given that she has no qualifications and no experience. Perhaps if she were to invest in some training she might begin to understand why professional piano teachers charge what they do.


And then let her know what you would charge to teach her and that you have openings on Saturday evenings LOL!
_________________________
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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#1549639 - 11/02/10 08:57 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4425
Loc: San Jose, CA
You can always smile pleasantly and reply, "I seldom ask personal questions--- and I never answer them."

It seems to me my first piano teacher (who was a pro, both as a teacher and a performer) charged my parents five bucks an hour for my lessons. But, good God, that was forty years ago--- no, more than that now. A 1965 dollar was worth about ten or eleven 2010 dollars. You could buy a nice, modern four-bedroom ranch house on forty acres for twenty grand.

If this lady gossips about how expensive you are, Ann, it will only do you good. Do not worry about the retired librarian. Making such a comment to you was a fine display of 'no manners,' as well as 'out-of-date values.'
_________________________
Clef


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#1549645 - 11/02/10 09:03 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Canonie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/04/09
Posts: 1941
Loc: Australia
but it wouldn't work in this case because the person told AnnIK that she was thinking of doing some teaching, which is a very good reason to ask questions!

I still remember how one of the first families I taught were surprised how "high" my lesson rate was (it was low!). They had been playing $15 a half hour lesson in Australia which I thought was outrageous. Trouble was, the family were also friends so it was hard for me to squeak "but I'm worth it" with any conviction. But I stuck to my principles and it worked out.

For me, I always get the most value for money by going to the most expensive teachers I can find, in anything. It's actually cheaper per skill taught if you know what I mean. I'm serious!

Elissa your first rant was hilarious laugh

Ann I've always liked the response along the lines of, "Oh, cheap lessons, yes I've heard of those. I wouldn't want any for myself but I've heard that some people like that sort of thing (raises eyebrows). And no, I can't do cheap music lessons anymore, I've really forgotten how. Mind you, I could pull out the 1940s piano tutor and call out note corrections from my chair; repeat. Would that be any use to you?"
_________________________

Composers manufacture a product that is universally deemed superfluous—at least until their music enters public consciousness, at which point people begin to say that they could not live without it.
Alex Ross.

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#1549713 - 11/02/10 10:41 PM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Elissa Milne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/10
Posts: 1337
Loc: Sydney, NSW, Australia
(raises eyebrows) - I love it - is there an emoticon for that?!
_________________________
Teacher, Composer, Writer, Speaker
Working with Hal Leonard, Alfred, Faber, and Australian Music Examination Board
Music in syllabuses by ABRSM, AMEB, Trinity Guildhall, ANZCA, NZMEB, and more
www.elissamilne.wordpress.com

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#1549766 - 11/03/10 12:12 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 850
Perhaps Ann, you could ask to meet her because you have some concerns about her recent phone call to you. Or send her a nice letter. You would need to be well-prepared, but it could work. I wrote a letter to someone about her similar complaint to me about the cost of piano lessons. She wrote back and apologized.

It's one of the hardest issues to deal with. By the way, $15/half hour is outrageously low, and one of the things I'm fighting against in our city. I often write teachers with credentials who charge too little and tell them so.

A lot goes into teaching besides credentials. Some things to mention:
your positive attitude, not everybody is as nice as you,
your hours are limited to times children are out of school,
your bills continue through the summer and other breaks,
your expense to become a piano teacher
your ability to handle children who are high maintenance,
your business risk, (reduced numbers some years, students leaving in-session)
your business expenses
your hope to one day replace your piano
your ongoing education.

Please make the effort to talk with her again, and assume she's got more on the ball than she's let on to you.

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#1549793 - 11/03/10 12:54 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Elissa Milne]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5510
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Elissa Milne
(raises eyebrows) - I love it - is there an emoticon for that?!


You mean this one?

_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1549910 - 11/03/10 08:57 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2647
Thank you for all the ideas expresssed. I like the idea of saying "Why do you ask?" but this woman had already expressed to me her interest in teaching when I saw her at our state federated music club convention. But still, I could have inquired first. Such as, "So are you making plans to teach as you mentioned last time I saw you?" Get the conversation started and focus on her...and not just deliver a one sentence answer.

This woman is out of date with what music lessons cost. I paid $22.50 per lesson 18 years ago! But that was for lessons with a harpist with a master's in performance. I'm sure music lessons with a librarian would have been much less! (Ha! Ha!)

The quote I gave of $15 per lesson is low. The serious teachers with master's degrees and have kids in guild and are the ones who students excel charge more. They tend to offer 45 minute lessons and charge quarterly.

This particular woman mentioned that she played "oldies" (which she herself hates) at her friend's party and that she hasn't touched her piano since. There is a real lack of enthusiasm and commitment. In our initial conversation I mentioned how teaching in the evenings means I don't get out to as many performances as I'd like. And right away she says she only wants to work 2 days a week. This is likely someone who would just pick any old books off a shelf and not bother to gets kids into performing.


I've tried to get over it with a reality check. And that is that it is unlikely that she will find students. And even if she does, they will get what they pay for. One or two students whose parents are looking for what they see as a bargain.

Candywoman, thanks for your suggestion that I talk with this woman again. If she approaches me again, I'll focus on her "How are your plans for teaching coming along?" and I will observe her...and keep my opinions, suggestions and lessons learned through experience to myself. I tend to let people into my inner circle of confidence too easily. She needs to be bumped back out to the level of acquaintance which is all she is to me.

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#1549925 - 11/03/10 09:27 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
danshure Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/29/10
Posts: 347
Loc: Massachusetts
It would be a win for everyone if she could do do it for what it really would be (and seems to want it to be); volunteering.

But when it's this gray area of her teaching for an extra activity/fun and maybe she feels like she should charge but is uncomfortable charging a decent amount, everyone loses. It's best to either charge a fee and be firm about it or be honest with yourself and if its just something for fun, do it as volunteer work.
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#1549926 - 11/03/10 09:28 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12043
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I like Candywoman's idea of sending a letter. That way you can say all that needs to be said. Of course, it will probably come back to bite her in the end, but then what about those unfortunate people who go with her? Then they may think that all piano lessons are like that and give up all together rather than try to find a better teacher. I think demanding respect for your profession by someone who proposes to teach it is necessary. You're not doing it for her benefit, but protecting piano teaching as a profession.
_________________________
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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#1549952 - 11/03/10 10:02 AM Re: rant about phone call [Re: Overexposed]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
$15/30 min, seems like extraordinarily good value to me.
_________________________
Rob

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