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#1638288 - 03/10/11 03:44 PM "Leave of Absence" Policy?
sonataplayer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/09/11
Posts: 64
Loc: New Hampshire
Hi Everyone,

I just discovered this forum and have already learned a great deal from reading the various posts. I love it!

I have recently been having a problem with students taking prolonged periods of time off from lessons, and then expecting to resume lessons on the same day/time when they come back. In one case, the leave of absence was quite justified. This was an adult student who was having some very serious problems with her teenage daughter and no time to focus on piano. The others were rather less justified, e.g., a parent pulling her kids out of lessons for the whole month of December because "the Christmas season is just too hectic;" another mother who, the day before her son's lesson sent an email saying that he would be taking the month of March off because they were having house guests and he would have no time to practice and she would have no time to drive him to his lessons.

I have been toying with the idea of adding a "leave of absence" policy to my contract. Something like: If you choose to take three or more weeks off from lessons I will require payment for those lessons in order to guarantee your lesson time when you return." Does this sound reasonable? If so, should I make an exception for people who have really good reasons for needing to take time off -- serious illness, injury, family crisis, etc.?

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#1638298 - 03/10/11 04:12 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
bmbutler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/10
Posts: 226
Loc: North Carolina
Personally, I would not have a "leave of absence" policy. It sounds like (with the one adult student) that these parents aren't committed to the lessons in the first place. I have a studio policy that requires a 30 day notice if lessons are to be discontinued and either the student comes to their lesson for that last month or payment is expected. Very black and white. Have not had any problems. Those that quit or say they will be back sign the policy and abide by it. From my experience, those that say they are going to take a "leave" won't be back. Why would you keep their spot available? I always tell them if this happens that I will try, but cannot guarantee I will have an available slot for them in my schedule.
_________________________
Bachelor of Music (church music)
Master of Church Music (organ, music education)
Piano Teacher since 1992
Church Musician since 1983

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#1638327 - 03/10/11 05:04 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA


It may be tough at first, but I strongly urge you to transition to some form of tuition plan, where students pay by the month, term, semester, year, or what ever. I have annual tuition, but students can opt to pay in monthly installments. They have X scheduled lessons through the year, at lesson times which are theirs alone. They can either take the lesson or skip the lesson. Monthly payments are ironed out to be flat rate through the year, although some months have 5 lessons, most have 4, and a few, like December, will have 3.

If students have a reason to quit prior to the end of the year, such as a family move, then they owe an early termination fee, which absolves them of paying the entire tuition.

I also have an annual enrollment fee, which covers a number of odds and ends, helps with the recital, tuning the studio instruments, etc, etc.

If they need to take a month off, all they need do is continue paying their tuition, and their lesson slot is held (obviously), but if they quit, pay the early termination fee, then come back two months later with a change of heart, I will work to fit them in, but under no circumstances can I make any guaranty that a particular lesson time will be available. And of course, they would be required to pay a new enrollment fee.

We've had many discussions on this, and you would enjoy/profit by going back through the archives and reading the many teachers' inputs.
_________________________
"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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#1638334 - 03/10/11 05:12 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Smallpiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/14/10
Posts: 270
Loc: California
Hi John,
I am curious how much is your early termination fee in related to your monthly fee?
Such as if my monthly fee is $120, how much should I charge for early termination fee?
_________________________
English is my 4th languages, please excuse my grammar. Thanks

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#1638410 - 03/10/11 07:15 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
John summed up exactly what I wanted to say.

My studio differs in that I do not have a termination fee. You pay for lessons a semester at a time. There are no refunds. I would suggest a tightening of your studio policy.
_________________________
~Stanny~

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

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#1638412 - 03/10/11 07:17 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
One month's tuition plus any outstanding payments due. So if they terminate on April 1, they'd still owe April's tuition payment plus the termination fee.

If you decide to do this, make sure you spell it out clearly in your policy statements and I'd suggest covering it during the initial interview. For example:

"When you join the Studio, you owe one year's tuition (pro-rated if not at the beginning of the year). If you decide to withdraw from the Studio before the end of the year, you will owe accumulated tuition plus an early withdrawal fee."
_________________________
"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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#1638424 - 03/10/11 07:39 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: Stanny]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Originally Posted By: Stanny
John summed up exactly what I wanted to say.

My studio differs in that I do not have a termination fee. You pay for lessons a semester at a time. There are no refunds. I would suggest a tightening of your studio policy.


What do you do if there is a medical emergency in their family, if they move, etc etc etc - particularly outstanding reasons for their withdrawal at any given time?
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1638426 - 03/10/11 07:47 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: ll]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: ll
Originally Posted By: Stanny
John summed up exactly what I wanted to say.

My studio differs in that I do not have a termination fee. You pay for lessons a semester at a time. There are no refunds. I would suggest a tightening of your studio policy.


What do you do if there is a medical emergency in their family, if they move, etc etc etc - particularly outstanding reasons for their withdrawal at any given time?


The termination fee still holds. The families know very well what they're getting into when signing the contract. I'm pretty sure this will be John's response. Correct me if I'm wrong. We've had similar discussions many times before, about the need for a steady income, and why such policies are justified in that respect, etc. Not that I agree with the entire philosophy but what do I know? I have not experienced the difficulties that piano teachers have faced with such situations. I do know though that I would try to find some other solution (to keep my income coming in) rather than to twist people's arms in the event of an emergency.
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1638429 - 03/10/11 07:50 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: liszt85]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Originally Posted By: ll
Originally Posted By: Stanny
John summed up exactly what I wanted to say.

My studio differs in that I do not have a termination fee. You pay for lessons a semester at a time. There are no refunds. I would suggest a tightening of your studio policy.


What do you do if there is a medical emergency in their family, if they move, etc etc etc - particularly outstanding reasons for their withdrawal at any given time?


The termination fee still holds. The families know very well what they're getting into when signing the contract. I'm pretty sure this will be John's response. Correct me if I'm wrong. We've had similar discussions many times before, about the need for a steady income, and why such policies are justified in that respect, etc. Not that I agree with the entire philosophy but what do I know? I have not experienced the difficulties that piano teachers have faced with such situations. I do know though that I would try to find some other solution (to keep my income coming in) rather than to twist people's arms in the event of an emergency.


I'm talking to Stanny. I'm interested in how one handles such a situation where the entire semester is paid but someone needs to leave half-way through/whenever.
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1638447 - 03/10/11 08:37 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3189
Where I work we simply tell parents and students that if they leave the regular cycle of weekly lessons for anything other than a bona-fide emergency, and then another student wants that time slot, the new person gets it, and we will be happy to have them come for lessons at another time slot. If they want to keep the time slot, they have to pay for it as if they were attending.

From time to time I have students who want to come every other week. I tell them that is fine (after telling them it is not as good as weekly lessons), but if someone wants that time slot on a weekly basis, they have to forfeit it.

We do try to work around people's schedules as much as possible. However, for the lessons in "prime time", which is from about 3 pm to about 6 pm, those spots are golden, and we make sure people know that.

No one has ever complained about any of the above scenarios, as they know this is a business, and must be run business-like.
_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#1638499 - 03/10/11 11:21 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: ll]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: ll
What do you do if there is a medical emergency in their family, if they move, etc etc etc - particularly outstanding reasons for their withdrawal at any given time?

Think back to your college days - what were the policies of your institution? How far into the semester could you withdraw and receive partial tuition back?

Teachers, whether part of an institution or operating a private studio, have overhead and that overhead has to be distributed among the enrolled students. If one leaves mid-year, should the other students pick up the slack? Or should the institution over-charge everyone figuring someone will drop out mid-year? Teachers cannot really do that, because of the competitiveness of the profession, thus a cancellation fee to help off-set some of these expenses. The teacher usually gets holding the bag, for the most part.
_________________________
"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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#1638517 - 03/10/11 11:54 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
ll Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/14/08
Posts: 1101
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: ll
What do you do if there is a medical emergency in their family, if they move, etc etc etc - particularly outstanding reasons for their withdrawal at any given time?

Think back to your college days - what were the policies of your institution? How far into the semester could you withdraw and receive partial tuition back?

Teachers, whether part of an institution or operating a private studio, have overhead and that overhead has to be distributed among the enrolled students. If one leaves mid-year, should the other students pick up the slack? Or should the institution over-charge everyone figuring someone will drop out mid-year? Teachers cannot really do that, because of the competitiveness of the profession, thus a cancellation fee to help off-set some of these expenses. The teacher usually gets holding the bag, for the most part.


No John, I understand and agree to an extent. I follow the same type of procedure you do: a tuition-based fee based on the year that is split into monthly installments, with a cancellation fee (basically, until the end of the month no matter what happens).

I'm just talking about a teacher who charges for the whole semester, without refunds, and what happens when someone has to stop for whatever reason. Just honestly curious if it's happened and what is done in that situation if it's over a medical emergency or similar reasons.
_________________________
II. As in, second best.
Only lowercase. So not even that.
I teach piano and violin.
BM, Violin & Percussion Performance 2009, Piano Pedagogy 2011.

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#1638533 - 03/11/11 12:16 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 857
"Unless otherwise agreed to prior to September, you are committed to forty lessons for this session, beginning in September 2010 and ending in June 2011." You could write a line like this in your Welcome Sheet.

For the Christmas parent, I'd say you still have to pay for the lessons, but if you'd prefer, we can do two lessons per week for a few weeks in January.

For the house guests, I'd say, any of your house guests are welcome to sit in on the lesson. But you cannot take a whole month off.

My feeling is you might be getting these sorts of people because your rate is too low. Am I correct?

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#1638689 - 03/11/11 09:16 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Welcome to the forum, sonataplayer! As you can see, there are many different kinds of policies, each suited to fit a particular teacher's personality.

I used to charge either by the month (all 17 lessons per semester divided up into equal monthly payments regardless of how many lessons in the month) or by the semester (all 17 lessons paid upfront). The problem with that was I started to audition and be involved in operas which would mean missing weeks during production or auditioning. This created a lot of extra stress on me to make up those lessons. So I decided to make my policy more flexible and only have students pay for however many lessons they would have in that month. I don't issue refunds, but then I can decide if I want to credit them the next month or make up a missed lesson.

My income is a lot less stable/predictable this way, and of course I know I am not making as much money as I did previously. But for my own sanity, and also to be more flexible for my students, it has really worked out for the better all around. But I understand where you're coming from, too.

I think that having a separate policy for leave of absence will be unnecessary, though. I require 30 days notice for cancellation of lessons. Like a previous poster pointed out, many people will say they're taking a break for a little while, but many do not return after such break. Either that's they're way of leaving without saying something they feel would hurt your feelings, or they just know they need more free time and once they get it, they realize that piano is not a priority for them at this time. And then, of course, things just come up - someone loses a job and can't afford lessons anymore, for example. Whatever the reason, I don't see the need to hold a lesson time for them. If a student gives me a 30-day cancellation notice, then I ask them if they will be coming to lessons during that time. Some come for the first 2 and then stop coming, others will say they won't be coming and forfeit that time, and others still will take advantage of the lessons they've paid for. After that, their time is open for someone else.
_________________________
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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#1638708 - 03/11/11 09:48 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: ll]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: 11
I'm interested in how one handles such a situation where the entire semester is paid but someone needs to leave half-way through/whenever.

Originally Posted By: ll
I'm just talking about a teacher who charges for the whole semester, without refunds, and what happens when someone has to stop for whatever reason. Just honestly curious if it's happened and what is done in that situation if it's over a medical emergency or similar reasons.


It hasn't happened to me; the people who pay a year in advance are generally in stable professions or jobs where they have the ability to anticipate large expenses and handle them. Their students would naturally finish the year.

I have one exception to my policy, and that's for military families (we have two very large military installations not too far away) who may have to relocate with little or no notice. I appreciate their defense of me and my loved-ones, and our country, so I'm more than happy to waive the cancellation fee.
_________________________
"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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#1638730 - 03/11/11 10:10 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: Morodiene]
sonataplayer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/09/11
Posts: 64
Loc: New Hampshire
So I decided to make my policy more flexible and only have students pay for however many lessons they would have in that month. I don't issue refunds, but then I can decide if I want to credit them the next month or make up a missed lesson.


I think that having a separate policy for leave of absence will be unnecessary, though. I require 30 days notice for cancellation of lessons.


That is my policy too; students pay monthly for however many lessons they would have in the month, i.e., if their lesson is on Thursday, and there are four Thursdays in the month, they pay for four lessons. If students notify me at the beginning of the month that they will be unable to make a lesson on a certain week because of a planned vacation, previously scheduled commitment, etc. they do not have to pay me for that week's lesson. If, on the other hand, they cancel a lesson during the month -- for whatever reason -- I will not credit them for that weeks's lesson. I will try to reschedule it at a mutually convenient time, but I do not guarantee a re-scheduled, i.e., makeup, lesson. This has worked pretty well for me, although I agree that it would be much easier to have a simpler policy, e.g. pay by the semester, no refunds, no make-ups.

But when people start taking months at a time off, this obviously impacts my income quite a bit. Hence, my idea that perhaps charging them for the missed lessons in order to ensure that their space will be available when they return made sense.

BTW...I understand that some people just use the "I need to take some time off" as an easy way to quit; I've experienced that, but this is not the case with the examples I pointed out. The person taking her kids out of lessons for the month of December was back in January, and I feel pretty certain that the mother taking March off will be back too. I have no sense that she or her son are unhappy with the lessons and/or my teaching; they just want the time off, and see no reason why they shouldn't be able to take it and resume lessons whenever they like, without consequence. Grrrrrr...

A question about the "30 day's notice for cancellation of lessons" policy. Does that apply to a student taking a break from lessons as well as a student who is quitting for good?

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#1638741 - 03/11/11 10:36 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: sonataplayer
So I decided to make my policy more flexible and only have students pay for however many lessons they would have in that month. I don't issue refunds, but then I can decide if I want to credit them the next month or make up a missed lesson.


I think that having a separate policy for leave of absence will be unnecessary, though. I require 30 days notice for cancellation of lessons.


That is my policy too; students pay monthly for however many lessons they would have in the month, i.e., if their lesson is on Thursday, and there are four Thursdays in the month, they pay for four lessons. If students notify me at the beginning of the month that they will be unable to make a lesson on a certain week because of a planned vacation, previously scheduled commitment, etc. they do not have to pay me for that week's lesson. If, on the other hand, they cancel a lesson during the month -- for whatever reason -- I will not credit them for that weeks's lesson. I will try to reschedule it at a mutually convenient time, but I do not guarantee a re-scheduled, i.e., makeup, lesson. This has worked pretty well for me, although I agree that it would be much easier to have a simpler policy, e.g. pay by the semester, no refunds, no make-ups.

But when people start taking months at a time off, this obviously impacts my income quite a bit. Hence, my idea that perhaps charging them for the missed lessons in order to ensure that their space will be available when they return made sense.

BTW...I understand that some people just use the "I need to take some time off" as an easy way to quit; I've experienced that, but this is not the case with the examples I pointed out. The person taking her kids out of lessons for the month of December was back in January, and I feel pretty certain that the mother taking March off will be back too. I have no sense that she or her son are unhappy with the lessons and/or my teaching; they just want the time off, and see no reason why they shouldn't be able to take it and resume lessons whenever they like, without consequence. Grrrrrr...

A question about the "30 day's notice for cancellation of lessons" policy. Does that apply to a student taking a break from lessons as well as a student who is quitting for good?


Of course, because how do you know they will return until they actually do? FWIW, I have really never encountered the "I need a month off" thing. I generally try to give ample time off for holidays, and more often than not it suits their vacation schedules. When it doesn't it's usually a day off here or there. Taking a month off means they lose their lesson time IMO with the exception of the summer, when we both take a month off laugh
_________________________
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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#1638743 - 03/11/11 10:38 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: 11
I'm interested in how one handles such a situation where the entire semester is paid but someone needs to leave half-way through/whenever.

Originally Posted By: ll
I'm just talking about a teacher who charges for the whole semester, without refunds, and what happens when someone has to stop for whatever reason. Just honestly curious if it's happened and what is done in that situation if it's over a medical emergency or similar reasons.


It hasn't happened to me; the people who pay a year in advance are generally in stable professions or jobs where they have the ability to anticipate large expenses and handle them. Their students would naturally finish the year.

I have one exception to my policy, and that's for military families (we have two very large military installations not too far away) who may have to relocate with little or no notice. I appreciate their defense of me and my loved-ones, and our country, so I'm more than happy to waive the cancellation fee.


Do you have students who come from non-military families and are not rich? What proportion of your total number of students would you estimate that to be?

Its unfortunate that some of the best teachers are only accessible to the rich. (This is a general statement, need not necessarily allude to your set up, John).
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

Top
#1638746 - 03/11/11 10:47 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: liszt85]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: 11
I'm interested in how one handles such a situation where the entire semester is paid but someone needs to leave half-way through/whenever.

Originally Posted By: ll
I'm just talking about a teacher who charges for the whole semester, without refunds, and what happens when someone has to stop for whatever reason. Just honestly curious if it's happened and what is done in that situation if it's over a medical emergency or similar reasons.


It hasn't happened to me; the people who pay a year in advance are generally in stable professions or jobs where they have the ability to anticipate large expenses and handle them. Their students would naturally finish the year.

I have one exception to my policy, and that's for military families (we have two very large military installations not too far away) who may have to relocate with little or no notice. I appreciate their defense of me and my loved-ones, and our country, so I'm more than happy to waive the cancellation fee.


Do you have students who come from non-military families and are not rich? What proportion of your total number of students would you estimate that to be?

Its unfortunate that some of the best teachers are only accessible to the rich. (This is a general statement, need not necessarily allude to your set up, John).


I think a lot of times it's not wealth, but priorities. I have had several students who make lessons a priority despite being underprivileged. I try hard to be accommodating to those families while still being able to afford to teach them.
_________________________
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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#1638767 - 03/11/11 11:21 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: liszt85]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Do you have students who come from non-military families and are not rich? What proportion of your total number of students would you estimate that to be?

100%. None of them are rich in any real sense of the word; a few are upper middle class. Most are in the struggling to make ends meet every month. And I assure you, the military families are far, far, far from rich. Quite a few families are splitting tuition between parents and grand-parents. It's really a matter of priorities for each family. Do they spend their available resources on their children's education or on entertainment or on goodies for themselves?
_________________________
"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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#1638788 - 03/11/11 11:41 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Do you have students who come from non-military families and are not rich? What proportion of your total number of students would you estimate that to be?

100%. None of them are rich in any real sense of the word; a few are upper middle class. Most are in the struggling to make ends meet every month. And I assure you, the military families are far, far, far from rich. Quite a few families are splitting tuition between parents and grand-parents. It's really a matter of priorities for each family. Do they spend their available resources on their children's education or on entertainment or on goodies for themselves?


That's good then. I'm surprised though that they commit to annual tuition without the possibility of flexibility even in the event of emergency (no way out from the early termination fees). That is not what I would expect from people who seriously have difficult making ends meet each month as you claim. I myself belong to that group of people who have difficulty making ends meet each month and I pay $70 for a one hour lesson each month, that's all I can afford. I would never sign on a sheet of paper that says that I'd have to pay $100 to withdraw from lessons for any reason.
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1638808 - 03/11/11 11:57 AM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
That's the beauty of capitalism - choice. You can choose the teacher who best meets your needs, and others have the same freedom to do so. No "one size fits all" like we have in certain quarters.
_________________________
"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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#1638819 - 03/11/11 12:08 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
That's the beauty of capitalism - choice. You can choose the teacher who best meets your needs, and others have the same freedom to do so. No "one size fits all" like we have in certain quarters.


That doesn't answer my question about the inconsistency (between what you expect poor people to choose and what you claim your customers choose: your policy, which is NOT something that I expect a poor man to choose, there might be exceptions but most certainly not 100% like you claim). For people who barely make ends meet, the choice that you offer (logically) seems to be something that's not really an option for them. However, you claim that all of them make it work. You even go on to say that 100% of your clients are not rich, but you began talking about it in this thread saying that most of your families have a steady and reliable income that they don't mind committing to a year's lessons, even with the caveat that you put in your policy about cancellations. I don't quite fathom it. So either your estimate about your clients' wealth in your most recent posts is wrong, or there is some weird sociological phenomenon going on here that I don't quite understand. I know what else could explain this: your conception of "rich" and mine might differ. For you, rich might mean somebody who makes $500,000 a year. For me, rich means anybody who makes more than $100K a year.
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1638858 - 03/11/11 01:13 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: liszt85]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: liszt85
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
That's the beauty of capitalism - choice. You can choose the teacher who best meets your needs, and others have the same freedom to do so. No "one size fits all" like we have in certain quarters.


That doesn't answer my question about the inconsistency (between what you expect poor people to choose and what you claim your customers choose: your policy, which is NOT something that I expect a poor man to choose, there might be exceptions but most certainly not 100% like you claim). For people who barely make ends meet, the choice that you offer (logically) seems to be something that's not really an option for them. However, you claim that all of them make it work. You even go on to say that 100% of your clients are not rich, but you began talking about it in this thread saying that most of your families have a steady and reliable income that they don't mind committing to a year's lessons, even with the caveat that you put in your policy about cancellations. I don't quite fathom it. So either your estimate about your clients' wealth in your most recent posts is wrong, or there is some weird sociological phenomenon going on here that I don't quite understand. I know what else could explain this: your conception of "rich" and mine might differ. For you, rich might mean somebody who makes $500,000 a year. For me, rich means anybody who makes more than $100K a year.


Since you said you weren't necessarily addressing John with your concerns, I'll jump in. Obviously, John has students that make it work and enjoy taking lessons from him. Those that don't, dont' sign up and find someone who has a policy and price that suits their needs. I have students whose parents are on fixed incomes, single incomes, disability, etc. and my rates are not on the top in the community, but I would say the upper 3rd. Those that really want to study with me make it work, and I try to cooperate with them as much as my own budget can allow (like John does with military families). If he says he doesn't teach only rich people, then you'll have to take his word on it.

For me, those families that cannot afford the rates that I have set do have many options in the community of teachers who charge much less. I am pretty confident that the people who don't make a lot of money would able to afford lessons, but it may be more of a sacrifice for them than someone else. That doesn't mean I should have to live as a starving musician (been there, done that) so that I can ensure everyone who wants lessons will get them. There are also programs out there for underprivileged families and teachers who are a part of this program agre to teach at no more than 50% of their costs should the families meet all the financial criteria and agree to the teacher's policy.


Edited by Morodiene (03/11/11 01:15 PM)
_________________________
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Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#1638859 - 03/11/11 01:16 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
If a rich person makes $100k, what does a middle class person earn?
_________________________
"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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#1638877 - 03/11/11 01:35 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
If a rich person makes $100k, what does a middle class person earn?


$70K? You do realize that a lot of piano teachers only make that much, don't you? They are not rich, they are middle class people who chose to teach (and chose to go to college for music) not for the money. Nobody in their right senses would be a music major in the hopes of making loads of cash.

I make $21K and am way below poverty line. :P So yes, I guessed right..it is indeed in our differences of the conception of "rich" and "poor". The poorest that's acceptable to you (and your studio) is probably someone who makes 70K a year.
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1638883 - 03/11/11 01:43 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: liszt85]
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: liszt85
That doesn't answer my question about the inconsistency (between what you expect poor people to choose and what you claim your customers choose: your policy, which is NOT something that I expect a poor man to choose, there might be exceptions but most certainly not 100% like you claim). For people who barely make ends meet, the choice that you offer (logically) seems to be something that's not really an option for them. However, you claim that all of them make it work. You even go on to say that 100% of your clients are not rich, but you began talking about it in this thread saying that most of your families have a steady and reliable income that they don't mind committing to a year's lessons, even with the caveat that you put in your policy about cancellations. I don't quite fathom it. So either your estimate about your clients' wealth in your most recent posts is wrong, or there is some weird sociological phenomenon going on here that I don't quite understand. I know what else could explain this: your conception of "rich" and mine might differ. For you, rich might mean somebody who makes $500,000 a year. For me, rich means anybody who makes more than $100K a year.

Perhaps the larger issue is our differing expectations of businesses. I offer a service which, if I do a good job at it, provides my customers a solid musical education and provides me a steady income. A fair trade in my estimation. It doesn't provide great wealth which I knew going in (oh, if only I could be a bus driver in Wisconsin such as Madison bus driver, John E. Nelson, was able to make $159,000 in 2009) but a sufficient income to meet our needs. It's not my job to figure out how my services could be affordable to 100% of the population. I couldn't possibly do that anyway. I simply offer a service with some prudent caveats.

Originally Posted By: liszt85
$70K? You do realize that a lot of piano teachers only make that much, don't you? They are not rich, they are middle class people who chose to teach (and chose to go to college for music) not for the money. Nobody in their right senses would be a music major in the hopes of making loads of cash.

You got that right. I don't know a single piano teacher who makes anywhere that amount. A few may gross $50k, but after the tax wallop, it's a whole lot less.
_________________________
"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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#1638885 - 03/11/11 01:46 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: sonataplayer]
Overexposed Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2649
sonataplayer, my policy is that if a student takes unpaid leave from lessons there is a $50 re-enrollment fee upon returning. This is working well for me.

This has also acted as a deterrent to returning. One parent who was particularly difficult decided to "think it over" when she called to restart lessons. It was really a dodged bullet to not have them return.

This has also helped parents to understand what I expect from them. I go over the policy with parents at our initial meeting and no one has a problem with it.

Some teachers here on PW don't like to call it a re-enrollment fee. So feel free to call it something else.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (03/11/11 01:47 PM)

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#1638936 - 03/11/11 03:12 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

It's not my job to figure out how my services could be affordable to 100% of the population.


Absolutely. However then, you must probably not claim that 100% of your clientele are non-rich (felt that it was a better term than "poor") but yet manage to make sacrifices to be able to sign on your policy. You have pretty high standards for "rich". So somebody who makes $100K a year wouldn't mind spending $100 on an early termination fee (and I have a strange suspicion that your early termination fee might be even higher than this guesstimate of mine), whereas somebody who's genuinely poor, might have to sacrifice some grocery that month if they were to sign your policy. Trust me, there are people like that, who make real sacrifices to pay for their piano lessons. Policies like this only make good music education even less accessible to them than it already is. There do exist good teachers out there who realize this and avoid such stringent policies but like you said, its your choice and it works well for you, so be it. Also, your sentiment seems to be the majority view on the teacher's forum here. The other kind also do exist here and I personally appreciate the second kind a tad more than the former. Yea yea, its how capitalism works. All that's fine. However, we as human beings can also make little differences.
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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#1638937 - 03/11/11 03:14 PM Re: "Leave of Absence" Policy? [Re: Morodiene]
liszt85 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/26/08
Posts: 3159
Originally Posted By: Morodiene

If he says he doesn't teach only rich people, then you'll have to take his word on it.


Not if our definitions of "rich" are poles apart. wink
_________________________
Current:
Beethoven: Sonata Op.31, No.2 ("Tempest")
Debussy: Danseuses de Delphes (Prelude 1, Book 1)
Next in line:
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op.23
Debussy: Le vent dans la plaine (Prelude 3, Book 1)
Debussy: Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Prelude 4, Book 1)

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