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#2046810 - 03/12/13 03:46 AM Infuriatingly Cheap Parents
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
...who live in gated communities, own lexuses, have stable professions in engineering and law, and pay long term for weekly lesson who will NOT BUY A PIANO. Not even a weighted keyboard. Not even a keyboard with dynamics or pedals. Not even a four octave keyboard.

I'm wondering if this is a trend with some other teachers as much as it is with me.
I travel to a lot of houses, and my most talented students have parents who will simply not buy pianos, or even a full sized weighted keyboard. This is particularly frustrating to me, since after driving to their house (waiting at security at their gated communities), I cannot even introduce the concept of dynamics, or talk about the pedal. They don't even have correct music stands, and when I reach over to mark in the score my arm brushes against some moronic button that starts blasting a rock tune.

Their responses when I bring it up:

"We know it's important. Our budget just really isn't stable right now. Definitely in the future we will get one"

"He just doesn't practice. Once he starts proving that he takes his piano lessons seriously be practicing voluntarily, then we'll think about getting a piano."

"We will, it's just been so busy, but we'll get one soon!" (To which they have not)

FYI, these are ALL students who live very affluent areas.

I was talking to another teacher about this, she said what I really need to do is offer an ultimatum: Get a piano by this date, or the lessons stop. Period. I'll likely have to take on this tone soon enough (although I'd really rather not because it would mean a very strict and unpleasant encounter with otherwise actually great and supportive parents) but I wanted to get advice from all you fine teachers first.

The frustrating irony of my situation is that these particular students happen to be my most talented. The one family I had who actually went out and bought a piano (plus my in-home students that have real pianos), are not as bright or into it as this said group.


Edited by Opus_Maximus (03/12/13 03:55 AM)

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#2046814 - 03/12/13 04:06 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1351
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
You know, max, that you could simply not accept such students in the first place. That's the most obvious response to your post. You bear the responsibility for getting yourself into this annoying fix.

Or else you could simply walk away from such families after a month or two, just after you have started to bond with them. Tell them you would be delighted to resume lessons once they have acquired an acceptable instrument. Be both sweet and firm. Bring them a sheet you have prepared of cost options for various keyboard upgrades, and the business cards of a couple of instrument dealers.

But I daresay it won't help, and you won't hear again from most of them.

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#2046816 - 03/12/13 04:28 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
You know, max, that you could simply not accept such students in the first place. That's the most obvious response to your post. You bear the responsibility for getting yourself into this annoying fix.


That's a pretty unnecessary comment, Mose. I'm young, I relocated to a new area two years ago and started on with whatever those I could find. It beat Starbucks, and now some kids know how to read music who couldn't. I don't know what kind of fairy tail world you are imagining where a new teacher can set up shop and perfect students with ideal instruments come prancing through the door immediately. As I mentioned they are good students who follow directions and understand and do what I tell them so I'd rather work with this - I've eliminated more than a good share of students for other, more irrevocable reasons.


Edited by Opus_Maximus (03/12/13 04:31 AM)

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#2046818 - 03/12/13 04:45 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2911
Loc: UK.
It's a bit of a catch 22 situation. I can understand that parents don't want to spend money on a piano until they know their kids are serious. But without a good instrument to practice on they are unlikely to ever make progress in the first place.

I do find myself recommending digitals as a starting point with a view to upgrading to an acoustic if things go well. It's nice when they decide to purchase a piano but as you say quite rare nowadays.
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Pianist and piano teacher.

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#2046823 - 03/12/13 05:22 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
A very successful local shop here lets households rent to buy new Yamaha pianos. For a small monthly payment the piano is delivered the same day and they can return the instrument after as short of a time as six months with no penalty. After five years of rental payments the instrument is theirs to keep for a price that is equivalent to the pre-haggling 10 to 20% off.

Perhaps you can find a local store that can make a similar proposition to these households. Many on the surface apparently affluent families in America and a few other Western countries are living hopelessly above their means, socially isolated in their asocial, third-world-inspired gated communities and materialistic junk-filled McMansions. They may not want to commit to a piano until their kid is committed but they might also just not have the cash.

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#2046825 - 03/12/13 05:24 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: theJourney]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
Originally Posted By: theJourney
Many on the surface apparently affluent families in America and a few other Western countries are living hopelessly above their means, socially isolated in their asocial, third-world-inspired gated communities and materialistic junk-filled McMansions. They may not want to commit to a piano until their kid is committed but they might also just not have the cash.


Yes; the living above means is also what I have sensed in a few. The rental proposal still falls flat on them.

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#2046826 - 03/12/13 05:28 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
Yes; the living above means is also what I have sensed in a few. The rental proposal still falls flat on them.


They may know that their credit is no longer even good enough to qualify for the rent to buy credit check....

Make sure that they are paying for their lessons in advance or immediately following the lesson. No sense exposing yourself to any losses.

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#2046858 - 03/12/13 08:30 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Ben Crosland Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/10
Posts: 420
Loc: Worcester, UK
The other thing to mention to them is that there is a pretty good resale value on decent keyboard instruments.

Maybe ask them if they think it would be appropriate to practise their golf swing with one of those executive desktop toys? Or learn tennis on Wii Sports?

When it comes to driving lessons, maybe they think it would be fine to practice by playing Outrun a lot.

Lean soccer by kicking a tennis ball around the back yard. In school shoes.

Etc, etc wink
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#2046859 - 03/12/13 08:34 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Ragdoll Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/12
Posts: 672
Loc: Illinois
Quote:
I travel to a lot of houses, and my most talented students have parents who will simply not buy pianos, or even a full sized weighted keyboard. This is particularly frustrating to me, since after driving to their house (waiting at security at their gated communities), I cannot even introduce the concept of dynamics, or talk about the pedal. They don't even have correct music stands, and when I reach over to mark in the score my arm brushes against some moronic button that starts blasting a rock tune.


At the risk of sounding MegaSnarky( I truely don't mean it that way), I have to ask, exactly what do you cover in a lesson where there is NO piano or keyboard of any kind? And why would they have a music stand if they don't have an instrument? Are there other musical instruments in the home? How are you determining these students are your most talented?
[/quote]

<snip some excuses>

Quote:
"He just doesn't practice. Once he starts proving that he takes his piano lessons seriously be practicing voluntarily, then we'll think about getting a piano."


Doesn't practice on WHAT for goodness sake?

This post is just so off the hook to me, I can't parse it well I suppose. No offense intended by this reply Opus
_________________________
Ragdoll

Just be yourself, everyone else is already taken.


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#2046860 - 03/12/13 08:37 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
Lately I do my ultimatum at the start. You have a cheap keyboard and don't want the financial outlay till you know if little Sebastian will take to it. Give it 6 months only and make up your minds. Either quit, or buy.

It does help that the cheapest weighted and graded keyboard they can get now is £400 inc stool and stand.

I have another problem though. Those with acoustics won't bother getting them tuned. frown
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#2046865 - 03/12/13 08:54 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3160

One of the first questions I ask new/prospective students is "What do you have for a piano in the home?"

If they do not have at least a decent digital piano, or an acoustic that has been tuned sometime in this century, I simply tell them that a piano is a necessity for lessons to begin, just as owning a uniform and associated gear is a necessity for participation in a team sport, for example.

It has never worked out that students make any progress whatsoever without a home piano/keyboard.


_________________________
Music teacher and piano player.

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#2046912 - 03/12/13 10:46 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta
All your concerns are valid, but the reality is lots of kids lose interest in different interests, hobbies and sports. Focus your attention on the student, you are there for him. You didn't mention his age - only child?

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#2046916 - 03/12/13 10:53 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 483
One way that might not be quite truthful is to approach it from, Your child has so much talent, that sadly, will never be grown because he needs xyz.

Many parents are easily swayed by "talent" comments.

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#2046983 - 03/12/13 01:21 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Ragdoll]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
Originally Posted By: Ragdoll
Quote:
I travel to a lot of houses, and my most talented students have parents who will simply not buy pianos, or even a full sized weighted keyboard. This is particularly frustrating to me, since after driving to their house (waiting at security at their gated communities), I cannot even introduce the concept of dynamics, or talk about the pedal. They don't even have correct music stands, and when I reach over to mark in the score my arm brushes against some moronic button that starts blasting a rock tune.


At the risk of sounding MegaSnarky( I truely don't mean it that way), I have to ask, exactly what do you cover in a lesson where there is NO piano or keyboard of any kind? And why would they have a music stand if they don't have an instrument? Are there other musical instruments in the home? How are you determining these students are your most talented?


<snip some excuses>

Quote:
"He just doesn't practice. Once he starts proving that he takes his piano lessons seriously be practicing voluntarily, then we'll think about getting a piano."


Doesn't practice on WHAT for goodness sake?

This post is just so off the hook to me, I can't parse it well I suppose. No offense intended by this reply Opus [/quote]

Sorry, if it wasn't clear - They all DO have keyboards to practice on, but
very bad ones. Very simple keyboards that have a few octaves of black and white keys, but with no dynamic settings, nor any pedal or weighted keys. So they can play most pieces out of method books, but only in the most elementary way. something like this

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Casio-LK-165...;kpid=108258641

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#2046989 - 03/12/13 01:30 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1351
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Or try an end-around move, skipping the parents. Keep telling affluent little 10yo Billy or Olga that you can't understand why their parents are so cheap, when they obviously have loads of money and when their son or daughter has so much musical talent and could really go places on the piano.

Tell little Billy or Olga that you teach lots of kids in the neighborhood, and they all have much better electric pianos, even though they are less talented.

If this message comes to the parents from little Billy or Olga, it might work better than from the piano teacher.


Edited by Peter K. Mose (03/12/13 01:32 PM)

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#2046991 - 03/12/13 01:32 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5486
Loc: Orange County, CA
Opus:

Just accept these students as "expensive babysitting." Sooner or later their parents' lack of priorities will manifest itself in the form of "we quit." Take the $$$ while they are still willing to cough it up. Really, think of clients like this as money cows and offer as little instruction as your conscience allows you to provide.

It is definitely not your fault that they don't care about piano. I also teach quite a few students in gated communities, and the condition of their pianos will make you laugh. I'm talking about folks who make six figures a year (often double-income, with both parents making that much) who can't spare $5,000 to buy a decent upright. Or, the piano they already own is basically a piece of furniture to match the rest of the living room's decor. Interestingly, their kids are also by far my worst students.

High parental income does not equal high interest in piano. More than often, they're just getting their kids piano lessons to keep up with everybody else in the neighborhood.

Pour your energy into kids and families who actually care about piano.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2047066 - 03/12/13 04:17 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 842
It's also frustrating when parents of average income simply don't value music enough. That's the crux of the problem, rich or poor.

I actually believe a good number of parents WANT piano to end; they're just waiting for their child to come to the same conclusion as they play a keyboard with 61 keys. Heck, I would have quit under those circumstances.

Let's look at what success entails: some 15 or 20 years of piano lessons, a cost in time and money. Not only that, the child is not available when s/he practices the piano. They can't help around the house. They can't play in the three-ring circus known as their parents' lives. Okay, maybe that's going a bit far. Ha ha! But it can be said that piano takes the child away from whatever the parents find important and meaningful. It simply isn't in the parent's repertoire of activities, anymore that coddling a guinea pig, or flying to Hawaii is in my world.

As for musicians in general, we are constantly being reminded of our lowly position in life. This week, I played a funeral in a small gathering place in a room outside of the sacristy of a funeral home in which the smaller memorials take place. The people had to bring their own keyboard for me to play on. Why wouldn't a funeral home have several keyboards? Because music is the lowest need.

Look at competitions like the Van Cliburn. What they're really saying is "You can have a concert career if you're one of the "chosen" few. The reason? We, the public, can only handle so much good music, and at that, played by only so many good musicians. Our ears cannot be taxed to listen to every concert artist, only the good ones. We ourselves wouldn't have the time or inclination to determine which are good. So we wait til the results are in from competitions, and place our trust in them.

Anyhow, why do people fund music only when somebody dies, and such dreary music at that? Like I said, the non-musicians, jealous by nature, want us to be put in our places.

Those rich folks want you the piano teacher to be on the level of their cleaning lady, and by all accounts, they're succeeding.

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#2047081 - 03/12/13 04:34 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Stanny Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 1461
I actually have dropped students who promised to get a piano and didn't after a year. (It's easy to say you'll practice at grandma's, but it often doesn't happen.) But I understand why you won't do this when you don't have a waiting list yet. Soon you will have more flexibility to do so. Be patient!
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~Stanny~

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

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#2047138 - 03/12/13 05:48 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Candywoman]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 427
Loc: Vancouver BC
Originally Posted By: Candywoman
It's also frustrating when parents of average income simply don't value music enough. That's the crux of the problem, rich or poor.

.......

Anyhow, why do people fund music only when somebody dies, and such dreary music at that? Like I said, the non-musicians, jealous by nature, want us to be put in our places.

Those rich folks want you the piano teacher to be on the level of their cleaning lady, and by all accounts, they're succeeding.


Com’on, Candywoman, you sound like a starving artist.
Calm down, let me give you a hug.

We are actually living in an age that society gives the highest level of support to art and artists, more than any point in the human history.

Yes, people pay their midwife, farmer, dentist, plumber, and mortician before they pay an artist.
It is only since the last century that an average family can afford a piano and a piano teacher. And people in general do think highly about music teachers.

Before you cry it is unfair, just remember, you are making living by you are doing something you love (making music), and most people by doing something they hate. Do you want to switch position with a plumber? They likely get higher pay, just saying.

And no one "jealous by nature", wants to "put you in your place". Just that you are probably misplacing yourself.

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#2047145 - 03/12/13 05:53 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Gatsbee13 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/03/10
Posts: 512
Loc: So Cal
these same affluent parents are putting their kids in the best schools ( I assume).. unfortunately, playing an instrument is not generally considered into a well rounded education anymore..

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#2047150 - 03/12/13 05:58 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: MaggieGirl]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 427
Loc: Vancouver BC
Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
One way that might not be quite truthful is to approach it from, Your child has so much talent, that sadly, will never be grown because he needs xyz.

Many parents are easily swayed by "talent" comments.


I second this, just tell the parents that the child is so talented that he or she deserves a Steinway wink

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#2047166 - 03/12/13 06:13 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 483
.duplicate


Edited by MaggieGirl (03/12/13 06:27 PM)

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#2047177 - 03/12/13 06:27 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 483
You laugh...but I've seen parents do an awful lot because someone told them about their darling child's special talents. If they have the money, they will pay. Talent, special, and throw in "scholarships" and "higher math IQ" and my new fave: STEM (science technology engineering and math) is now being called "STEAM" science technology engineering ARTs and math because the arts are so important to helping people think creativity and innovation.

They don't want an ordinary child, they want a unique child.

PS - not knocking STEAM, I think arts are desperately needed, underfunded, and not always available. I have a very bright child who can take school band, choir, art, computers, cooking or an elective science. I REALLY wanted her to take the science. I feel pressure to encourage her to make her classes academically strong. But her eyes lit up in the art room. I figure there are very few times in your life where you can create art for an hour a day so I let her sign up for it. it was hard for me to let her when all I hear are "computers! science! think of her future!"



Edited by MaggieGirl (03/12/13 06:34 PM)

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#2047237 - 03/12/13 08:37 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...High parental income does not equal high interest in piano. More than often, they're just getting their kids piano lessons to keep up with everybody else in the neighborhood..."

This problem can be solved by getting the neighbors to laugh at the cheap and horrible piano of these underprivileged yuppie children, and to make snide comments about it at cocktail parties. With the right ally of this social set, a single mention is enough to have it spread all over town within two weeks, for this is high-assay ore to the right gold digger. These people are very label-conscious, starting at birth with the 'right' stroller. Accustom them to the fact that pianos have labels, and are not all the same, although they might look the same to the unsophisticated eye of the arriviste, the way two wines can come in a bottle that looks about the same. But try bringing that Gallo out at a party and look out. When they see their neighbors doing imitations of the characters from The Beverly Hillbillies, and notice that the cruel laughter dies out as soon as they step into the kitchen, it's time to go upmarket with the piano.

It's like that most awkward of conversations:
"Would you mind asking the maid to move her car?"
"That's my car."


Come to think of it, that is getting them to think in the right price range. But starting with wine is a good way to edge into it.

"...They may know that their credit is no longer even good enough to qualify for the rent-to-buy credit check...."

This can be folded into the comment above, as an afterthought. The thing with social climbers is that they need to be shown what to climb. A true adept can even murmur things like, "Madam should wear a firmer girdle with this number," and get right away with it. However, if you can get them to understand that pianos can and should be accessorized with expensive benches, lamps, bookcases full of music, and perhaps a nice side table... you will find that the concept goes down very readily. Some of these ladies will have the price of a nice piano on their back (and feet) at a mere cocktail party, and more than that for an evening out.

"...Anyhow, why do people fund music only when somebody dies, and such dreary music at that?..."

Well, there are weddings.
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#2047293 - 03/12/13 10:01 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
“I'm young, I relocated to a new area two years ago and started on with whatever those I could find. It beat Starbucks, “

Forgive me if this sounds blunt. But of course some affluent families care about music education; others don’t quite (even though they want their kids to learn a bit). It's the same as some not-so-affluent families care very much about music education, and some don’t. But as a young teacher who just gets in town, you might attract those who don’t care much about music and specifically look for a “good deal” (strictly in the sense of money). Once you build a good reputation, you can pick and choose. For now, as you say it yourself, you probably have to just put up with what you have.

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#2047313 - 03/12/13 10:34 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
BethH Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/12
Posts: 33
Loc: WI
I don't get it. Money spent on lessons is never "recovered". Money spent on a piano... well, the piano can be sold and some, if not a substantial portion, of that initial investment can be recovered. Lessons are a lot of money. It makes no sense to me to spend so much money on lessons and not have a decent instrument to practice on.

I would tell parents that they should expect to spend, say, the cost of 3 years worth of lessons on a piano. And, if their kid is motivated, they should expect to replace the piano after a certain period of time.

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#2047347 - 03/12/13 11:23 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
Mysterious are the ways of the upwardly mobile.
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Clef


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#2047357 - 03/12/13 11:38 PM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Jeff Clef]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 761
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
But try bringing that Gallo out at a party and look out.


I'll have you know I serve only the finest box wines!
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2047427 - 03/13/13 02:20 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: childofparadise2002]
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Originally Posted By: childofparadise2002
“I'm young, I relocated to a new area two years ago and started on with whatever those I could find. It beat Starbucks, “

Forgive me if this sounds blunt. But of course some affluent families care about music education; others don’t quite (even though they want their kids to learn a bit). It's the same as some not-so-affluent families care very much about music education, and some don’t. But as a young teacher who just gets in town, you might attract those who don’t care much about music and specifically look for a “good deal” (strictly in the sense of money). Once you build a good reputation, you can pick and choose. For now, as you say it yourself, you probably have to just put up with what you have.

Good point.

In my neck of the woods, quality and experienced teachers that make house calls are as thin as hen's teeth. Those that do are either conservatory students, just starting out and/or with no studio or even place of their own.

If the parents aren't willing to make the commitment to drive their kids to the piano teacher's studio once or twice per week, then it should come as no surprise that they won't commit to an instrument either.

The situation is rather predictable: the un-committed parents hire the desperate teacher forced to put up with unacceptable conditions and jump through their hoops.

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#2047430 - 03/13/13 02:24 AM Re: Infuriatingly Cheap Parents [Re: Opus_Maximus]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1489
Thank you for all the replies. I'm going to talk seriously to all of them this month.

What was particularly peculiar and frustrating is that they are dedicated in other ways towards the piano. They do not cancel frequently, always pay on time in advance, etc. They just don't accept this as a necessity. I'm going to confront them bluntly soon and report back.

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