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#2070014 - 04/24/13 02:49 PM Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice
Adam Malone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/07
Posts: 33
Loc: Minnesota
This is something I've noticed that has been bothering me lately. Situation: lesson is over and I'm discussing the week's assignment with both parent and student (7-9 year olds, 1-2 years of lessons). Parent says "well we're going to make sure to practice more this week, right Johnny? [looks at child with disapproval]"

What goes through my head at this point is: "guess what - your child doesn't get to decide how much practicing they do. That is your job. Don't blame them". I have never said anything, nor would I in front of the student.

I'd like to convey this point to the parent in just the right way - polite, but with a dash of scolding because I think it's the best way to get them to listen.

Anyone been in the same situation? How did you approach the parent and what was their reaction?

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#2070108 - 04/24/13 05:24 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Candywoman Offline
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Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 832
I've had the very same thing happen in my studio, but the parent's response bothered me because I don't think they should embarrass their child.

However, rather than your half-scolding plan, I think you might point out how happily children practice if their parents are nearby listening. You might ask what practice schedule they have set up for their children.

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#2070165 - 04/24/13 06:47 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Candywoman]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
If the parent is not in charge and does not accept responsible for being in charge, there is nothing you can do.
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#2070178 - 04/24/13 07:03 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3153
Loc: Maine
Adam, do you explain to parents the role you want them to play in their children's practicing -- not just during the practice, but also in terms of scheduling and making sure it happens?
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#2070431 - 04/25/13 04:58 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: PianoStudent88]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Adam, do you explain to parents the role you want them to play in their children's practicing -- not just during the practice, but also in terms of scheduling and making sure it happens?

Some parents just can't be bothered. Their common excuses:

1) I'm too busy.

2) I don't know anything about music, so how can I know if she's playing it right?

3) That's HER responsibility (pointing to daughter)!!

4) I forgot.

If these parents are somewhat wealthy and willing to pay extra $$$, I dispatch my advanced students there as "practice coaches." It works.
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#2070461 - 04/25/13 06:54 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
Adam, do you explain to parents the role you want them to play in their children's practicing -- not just during the practice, but also in terms of scheduling and making sure it happens?

Some parents just can't be bothered. Their common excuses:

1) I'm too busy.

2) I don't know anything about music, so how can I know if she's playing it right?

3) That's HER responsibility (pointing to daughter)!!

4) I forgot.

If these parents are somewhat wealthy and willing to pay extra $$$, I dispatch my advanced students there as "practice coaches." It works.

I just want these STUPID people OUT of my life...
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2070515 - 04/25/13 09:15 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11557
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Adam Malone
This is something I've noticed that has been bothering me lately. Situation: lesson is over and I'm discussing the week's assignment with both parent and student (7-9 year olds, 1-2 years of lessons). Parent says "well we're going to make sure to practice more this week, right Johnny? [looks at child with disapproval]"

The parent is probably trying to get your approval, by assuring you that they find it important and are "supporting you". Obviously you don't approve. whistle

If you haven't already done so, you should tell the parents what their role IS, so they know what it isn't. Do they know how (exactly) they should be supporting their child's practice? When your child has his assignment, does he know how he should be practising it, or just what to practise? Does the parent know? If all that has been done, then you're dealing with cluelessness.

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#2070771 - 04/25/13 04:01 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
pianoSD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/20/13
Posts: 57
Loc: San Diego, CA
Kids love to perform. I tell parents that all the time. Sit on the sofa and read a magazine while your child practices. Do anything, just be there. Children will look at "practicing" as performing.

Parents might not understand everything their child is practicing, but even untrained ears can hear beautiful music. Give children positive reinforcement when they finish a piece all the way through. If they hit a wrong note to the parent's untrained ear, encourage them to restart that section.

I tell parents all the time that their responsibility extends beyond paying me every week for lessons. In order for their young child to succeed, I need their support.
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#2070784 - 04/25/13 04:25 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: AZNpiano]
Saranoya Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/13
Posts: 566
Loc: Brussels, Belgium
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
That's HER responsibility (pointing to daughter)!!


Isn't it, though?

That is a sincere question on my part: why the assumption that if a child isn't practising, it's the parent who's at fault?

Sure, parents can and should regularly remind their children that one cannot learn to play the piano without practice, so go practice. After that, it's the child, IMHO, who has to find the motivation to actually sit down and do it.
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#2070789 - 04/25/13 04:34 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Saranoya]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
That's HER responsibility (pointing to daughter)!!


Isn't it, though?

That is a sincere question on my part: why the assumption that if a child isn't practising, it's the parent who's at fault?
That's a difference of parenting style. Some parents are completely hands-on, while others are "let the cows roam around eating grass." The hands-off parents can get away with it if their kids are enterprising and self-sufficient. However, at the end of the day, it is the parents' responsibility to make sure their kids take responsibilities.

You'd be surprised how many parents I've worked with belong to the hands-off category. It works if the kid is a good student to begin with, but most of the time it's just one excuse after another.
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#2070790 - 04/25/13 04:36 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Gary D.]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5418
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I just want these STUPID people OUT of my life...

Well, I do have to make a living. If I fired all the students I wanted to fire, I'd have like 5 kids left.

I don't have much tolerance for such lack of brilliance, either, but I've learned that life is full of compromises.
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#2070814 - 04/25/13 05:24 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2845
Loc: UK.
I do try not to pass judgement on parents because I don't have kids of my own but I often notice that some make it very difficult for their kids to practice effectively.

Some of the common problems I encounter....

Not providing an adequate instrument for home practice. I hear the same old excuses about not having room or enough money for even a cheap DP. Or the one about waiting to see if they take to it before forking out for a piano which of course they won't do without one.

Filling their kids schedule with hundreds of activities every day of the week. Why on Earth do people do that, it makes no sense? Let them do fewer things but do them well.

Too many distractions when practice is meant to get done. Siblings running riot or playing video games, TV on full blast, dogs barking away.

Parents offering very little support or encouragement. In fact some students tell me they have to practice with headphones to avoid annoying the rest of the family. Mum and dad are too busy to listen to them and don't want to be bothered by it.

Parents who tell their kids that music is just for fun and not really important. Certainly not as important as their acedeminc work which must always take priority. They haven't practiced because they have homework or exams etc.

The expectation that kids as young as 5 or 6 years of age will motivate themselves to practice regularly without even being reminded to do so.

Complaining to me that their kids are not doing enough practice (usually for the above reasons) and expecting me to do something about it.

All in a days work.
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#2070819 - 04/25/13 05:36 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I just want these STUPID people OUT of my life...

Well, I do have to make a living. If I fired all the students I wanted to fire, I'd have like 5 kids left.

smile

You made me laugh...
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Piano Teacher

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#2070855 - 04/25/13 06:12 PM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Minniemay Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/09
Posts: 1702
Loc: CA
I think much depends on the age of the child.

I do outline the parents' responsibility in my studio policy, which we go over in the interview. I talk specifically with them about their role in practice and what they should expect to do and what the child is expected to do.

Communication is so important. Of course, even after you have this conversation, some folks will ignore it. That's humanity.
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#2071290 - 04/26/13 08:00 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Minniemay]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3151
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: Minniemay
.

I do outline the parents' responsibility in my studio policy, which we go over in the interview. I talk specifically with them about their role in practice and what they should expect to do and what the child is expected to do.



I think that's a good approach, with a caveat.

You're telling the parents what they have to do to meet YOUR goals for the child.

Their goals may be very different.

In a perfect world they would simply go elsewhere, to a teacher whose goals aligned more closely with theirs. But clearly from the conversation here that doesn't happen. Teachers continue pursuing their goals for the child, frustrated that the parent isn't helping, while the parent continues on blithely oblivious to the disconnect.
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gotta go practice

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#2071296 - 04/26/13 08:15 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Saranoya]
BrainCramp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/09/12
Posts: 254
Loc: USA
Originally Posted By: Saranoya
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
That's HER responsibility (pointing to daughter)!!


Isn't it, though?

That is a sincere question on my part: why the assumption that if a child isn't practising, it's the parent who's at fault?

Sure, parents can and should regularly remind their children that one cannot learn to play the piano without practice, so go practice. After that, it's the child, IMHO, who has to find the motivation to actually sit down and do it.


I agree with Saranoya.

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#2071299 - 04/26/13 08:18 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11417
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
What really bugs me is when parents let kids give up on piano. Yesterday, the mom was dropping her son off for lessons ans it looked like he was refusing to get out of the car. When he finally came in the mom was like, "You better behave or else!" and proceeded to tell me that as of next week they'll be taking a break for a bit. I teach the sister as well and I've been with them for a couple of years now.

I was shocked and said our policy states a 30-day notice, and that I depend on that income to pay my bills, was it fair to give me such short notice after all I've done for them? It was clear that she was frustrated but she realized that what she just said was pretty rude to me, and so I said, give me a call and we'll talk. She left, and I was stuck with her son trying to figure out what went wrong. I asked if it was anything I said or did, and he said no. He said that he didn't think piano was for him. Both of these kids had taken lessons for 5 years, but only the last 2 with me. Their previous teachers really didn't teach them anything, and so this poor boy who is older, has been studying for longer than his sister and is frustrated that he's only in Level 2A of PA after all this time.

When I started teaching them they never practiced and could barely read or play. In September, they really made an effort, especially the boy, and I had assigned him a Halloween piece that he loved. It was a challenge and he saw it through, loved playing it for me and played it for the recital. He did a great job and was very happy with it. I told him all of this to remind him of positive things he's had in piano, and I said, "A student who doesn't like piano doesn't do that. They don't even get a piece to the point they can perform it at a recital, let alone play it so well."

I also told him that I meet people in their 20s or 30s or older who when they find out I'm a piano teacher, tell me that they took lessons when they were a kid and quit, and that they wish their parents didn't let them quit. I said I've only heard of one or two people who quit and were glad they quit, and usually those students quit after a very short time of lessons. They knew right away piano wasn't for them. I asked him if he wanted to be that person who regretted quitting when he was older. He thought about it and said no.

I told him that we would take a different tactic, forget the method books for a while, and just select music he wanted to learn (which I had been doing before but he was determined not to learn them at that point). I also said that while he may not "feel like" practicing, it's investing in the future so he can play the things he wants to play. But to not practice is to give up on all the work he's put in so far. That seemed to make sense to him. We'll see how he does.
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#2071359 - 04/26/13 09:51 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1314
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Wonderful response, Morodiene! Sometimes it's an awkward dance between piano teacher, student, and parent, and we're just struggling to stay upright. He'll remember this talk.

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#2071378 - 04/26/13 10:32 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Adam Malone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/07
Posts: 33
Loc: Minnesota
Thanks so much for all the thoughtful replies.

Originally Posted By: Minniemay
I do outline the parents' responsibility in my studio policy, which we go over in the interview. I talk specifically with them about their role in practice and what they should expect to do and what the child is expected to do.


This is great advice - I haven't specifically talked about this with parents since we began lessons. I think a reminder that daily practice is expected will go a long way.

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#2071390 - 04/26/13 10:48 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Morodiene]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4741
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
What really bugs me is when parents let kids give up on piano. Yesterday, the mom was dropping her son off for lessons ans it looked like he was refusing to get out of the car. When he finally came in the mom was like, "You better behave or else!" and proceeded to tell me that as of next week they'll be taking a break for a bit. I teach the sister as well and I've been with them for a couple of years now.

I read through the rest, but this sounds amazingly like what happens to me. In fact, it is much like the other thread I started, which has more or less wound down.

I think it is rather common for all of us. There are three problems here. One is communication between us and the students. The second is the same thing, but between the students and their parents. Finally, there is communication breaking between the parents and us.

With some parents I get a smooth flow of communication. They are in tune with their kids, they give me feedback about what is going on at home, with the kids, and the kids talk to me. When things are open like that, it is very easy to see when things are getting off track and to take immediate steps.

But sometimes the parents themselves are so out of touch with their own kids that they truly do not know what is going on. The disconnect is astounding. Then you get all kind of mixed signals.

In the case of the two kids I talked about a couple days ago the mother simply did not know what was going on. I write a lesson plan each week. I type it on the computer, then print it out. Each lesson I follow that plan and make it clear that we will continue doing this. For most kids this maps out clear goals, and we work on this plan together. The parents know about the plans, and they read them each week. Or so you would think.

Because some parents do not read the plans. Some do not even talk to me unless I actually insist on some kind of communication. These are the parents who think that dropping the kids off and picking them up is enough. Some do not even listen to their kids play. They are in the minority, but as always they take up a huge amount of energy.

I have said some very negative things last week. It was a bad week. However, I think most of the parents do care, and most at least meet me half way in planning a sane course for their kids musical development. Obviously most children and teens are not going to live, eat and breath piano – or music – so most look at it as a hobby, just something extra they do. But in general they are reasonable about doing a decent amount of practice. It is rarely as much as I would like, but it is also understandable that they have other goals.

I'll be interested to hear about this family in the future. I suppose you may turn these students around. There are always nice surprises. But you live in my state, not too far from where I teach. There is very little support for music in South Florida. I think you have to live here to really get that.

If these students do not present you with “round two” of the “drama” within the next year – probably six months – I will be very surprised.

Good luck!
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#2071400 - 04/26/13 11:00 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11417
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Gary, I think in this case the mother never learned to persevere. She gives up on things very easily and gets easily stressed out when things aren't perfect. I see this kind of response in her son very much so, less in the daughter. What I think was happening was that the mother was giving up on their piano when in fact, the best lesson for her kids would be to make them keep going, get "back on that horse" and push through the hardships for the bigger payoff down the road. A huge life lesson here, and I do hope that I can convey this to the mom without sounding judgmental of her parenting skills. I will try to relate things to how I was and how I needed my parents at times growing up to say, "No, you can't quit." That was such a valuable thing they did for me, I never realized as a child when it was happening, but I do now. I am so glad I have no regrets, that I dont' feel like I'm playing "catch up" because I quit as a child and came back to it as an adult. And all of this is aside from the fact that teaching piano is now my job.
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#2071440 - 04/26/13 11:31 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Gary D.]
bmbutler Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/15/10
Posts: 226
Loc: North Carolina
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If the parent is not in charge and does not accept responsible for being in charge, there is nothing you can do.


You are right. Parent is passing the buck because they don't want to take responsibility and be the parent. I had the parent of a 6 year old do that several years ago when I started teaching again and was a little too eager to accept just anyone as a student. Child enjoyed piano, but wasn't practicing. Talked to Mom a couple of times. Last time I did, she said "well, he should just go in and practice on his own." I honestly wanted to ask her if she did the same for his homework and if so, how is that workin' for ya? Did finally let the student go.
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#2071457 - 04/26/13 11:42 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: bmbutler]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 11417
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: bmbutler
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
If the parent is not in charge and does not accept responsible for being in charge, there is nothing you can do.


You are right. Parent is passing the buck because they don't want to take responsibility and be the parent. I had the parent of a 6 year old do that several years ago when I started teaching again and was a little too eager to accept just anyone as a student. Child enjoyed piano, but wasn't practicing. Talked to Mom a couple of times. Last time I did, she said "well, he should just go in and practice on his own." I honestly wanted to ask her if she did the same for his homework and if so, how is that workin' for ya? Did finally let the student go.


I know what you mean! How is the child supposed to know they should practice at the age of 6 if they are never taught to do it even if they don't feel like it?

Discipline is taught, not something that just happens or it doesn't. How many people in your life have you encountered that are successful at what they do, but only do it when they feel like doing it?


Edited by Morodiene (04/26/13 11:43 AM)
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#2072618 - 04/28/13 03:52 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
phacke Offline

Gold Supporter until November 11 2014


Registered: 10/18/12
Posts: 465
Loc: CO, USA
Hi Y'all

Just passing through here. My wife happened to read up on the Suzuki method and as a result, sits by our daughters while they practice and gets involved in duet pieces, etc. I didn't know that such close attention while practicing was a good practice. I would venture to say that most parents do not know parental "best practices" for piano student practice involvement. You might have to educate the parent in addition to the student on what successful approaches look like and then negotiate and agree upon realistic expectations.

Best wishes-
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#2072623 - 04/28/13 04:08 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: Adam Malone]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1002
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: M
Discipline is taught, not something that just happens or it doesn't. How many people in your life have you encountered that are successful at what they do, but only do it when they feel like doing it?


thumb thumb

Exactly!
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#2072633 - 04/28/13 05:10 AM Re: Parents "passing the buck" for lack of practice [Re: AZNpiano]
musicpassion Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 899
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Gary D.
I just want these STUPID people OUT of my life...

Well, I do have to make a living. If I fired all the students I wanted to fire, I'd have like 5 kids left.

I don't have much tolerance for such lack of brilliance, either, but I've learned that life is full of compromises.


First I enjoyed a good laugh reading this, but of course we should remember there are other ways to make a living...
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Pianist and Piano Teacher

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Today at 08:53 AM
Tag!
by Axtremus
Today at 08:53 AM
Things are not working out for me
by Teodor
Today at 08:45 AM
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