Good to hear your thoughts.
I have to assume that 50+ years ago, a piano might have been something to treasure, and quite expensive for anyone. This is definitely not the case nowadays, but there are very few people who take this instrument seriously once they've acquired it.
Even though my grandmother was a piano teacher, I would never have been able to start if my parents had been forced to by a piano. My aunt sent me hers. It was shipped down from New Jersey. And I promise you and everyone else in this forum that good DPs play a heck of a lot better than it did. My parents "sucked it in" and got me a much better upright by high school, but even then I struggled with my teacher's Steinway grand, every lesson. It contributed to a great deal of tension. All grands felt slow, sluggish, hard to play. Hers was especially awful, because it had a dull treble. It was not until I had regular access to a grand, in college, that I discovered that grands are really much easier to play. This is why I don't like uprights. I hate them. They feel faster if you only play on them, but they are not. They can never have the full dynamic range of a good grand. The "soft pedal" pushes the hammers towards the strings and so does nothing more than knock the whole action out of regulation, hammers hitting vertically won't repeat fast enough, and so on.
This is why I run counter to almost all our teachers here in not being solidly in the acoustic camp and agaist DPs. I lose a lot of what I can do on any DP (not counting the very expensive ones that I have never even tested), but I also lose a huge amount on uprights. Once you hit the big Romantic works, they just don't sound right to me on anything but a good grand.
So for all but very rich kids, you are NOT going to get beginning students who are playing at home on ideal instruments. If only this were not so…
My other issue is that teaching piano is still a career but we certainly have to charge for it. I remember even when I was 13, I was paying for my private lessons, and my parents thought it was expensive; but as long as I was serious about it, they didn't mind so much.
Lessons were a big sacrifice for my parents too. The reason I only have one degree is that when I completed four years, I was in debt even WITH scholarship money. I was frightened by the thought of taking on more debt without having a solid job to pay things back. It really hurt to watch other students who wer not considered nearly as talented as I was go on with a relatively free ride through graduate school. One of my friends glided on in this way and went directly into a comfortable teaching position at a music school in a well-known university. Meanwhile I was scratching and clawing for jobs that would allow me to escape working in jobs not related to music.
I think this is why my main interest is in beginners, and usually young ones. I want them not to be cheated out of an opportunity just because their parents do not have a lot of money.
I can imagine that there are quite a number of kids who might be inclined to take music lessons, but money becomes an issue.
Absolutely. In a simplistic world, the kids who "deserve" a chance have enlighted parents who also have enough money to take care of all related financial matters. In my experience, having a nice piano at home means that and only that. It is NOT a guarantee of a "fire in the belly".
My youngest sister recently decided to start taking piano lessons, or wanted to take piano lessons, but my parents refused because they said it would be a waste of time and money. I don't have the time to teach her, but if I did I would. But this is another case of what happens if parents start thinking it is costly.
I don't charge an arm and a leg, but when people hear $50 or $60 or even $100 like someone in my area, people think twice about it.
You can't explain to people who have no financial problems how much $50 or less is to people who simply don't have that kind of money. Right now I am waiting for a student whose mother drives a beat up car just to get her son here. This is not unusual where I live.
Lastly, I'd think that piano is generally associated with classical music, and the great majority of children and adoloscents nowadays take a bigger interest in main stream music like rock, hip-hop, rap, etc ... It's quite hard to make someone really interested in classical music, and have them study in depth. Things like Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' and Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Flight of the Bumblebee' have been accepted by many as popular tunes so that's why I guess nobody really neglects these pieces, and have become almost 'hip-hop' items, if that's correctly said. Other than that, I'm not sure through which 'window' other kids can see and appreciate our kind of music.
This is where race and financial matters becomes evident. When you think of "classical music", a term I really hate, and you think of famous black or African-American pianists, who do you think of?
I think of Andre Watts. Then I get stuck.
But the moment you turn to jazz, suddenly you have Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Ellis Marsalis, Jr., just for a start. You can go on and on. It can't just be coincidence that this racial and cultural divide, as it USED to be, was hugely connected to two different economic worlds. So for me I prefer to think of myself as someone who opens a window into a world of just playing the piano, and my students get to decide if they want to play just for fun, to play traditional music, or go off on any number of different paths.
It appears one of my students is going to be accepted, at least in a minor, in composing and arranging, and that is what we concentrated. He's not a good player, because that was never his goal. But he is writing his own music, and that's an exciting change from adult clone after adult clone entering piano competitions!