Teachers, Parents and Studio Policies

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Studio Policy- An annoying list of rules and expectations that a piano teacher would rather not bother with, usually presented as quickly as possible at the start of lessons, which students and parents may or may not be asked to sign and may or may not adhere to depending on how forcefully the teacher enforces said rules and expectations. The official Studio Policy is often printed on disappearing paper or featured on an obscure page of a Studio website. Either way, nobody likes them.

Ok, so I made up that definition, and I don’t like dealing with Studio Policies. I just feel so…for lack of a better word “weird” about it. Because it kind of makes me feel like I’m asking too much or like I don’t trust my piano parents to be fair with me. After all, I’m a teacher and a musician, not a business person. I am so excited to meet you and get to know your child. I want to talk about music and goals not billing and lesson attendance. I do, however, have a studio policy and your teacher probably does too, we need them, here’s why.

The majority of people who come into my studio are fantastic and I have absolutely no problems with them. They pay on time, cancel lessons only when necessary and respect my time and my space. Chances are that if you care enough to be reading this blog you are already a fantastic piano parent, so maybe I am “preaching to the choir” so to speak. But all people are not choir members. One of the strange paradoxes of human nature is that the people who really need to hear something almost never think they do. Go figure.

My studio policy is in place simply to keep my studio running smoothly. I usually carry between 40 and 50 students per week so it is imperative that I am clear about things like make-ups and scheduling. I care about whether or not your child succeeds at the piano, so making sure that he has the right materials and and attends lessons regularly is important. Teaching the piano is my job, my family depends on my income so I need to be paid for the time I set aside for a piano lesson.

Most people would be surprised at some of the shenanigans that go on in my studio from time to time. The main problem I have to deal with is skipped lessons (no shows), last minute cancellations and rescheduling. The problem is that I need to be paid for the time that is set aside for a particular child’s lesson. This is always difficult because I know that things come up and kids get sick, but imagine that I have 8 students scheduled for Thursday afternoon and 4 of them cancel what should I do? Refund the tuition? Make up the lessons another day? Remember I have 50 students, so you see this is a bit of a conundrum. My studio policy is set up so that make-ups are worked into the regular tuition that way my students actually get a couple of free lessons if they have perfect attendance. I will reschedule a lesson if I know a week in advance. Your teacher may set thing up differently.

Here are a few things you can do to make the whole studio policy thing a little easier for yourself and for your teacher.

Ask about the studio policy at the first lesson. If you are already taking lessons, ask to review it if you haven’t seen it in a while. Your teacher will appreciate this.

Read the policy carefully. Now is the time to ask questions. If you don’t like the policy seriously consider finding a teacher who’s policy you agree with. But I must tell you that most good teachers these days have studio policies that limit or eliminate make-up lessons. The pay as you go lesson has become a thing of the past.

And last but not least, adhere to your teacher’s studio policy! Please don’t ask him to make exceptions unless you have a serious situation on your hands, like a major illness or family emergency. (And no, a soccer game is not a family emergency).

Your teacher’s studio policy likely deals with issues other than scheduling. Pricing, payment options, pick-up and drop off routine, practice expectations and recital attendance expectations to name a few. Whatever the studio policy looks like it is there to help your child become a successful student.

How can a studio policy help your child learn to play the piano? Firstly, by making sure she has the time and tools needed to learn to play well. Secondly, to assure that your teacher can afford to continue doing what she does so well, loves so much and has trained for since she was a child, just like yours.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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