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Piano Teachers: Who’s The Customer? The Student, or the Parent?

Sometimes I find myself in a quandary with my studio. Students come to lessons and are immersed in a musical environment filled with singing and movement. This is exactly what we know they need in order to develop their musicianship. Because after all, developing piano skills in the absence of some developed musicianship is a futile endeavor.

Students enjoy these very important lessons and yet parents sometimes don’t understand the purpose. Why should we be singing and moving in piano lessons? Where is the immediate benefit in piano skills? Parents often don’t know the answers to these questions and sometimes pull their kids out of lessons as a result. I’ve lost more students than I care to admit to this phenomenon.

Which brings me to the quandary: if there’s a conflict between what the student needs in order to grow as a musician, and what parents require in order to continue their child’s enrollment in my studio, what course do I take? The first line of action is communication. But what then? 

For me, in this moment, I have to go with the student’s needs. Because trying to force a child to do something on their instrument that they’re not prepared to do in audiation is not helpful, it’s harmful.

Piano lessons are often so focused on product that we lose sight of the process through which students learn music. This has been going on for decades so it’s no surprise that parents don’t know better. The cost is high and is reflected in our culture’s general lack of music literacy.

I’ll talk more in a future blog about the importance of valuing process over product. For now I will end by encouraging music educators everywhere to allow time for music learning to unfold through movement and singing. Learning can’t be rushed, and why would we want to? We learn music by doing music. So time spent singing and moving is a good lesson!

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