This time of year I get many calls and e-mails from people looking for a piano teacher. I’m grateful that the calls keep coming; I know others aren’t so lucky.
At this point I have enough students for fall. I’m still meeting with potential students but only if they are able to come for lessons during the day (pretty much limited to adults – like other piano teachers – love teaching them – and home-schooled students). Even then, I know my limit, and there are times that I’m simply not available. Like most mornings and any time on Saturday or Sunday. No explanation or justification necessary. I do teach all ages and all levels – I like the variety – and a student does not need to be anywhere close to the top percentile of young pianists to be a great and rewarding student.
The factors that I consider when I get inquiries:
1. Time availability. If there’s no mutually convenient time, the interview is not even going to happen. Even one of Jan Lisiecki‘s teachers had to put him on hold for a year because she was already fully booked.
2. Teacher troubles. Any badmouthing of a current or past teacher sends up a red flag. While I know there are a few unethical and incompetent teachers, I’m always inclined to take the other teacher’s side first. I will not breach the code of ethics of the associations to which I belong by accepting a new student, until I know the break has been made with the former teacher.
3. The instrument. I do accept students with a keyboard, conditionally, but I’m much more likely to accept someone with a real piano. See Weighing in on The Great Debate.
4. Balance of the studio. I have had, and still have, some students with rough backgrounds and/or learning issues. Although it can be quite rewarding, it’s mentally and emotionally draining. There’s a limit on how many difficult situations I can cope with at any given time. Frankly, as I get older, I find myself less willing to go there.
5. The music itself. My approach and strength is a traditional classical approach, handed down through the generations. The focus is on literacy and an appreciation of the genres and styles from all the eras, including the current one. I do not have the set of skills to adequately teach jazz or how to play in a worship band. More in an upcoming post.
6. General impressions over the phone or at the interview. This includes an attitude on the part of the child, punctuality at the interview itself, excessive hovering on the part of the parents – don’t answer the questions that I have specifically directed to your child - or any sense that this could be more stress than it’s worth. When musicians are young and hungry, they accept whatever comes their way and they make it work. I’ve been there. Learned tons along the way. I’m simply not there anymore. I keep a list of other teachers that I think might be a better fit.
Reading this over, I’m thinking this must make me sound harsh! Surely I’ve just done everything wrong according to the books and websites on how to promote yourself. I’ll never be the poster girl for the articles that tell you how to make $100,000 in your first year of teaching piano.
And I d0 hope these words don’t come back to bite me. I encourage parents of potential students to consider some of these points before contacting any teacher – I’m sure most of us are on the same page.