Tag Archives: Music

Wednesday Question: Why Don’t Parents Support Piano Lessons?

Dear Susan. I am so frustrated. Why do parents put students in piano lessons but do not support me as a teacher? They don’t practice, miss lessons, and even come to lessons without their books.

To answer that question, you have to realize the various reasons parents put their children in piano lessons.

  1. They want their child to learn a little bit about music. If they also learn to play a pretty piece, that’s a happy bonus.
  2. They inherit or buy a piano, and need to justify the space it takes in the room.
  3. They have read it will help their child get better grades in school.
  4. They think it will help them get a head start on another instrument the child wants to play.
  5. They were not able to take piano as a child, so they want to give their child that opportunity.
  6. They want their child to show off flashy pieces for family or friends.
  7. They took piano and enjoyed it, so they want their child to do the same.
  8. They value a music education.

Do you see the pattern here? Parents often have different desires and expectations for their children than we as piano teachers have. So when our expectations as teachers conflict with the expectations of parents, conflict arises and teachers become frustrated and disillusioned. They blame parents for not being serious about music; for not being supportive.

Once you realize that parents often do not have the time, desire, ability,  or even the relationship with the child to require daily, quality piano practice, your entire attitude changes and you are a happier teacher.

Here are a few situations where changing your way of reacting makes a big difference.

They don’t bring their books.

Fine, let’s work on Pattern Play by Forrest Kenney.  Let’s work on ear training, improvise, or sight read. Don’t fuss, nag, or complain. For sight reading, I love the old duet book by Dennis Alexander, Alfred’s Basic Piano Library Duet Book 1B. It has easy positions that doesn’t scare the students.

They never practice.

Ok, let’s practice at the lesson. Choose a piece with patterns that can be taught by rote, and sounds harder than it is such as Sun Chaser by Timothy Brown, Thumper by Robert Vandall, Spirit of the Stallion by Elizabeth Gutierrez, or  Gypsy Earrings by Glover. (There are many more.) Soon your student will be playing that one piece they love everywhere there is a piano, and it will be a great recital piece.

They miss lessons and always want a makeup.

At the parent interview and in your policy sheet, stress that you can’t make up lessons the children miss unless they are able to swap with another student. When a student doesn’t show up, play a Chopin Nocturne to relax, or clean up your studio. Don’t fret about it.

They don’t even come to the recital.

That’s fine, we will miss you.  Parents (and I went to a lot of my children’s recitals) don’t like long recitals, and if someone doesn’t show up, the recital is shorter, which is a good thing, actually. Don’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with you.

They always choose sports over music.

If they choose sports over music, it’s because children like team sports more than they like piano lessons. That is human nature. The majority of children love running around on a field more than they love sitting at a piano bench. Think of a puppy. Life is not fair and we can’t change childhood development. All we can do is make the most of what we have. It has nothing to do with sports being more important than music, because what athlete doesn’t have a music playlist a mile long? It has to do with the nature of piano lessons themselves. Give some reasons for them to like piano, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t like it as much as their team sport. I don’t mind music being second, third, or fourth place in a student’s life. One student told me he liked 8 things and piano was the 8th on the list. I think that is one of the funnest things a child has ever said to me. (He even listed the other 7 things.) Some years later his Mom told me that he was first chair in band and loved it.

The great music pedagogy teacher Elissa Milne posted these wise words on her blog, speaking as a parent:

The piano teacher wants your child to have practiced this week? It’s a feat of extraordinary proportions that the child got fed, for goodness sake, that they’ve turned up to their lesson in clean clothes. But you know that your child loves this 30 or 45 minutes each week, or at least you’re pretty sure they do, and you know that your child is getting quality one-on-one attention from a teacher who is invested in building a long-term learning relationship. AND you know that music is super-fantastic for the brain. Whatever is happening in the lesson is absolutely worth it, because it’s more than you can provide on your own.  http://elissamilne.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/has-parenthood-changed-my-teaching/

As you start to teach this year, have high expectations, but be realistic. Teach the way you would want to be taught, but don’t expect students to love piano the way you love it. Have high standards, but be flexible! I hope you have a great year!



Filed under Teaching Business

Welcome to the Music Room


Welcome Poster for Music Rooms

Last year I saw a lot of cute posters on the web to welcome students back to school. You might have seen some like this that use a sentence after ever letter in the word Welcome. I didn’t see one for music, so I thought it would be fun to make my own version for music classes.

I remembered how much music meant to me when I was a student. For one hour, all I thought about were the beautiful sounds that were created in that room.  (I’m thinking choir here, not my piano playing!) I hope my students in band, choir, and orchestra have the same wonderful experiences I had.  

I want my piano students to know they are safe in my studio.  There is no pressure to like a certain kind of music, or be embarrassed about anything. I’ve had students tell me they really love Broadway music more than  popular music on the radio, but they don’t want to share that with their peers.  I want them to feel free to make mistakes, or able to confess they didn’t even open their piano books this week because they were so busy with school projects. Come into the music room and get away from everything. Everything is fine in the music room.  

Click the link under the picture to get to my website where you will click Download to open the file. The printable will not have my treble clef logo on it. Notice this design matches the polka dot theme I’m using this year. I had fun drawing the little swirly at the bottom. I couldn’t decide if I should leave it in, but then the whole design is so over-the-top!


Filed under Music Printables, Teaching Business

Wendy Steven’s New Halloween Pieces


The internet is buzzing with teachers who are loving Wendy Steven’s new Halloween pieces. These are early elementary level pieces, with fun sound effects your students can add. Although beginning level, they are not babyish, so they can be used for all ages of children who want a Halloween piece. I love the art on the covers. I think it’s important to have good looking covers for the elementary age group.


Hop on over to her blog to watch the video and listen to these new pieces, published by Willis Music. You can also see a sample of the music.


The videos are not long so it will take less than a minute to watch them both. This is such a great way to showcase new music! I wish every new piece could be featured this way, don’t you? Composers, take note. Maybe even I will give it a try!

Disclosure: This post is my opinion and I received no compensation or review copies of the music. 


Filed under Halloween, Music Reviews

E is for Elephant

Elephant on E

Elephants are eating

Elephants are Eating

As some of you guessed, the next letter in my series of songs that introduce notes on the staff to young beginners is the note middle E.  (If you are new to this blog, read the previous post about how I am teaching my early childhood students to learn notes on the staff.)  Notice that this song uses E and well as middle C and D.

If you are a new teacher or parent, here is how I suggest teaching this.

  1. Read my last post with suggestions of ways to teach the location of E on the staff. After the student can identify E on the staff, you are ready to teach this song. You do not have to do it all in one lesson.
  2. Practice  tapping the words on the piano cover in rhythm until the child gets it.
  3. Use pre-reading cards to practice measures three and four, reading by intervals. Practice using the correct fingers on the piano cover. Drop the hand into the surface. Try to avoid lifting individual fingers.
  4. Review the rhythm again!
  5. If the child is antsy, get off the bench and do something else.
  6. Find middle E on the keyboard, and play measures three and four by intervals. Play the entire piece. The teacher duet may confuse students, so don’t use it right away.
  7. Get off the bench and play a game.

My students loved the seeing doughnut from the D song on this sheet. Let me know if any of your students notice.

This new series of sheets I am posting can help keep young students from thinking middle C is always the thumb. Further help with this is available in my beginning reading book Sunny Solos ($4.95), a digital download from Sheet Music Plus. Sunny Solos is also very good for transfer students who need a review of the primer level.


Filed under Note Identification, Preschool Music Resources