Piano Lessons & Policies

My studio includes students of all ages (currently from nearly 5 to over 69!). 

     I ask that most students commit to lessons that last thirty minutes each week, at an affordable tuition which may be paid in monthly installments. Included in tuition are two annual student recitals, which take place in the autumn and the spring. Everyone is encouraged to play one or two pieces, or at least come enjoy the program as an audience member and attend the reception party afterward. Often students will hear something that they are inspired to learn and perform at future recitals. 






This new piano term (September 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) I am looking forward to:


*preparing interested adult students to perform in a city-wide Seattle Music Teachers Association Adult Student Soiree to be held on Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 6:30 PM;


*preparing students to perform in one of a few mini-recitals at a new location (!) - Jack Straw Cultural Productions located at 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle - on Saturday, November 18, sometime between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. at There will be a small charge per performer (estimated at $5).


*helping students prepare their own private holiday recital for family and friends;


*organizing a field trip to SEKM (Seattle Early Keyboard Museum), a private fortepiano museum in my neighborhood run by Tamara Friedman and her husband UW Music Professor George Bozarth, where students will learn about the history of the piano and have the opportunity to perform an excerpt from one of their well prepared pieces upon one of SEKM's fortepianos;


*registering and preparing interested students for participation in the Washington State Music Teachers Association's Music Artistry Program (fka Adjudications) to be held March 5-10, 2018 (registration December 5, 2017-January 5, 2018), adjudicated by Visiting Artists: Dr. Merilyn S. Jacobsen, Marilyn Brossard (Skagit Valley College), and Michelle Mielke (WSU), all respected professors of piano from various institutions, colleges and universities in the western United States);

    Dear Students,

    If you are willing to learn and polish two original piano solos - probably NOT ones from your regular lesson books, I would like to invite you to consider registering for and preparing to participate in the State Music Teachers Adjudications in 2017. Details are below.
    What’s required is memorization of two original piano pieces in contrasting styles. You would play them for a college professor of music the week of March 6 on a date and at a time to be assigned to you. You would get a permission slip to get out of school for this event, if needed.  
    I hope you will consider taking advantage of this opportunity to have a private master class with a university music professor.  Here’s a sampling of what my piano students’ families & students have had to say about adjudications in the past: 
    “[My son] very much enjoyed his time w/Dr. Mauchley and thought it was well worth the extra practicing and memorizing effort to have the adjudication.  He’s feeling more encouraged and inspired to study piano….”
    "I thought [my adjudicator] was just right; she was both encouraging and honest about things that could be made better.  She seemed to focus on significant things that I can practice to improve my playing. Thanks again for organizing this; it's really great to have this feedback!”
    "I thought [the adjudicator’s[ comments were right on with [my son] needing more strength to play on his fingertips (which you’re always reminding him, so it was good to hear from someone else!). [My son’s] really excited to get his certificate of participation.”
     “Thanks for including [my daughter] in the adjudication. She was really nervous, not having done it before, so I'm glad for her to have the experience and see that she can do it. I couldn't tell from her playing that she was nervous at all - she just went for it! I was quite proud of her. I...thought [the adjudicator] was quite friendly and perky especially given the number of students he had seen. I thought it was effective to tell the students first what they had done well. I wanted him to be more effusive in his compliments to the young students (which he was with [my daughter]), so they would know for sure they are being complimented, but that's the protective mother in me, not the piano teacher. I told [my husband] last night that it made me appreciate that you are able to choose your words and explanations so that students [our daughter’s] age can understand and respond. That takes practice and experience, and I was thinking [the adjudicator] probably only deals with older students. My guess is that some of what he told her kind of went over her head, because it just wasn't tangible or direct enough for her. But what do I know - when I asked if what he said made sense she said it did!”
    "I think [the adjudicator’s] comments have a good balance between specific issues with [my daughter’s] two pieces, and general comments that will help her playing overall.  I know [she] appreciated his demeanor...very respectful.”
    “[My daughter] said she was glad she participated, liked hearing [the adjudicator’s] various comments, and thought his comments really helped.  A couple of rough spots on the Beethoven, but she hung in there!  Thanks again for encouraging her to participate."
 
Subject: March 5-10, 2018 Music Artistry Program (registration deadline January 5, 2018) 

Take advantage of this Private Masterclass for students! Mark your calendar now to register over the holidays! 

REGISTRATION: The registration period this year is December 5, 2017-January 5, 2018. DATES: March 5 - 10 (Monday - Satuday), 2018. 

LOCATIONS: Wedgwood Presbyterian Church, St. John's (across from the zoo) and Olympic View Community Church. 

If you are concerned that you don’t know what you will be playing yet at the time of registration, do not worry! You do not need to submit the repertoire at the time of registration. You just need to know how much time to purchase/ You only need to submit the repertoire at the adjudication. 

As with last year, payment for adjudications will be made online by credit card of the teacher.  A separate student chapter fee is also required in the form of  a check payable to SMTA; your teacher will take care of mailing all the checks for chapter fees to SMTA.

All payment must be received by January 5, 2018. No exception will be made for late payment. 

Other Important Details: 

-- Extra Time: You probably want to purchase extra time to allow for passing time between students, time to announce pieces, long pieces, etc. With the online system there is a limit of only 15 minutes extra time.

--Special Requests: The committee cannot honor special requests for times, days or adjudicators. Please tell your students and parents that their adjudication may be during the school day. (You can get a Request for Excused Absence form from wsmta.org.) 

*preparing interested adult students to perform in a city-wide Seattle Music Teachers Association Adult Student Soiree to be held on Sunday, March 18, 2018, at 6:30 PM;


*preparing interested students to perform the music of J.S. Bach as part of "Bach in the Subways" Day - the world-wide movement celebrating this great composer's 333rd birthday - at various public venues (including light rail stations, cafes, and malls) from March 21 to March 25, 2018;


*preparing interested students to perform in a city-wide Seattle Music Teachers Association Sonatina Festival (last year held in April);


*preparing interested adult students to perform in a city-wide Seattle Music Teachers Association Adult Student Soiree to be held on Sunday, May 20, 2018, at 6:30 PM;


*preparing interested students to take the Washington State Music Teachers Association Musicianship Exams (last year held in May); and


*preparing students to perform in a spring studio-wide recital.

                

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I expect my students to practice every day they sleep at home, at least ten minutes daily for each level they achieve. Those who practice more may sign up for longer lessons, lasting forty-five minutes, an hour, or an hour and a half. 

Tuition is designed to include four lessons per month. I have developed a slightly complicated (but time-tested) policy to take into account missed lessons. I will explain this policy further when you join my studio.


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SNOW DAYS AND OTHER ANTICIPATED ABSENCES
As I write this, there are a few inches of snow on the ground, which reminds me to remind my piano students how to handle snow days and other anticipated absences.

    If it's not safe for you to come to my house for a piano lesson, or if you have unresolvable transportation issues, or if you are contagious but not so sick that you can't sit at your own piano at home and play for me, you have three choices:

    1. Set up a "Skype lesson" with me (we need a little advance notice to make sure we have each other's Skype contact information, ideally you would let me know by noon the day of your lesson) to take place on your regular day at your regular time.

    2. Set up a "telephone lesson" with me; you can call me one minute into your regular lesson time and we can immediately launch into our phone lesson, or you can let me know before noon that you need to have a phone lesson, give me the phone number of your telephone that has speakerphone capability, and I will call you at your regular lesson day/time. Here's what a parent had to say about her children's first "phone lesson" the day she could not get an internet connection: 

    "Thanks for tonight. I really appreciate how flexible you are and can't believe how you can teach over the phone:)."

    3.    Make an audio or audio/visual recording of yourself playing everything you had prepared for your lesson and - in advance of your regular lesson day/time - send the recording to me via YouTube or DropBox or as mp3 attachments to one or more emails. I will spend your regular lesson day/time listening to (and watching) your recording(s) and will write you an email letting you know what was good, what needs to be corrected, and some suggestions for how and what to practice to prepare for your next lesson.
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LESSON SWAPS
I offer families the opportunity to arrange their own Lesson Swaps to avoid missing lessons.  If you choose to share your contact information with other students whom I teach, you may then feel free to contact another family on the Lesson Swap List to trade your lesson time with that of another student to help avoid missed lessons. Let's use these rules to make sure Lesson Swaps go smoothly: 
• I must be informed prior to as well as after your having confirmed your Lesson Swap with another family. 
• No make-up lessons will be given if any confusion from this arises. 
• If two students arrive at the same time, I will teach the one whose lesson is normally at that time. 
• Please inform me if you wish to have your name included on the Lesson Swap List, and give me your best contact information. 


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Click below for an interesting perspective from a parent:

Note: Ottawa Suzuki Strings policy is that lessons missed by the student are not made up.

 Make-up Lessons From An Economist’s Point of View

I’m a parent of children enrolled in Suzuki music lessons. I’d like to explain to other parents why I feel – quite strongly, actually – that it is unreasonable of we parents to expect our teachers to make up lessons we miss, even if I know as well as they do just how expensive lessons are, and, equally importantly, how important that weekly contact is with the teacher to keeping practicing ticking along smoothly. I think that it is natural for we parents to share the point of view that students should have their missed lessons rescheduled, but if we were to ‘walk a mile’ in our teachers’ shoes, we might change our minds about what it is reasonable for us to expect of our teachers.

Like many parents, I pay in advance for lessons each term. In my mind, what this means is that I have reserved a regular spot in the busy schedules of my sons’ teachers. I understand – fully – that if I can’t make it to the lesson one week (perhaps my son is sick, or we are away on holiday, or there is some other major event at school) then we will pay for the lesson, but that my teacher is under no obligation to find another spot for me that week, or to refund me for the untaught lesson. And this is the way it should be.

In my ‘other life’ I am an economist and teach at our local university. Students pay good money to attend classes at the university; but if they don’t come to my lecture on a Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial on Tuesday afternoon. When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase something that doesn’t get used. Days or months later, I end up throwing it out. I don’t get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise. If I sign my child up for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I can’t get my money back. So there are lots of situations in our everyday lives where we regularly pay in advance for goods or some service, and if we end up not using what we have purchased, we have to just ‘swallow our losses’. On the other hand, if I purchase an item of clothing, and get home and change my mind, I can take it back and expect either a refund or a store credit.

So why do I believe that music lessons fall into the first category of ‘non-returnable merchandise’, rather than into the second case of ‘exchange privileges unlimited’ (which I think is one of the advertising slogans of an established women’s clothing store!)? Speaking now as an economist, I would claim that the reason is that items like clothing are “durable goods’ – meaning, they can be returned and then resold at the original price – whereas music lessons are non-durable goods – meaning, once my Monday slot at 3:30 is gone, my son’s teacher can’t turn around and sell it again. The only way she would be able to give him a lesson later in the week would be if she were to give up time that she had scheduled for her own private life; and that seems pretty unreasonable – I can’t think of many employees who would be thrilled if their bosses were to announce that they couldn’t work from 3:30 to 4:30 this afternoon, but would they please stay until 6:30 on Thursday, because there will be work for them then!

Many teachers hesitate to refuse our request to shift lesson times (because our busy schedules do change), because unless they keep us parents happy, we will decide to take our child somewhere else for lessons (or to drop musical study), and they will lose part of their income. This is particularly true in areas with lower average income, where it can be particularly difficult to find students. So rather than telling us that ‘well, actually, the only time when I’m not teaching and that you can bring your son for lesson is during the time I set aside each week to go for a long soul-cleansing walk, and I can’t do that on Monday at 3:30 when you should have turned up’, they agree to teach us at a time that really doesn’t suit their schedule. Teachers who are ‘nice’ in this way often, in the long run, end up exhausted, and feeling exploited; they try to draw a line in the sand. However, too few parents ask to switch only when absolutely necessary, and too many parents want lesson times when it suits them this week, which is not the same time that suited last week. If the conflict arises because my child is in the School play, and they have their dress-rehearsal during his lesson time, then I feel that I must choose between the two activities, and if he attends the dress rehearsal my private lesson teacher doesn’t owe me anything.

During May, my eldest son will be missing three lessons because he is going to accompany me on a trip to New Zealand to visit his great-grandparents. I do not expect my son’s teacher to refund me for those missed lessons, or to reschedule them by ‘doubling up’ lessons in the weeks before or after our departure. Since there will be lots of advanced notice, I might ask her to consider preparing a special ‘practice tape’ for that period, or to answer my questions via e-mail, but if she doesn’t have the time (the second half of April is going to be really busy for her, and she wouldn’t be able to do the tape until more or less the week we left) and so has to refuse, then that’s fine. I certainly don’t expect her to credit me with three make-up lessons; there is no way for her to find a student to fill a three-week hole in her schedule during our absence. Instead, I hope that she will enjoy the extra hour of rest during those three weeks, and that we will all feel renewed enthusiasm when we return to lessons at the end of the trip.

Article Copyright © 2001 Vicky Barham

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Expectations

Even the best teachers can't help unless students do their part. What does it take to be a great student?

  • Walk in with a smile. Greet your teacher.
  • Involve your parents. Behind almost every good student is a supportive parent.
  • Feel free to call your teacher if you have a question or need help or advice. But do not abuse this. Give her a break on Saturday nights!
  • Show up for every lesson unless there is a genuine emergency in your family. You will only improve if you attend lessons regularly. Your teacher has reserved a time for you. 
  • Pay promptly. Teachers may have to beg you to practice, but they should not have to beg you for money.
  • Arrive on time. Why cheat yourself (and your parents) of part of a lesson you have paid for? If you are late, call the teacher so she doesn't worry.
  • Bring all your music and assignment books. Just because you haven't practiced is no reason to “forget” your music.
  • Communicate. If you feel frustrated or confused, let your teacher know. You can avoid tears if your teacher knows your feelings. Ask for help or a break.
  • Do not waste your lesson complaining. This is not the place for it. Only share your problems if they are truly important. (Having the hardest teacher, school, or test doesn't qualify.)
  • Be prepared. The real progress happens when you practice.
  • Focus not only on the results, but the effort. You can't win every time, but you can always improve.
  • If you haven't practiced, be honest. Your teacher will know anyway.
  • Do not try to talk your way through the lesson to avoid playing pieces you haven’t practiced.
  • Practice your scales, even if they bore you silly. Dessert comes last.
  • Be open to change and trust your teacher to know what's best, even if you're convinced (in the moment) that she is wrong. Some things just take time.
  • Keep focused. Don't look at your watch and sigh. Don't say, “Do I have to play it again?”
  • Work with your teacher to set goals and standards. If you feel that your teacher has given you too much work (or not enough), let her know.
  • Be persistent. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Before you decide to quit, discuss your problems with your teacher. Give her a chance to accommodate your needs.
  • Do not perform a piece in public without rehearsing it with your teacher.
  • Let your teacher know how much you appreciate her—especially when she does you special favors like writing a recommendation, hosting a special recital, speaking with you on the phone, or attending your extra performances.
  • Enjoy your lessons. When you are excited, let your teacher know.
  • Remember that the goal is not only to become a better student, but to become a better person through your music.
  • Do unto others.... You may be the teacher some day.
  • Go to piano concerts, attend other concerts of all kinds, musical theater,  and dance. Listen to recordings; listen to the radio (Classical KING FM is a wonderful resource!). Participate in local piano association events.


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