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Three Crucial Tips for Teaching Adults

Laughing, I looked at my piano student to see if she was serious. I had just asked her to play a song again, taking the tempo a bit faster, being more obvious with her dynamics, and adding pedal.

Her response? "I'm going to have to disagree with you on that. I am not adding the pedal."

She was serious.

I complimented her on giving me perhaps the most polite and creative "No" I had ever heard in my lessons before. And I let her play it without the pedal.

You see, this piano student is older than 40 and younger than 99 and, frankly, unless its a crucial thing that she must get on this song, I'm going to let it go. Why? Because she's an adult.

Your adult students are different from your younger students. Here are three tips for teaching them well.

1. Respect their time.

Your adult student is busy. Whether he is retired or working full time, he is busy. And, so the time they are investing in piano lessons and the practice outside of the lesson is extremely valuable.

I can tell you that, in over twenty years of piano teaching, I have NEVER had an adult student begin taking lessons because they were bored with their life. On the contrary, all of my adult students, hands down, have had very full lives and are adding piano lessons because they wanted to actually carve time out of their schedule for something they wanted to do.

Whether it is mom, busy with two teenagers, a job, an extended family, and loads of household responsibilities, or a retired gentleman with a busy volunteer schedule, grandkids to help care for, and plenty of projects to help out with at his church, my adult piano students are busy, busy, busy.

Also, unlike some of your younger students, they are there because they want to be there. No parent is forcing them. Instead, they are investing time in themselves, and trusting you to make that time investment worth it.

So, start your lesson on time. Never end the lesson early. Their lesson time is their time. Respect it.

2. Respect their financial investment.

Just like their schedule, their budget is usually full too. Again, whether it is a retired individual on a fixed income, or a young college student who is making minimum wage, their budget only has so much room.

So, when they allocate money in their budget for lessons, be grateful and respect that. Trust me, your adult student is expecting to get his or her money's worth, as they should. Your adult student has in mind how much every minute is costing him, so make each minute very valuable.

If you act haphazard about the lesson - unprepared, disorganized, distracted -- your adult student will pick that up that vibe much faster than your little ones.

And they won't like it. They won't think its funny. They will think that lessons with you are a waste of money.

So, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, "what would a "valuable" lesson" look like? What would it contain? And this leads to the third tip . . .

3. Respect what they want.

I have a distinct methodology when it comes to teaching the piano. I have a scope and sequence that I have honed over the years. With tons of experience and training and education, I know the way piano lessons should go.

But, sometimes my adult students just don't care about that. They want the lessons their way.

And, if I can, I give it to them. I will compromise (to a point) and teach the adult student the way they would like to learn.

For instance, let's say I had a student who wanted to learn the piano by only playing Movie Theme Songs. Now, I would probably not be a big fan of that, but if she was willing to also do scales and some separate technique work . . . sure, movie theme songs it is.

Or if I had a student who wanted to learn the piano by studying hymnology and those musical structures. Again, that wouldn't be my first choice (although they can learn a lot through hymns), but if he was willing to do some theory studies and scale work . . . sure, hymns it is.

I'm not saying that you must throw out everything you know to be good pedagogy and training, but is there a way that you can work your methodology and their wishes into a blend of fun and thorough musical instruction? In most cases, of course you can.

So, whether you currently have adult clients or you are hoping to add them to your studio, remember these three things:

1. Respect their time.

2. Respect their financial investment.

3. Respect what they want.

Obviously, the recurring theme here is respect because that is what your adult students need and deserve. Trust me, you are blessed that they want to take piano lessons from YOU.

So, remember to respect them. You'll be glad you did.

#methodology #clients #teachingadults