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Fire Your Piano Student

April 12, 2018

The client was a teenage boy.  His favorite music in the whole world was video game soundtracks.  He downloaded music off of the internet, brought it to his lesson, and THAT is what he wanted to learn.  His parents wanted him to like piano, so that is what they wanted me to teach him.

 

No problem, right?

 

Wrong. 

 

It is very hard to teach anyone, much less a teenage boy, how to play songs when they actually refuse to read music.  When they aren't willing to learn the basic notation necessary to even play.

 

Literally, each lesson devolved into me pointing to the note on the page, and then pointing to the key on the piano, and then telling him which finger to use and then hoping he would play it.  Note by note.  Pointed finger after pointed finger.

 

And it was torture.  For both of us.

 

So, yes, he (and his parents) were technically the clients, and I was technically the hired help.  But, you and I both know teaching music is way more than just showing someone note after note after note, hoping they can copy you.

 

It came to a point where frankly, I didn't care how much they were paying me.  The weekly torture of that lesson was not worth it.  And ethically, I couldn't even call what I was doing "teaching" so I felt ridiculous taking their money.

 

So, I did what I had to do - I fired the student.

 

First, I explained where and how we had fallen off the rails, and how we needed to get back on track (I like train metaphors).  I did a great job of building up how "real" lessons should go and what the benefit would be.  I made it sound like piano lessons -- done the right way -- were the best thing ever, and not only would teenage boy student be able to play that particular song, he could play ANY song he wanted, given enough time.

 

They didn't buy it.  And they kinda fired me back.

 

So, we parted ways, and quite frankly I was completely relieved. 

 

If one of your clients came to mind while you were reading this, I encourage you to look at that more deeply.  Of course, you know that some of your lessons are going to be not quite as enjoyable as others, but deep down you know when there is one that is not working -- for you or for the student.

 

Have the conversation.  Give it a chance.  And if it doesn't work?  Do the firing or get fired.  You'll be glad you did.   

 

 

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