This post is a close follow-on to the thoughts I shared about Recognizing Your Worth as an Artist.
Private teaching the past two years has been a frustrating aspect of my work in Montana. I have pondered many different aspects of being a teacher as I have progressed to understand better how teaching in GTF is going to work for me. In the midst of this, my son - better late than never - decided he wanted to play cello! This meant entering a new world: paying for private lessons.
I have been a private instructor for 20 years!
I began teaching beginner piano lessons when I was 14 years old in order to pay for my lessons and transportation to the Hochstein School of Music in Rochester, New York. As a 14 year old piano teacher, I wrote and paid for my own advertising, established a studio policy, created my first artist biography, managed a teaching schedule, set lesson fees, designed curriculum, communicated with parents, assessed progress, and finished each year with a studio recital. Looking back, I think I was better organized then, than I am today!
However, being a parent to a music student is a whole new world!
I am sad to say, that in only 1 year, I have done every single irritating thing that students have done to me:
- Missed payment for lessons
- Missed lessons without cancelling
- Last minute rescheduling
- Last minute cancelling
Being a parent has definitely made me more empathetic to my students and parents.
The reality is that life is busy! In a perfect world, our weekly schedules are all exactly the same. But in my life, my schedule is always different. This means that I am constantly canceling or rescheduling for my son and my students. In all of that, it's no wonder that lessons get missed or forgotten.
On the upside, there are a few things I do very well as a parent that I wish more parents would do for their students:
- Know what your student needs to practice and ENSURE they get their practice time in.
- Sit in the lesson and be aware.
Parents, you are missing out an amazing learning experience with your child! Studying privately isn't like having a math tutor because your kid is failing math. Studying privately is the opportunity to watch your child interact with an expert in a discipline that your child has expressed passion for.
I LOVE attending my son's cello lesson each week. For a few months, I was even able to play his cello as well as he did. I love watching my son learn from an expert! I love watching him learn and then master a new concept or technique. I love observing another teacher and learning myself how I can help my son and all of my students.
Ensuring that my son practices is sometimes difficult but I have learned to step back and let him work on his own - that's why he has a teacher. I'm not expected to teach him cello, but I am expected to provide him with the time, space, and tools needed to teach himself in between lessons. It's wonderful to listen to your child practice and improve day by day. I don't hear scratchy sounds, I see a child working to learn and improve.
I obviously believe in the value of private instruction both as a parent and as a musician. I want to further encourage parents to take a more active role in supporting their child in learning music. Don't just drop them off while you run errands - go inside! Even if you can't always be present for every lesson, make a point to attend even occasionally. If you can sit through a 2-hour athletic practice or game, you can sit through a once-weekly music lesson. Encourage your student to practice DAILY and provide that by giving them time and space. Volunteer to take a chore off their hands so they have an extra 15 minutes to practice. Have them end their practice session by playing a few lines for the family in the living room. Learn to become familiar with their progress so you can give positive feedback as you hear them improve.
I have seen first hand this past year how my son's cello study has brought fun and music into our home and family in a whole new way! I'm not really concerned with what Morgan does with cello in 20 years but I'm truly grateful for the memories we are making as a family right now surrounding his cello study.