STICKING WITH IT
Quitting lessons is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Parents should be objective about lessons because the reasons why students quit lessons prematurely are mostly reactionary and preventable. Losing interest is a blanket phrase that covers any number of reasons that are not related to music itself. Here are our solutions to some common problems:
If students complain about going to lessons: 1) Young students may complain about lessons if they are interrupted from "play" to go to lessons. Lessons are private, so the thought of going may not be as appealing as going to school or another activity to be with friends. 2) Sometimes students feel guilt for not practicing. Students should not feel they have to make excuses or apologize for not practicing and teachers should not scold students for lack of practice. Coming to the lesson is far more beneficial than practicing and attendance is necessary to maintain momentum. 3) Teachers will normally question if the written homework is not completed. Help your student not feel guilty by making sure it is done before coming to the lesson. Go to imahovland.com for help.
Students don't want to practice
What's new? One of the most famous pianists from the 20th century was Van Cliburn. He said, "I don't like to practice, never have." Everyone experiences this. Teachers and parents should never use practicing as a benchmark to determine a student's interest. Practicing is a task that requires discipline to manage and, for this reason, the conservatory program will not give this burden to its beginning students. We encourage playing at home, but we do not require practice at home until students are old enough and experienced enough to handle it on their own. We practice with students at the lessons to develop their skills and the interest in playing and do not rely on what they do at home.
Parents should not get involved with practice other than to encourage students to play and act interested in what they are learning. When parents help with practice it is usually counterproductive and sometimes harmful to the student's interest and desire to play. In our experience, we have found that students generally do better if their parents are not capable of helping them at home.
Lack of interest in lessons many times originates from conflicts at home, and not the lesson. If parents are taking a hard stand and arguing about practice, how can we hope that the student will want to stay in lessons? The happiest students are those whose parents encourage practice but don't force it. Never threaten your child that lessons are not worth the money spent unless he or she practices.
Parents don't want to force lessons
This is a fact, that almost everyone who has stayed in lessons long enough for them to be useful had to be "forced" at one time or another to continue with lessons. This is not an understatement. Most of us cried, complained, and refused to go saying things like, "You can't make me." In addition, we didn't want to practice and saw no reason why we were forced to take lessons. The conclusion is that children have no ability to plan for the future and will not know the benefits of their lessons until they are grown. To keep peace, don't try to explain and reason with your child, this usually makes matters worse. Be objective and say, "This is what our family does. When you are grown, you can decide for yourself." No one regrets this decision made for them as children.
Lessons are too expensive
It may be true that lessons are too expensive for some families, but in comparison to many other activities, private piano lessons are comparable or less expensive. If it is a matter of a financial choice between other activities and piano lessons, piano lessons are a better investment in the future. It is far more likely that students will use their musical skills throughout life than those learned in sports or dance.
The student is starting band or orchestra at school
Joining band or orchestra at school is a wonderful social experience, but music at school should not conflict or take the place of piano lessons. Your music director at school may require a certain amount of practice at home for a grade, this often overwhelms students and they feel they can't do both. This is very unfortunate. Some directors will give credit for piano practice to help the students maintain a good grade. Either way, don't quit piano for band or orchestra. Piano is a life-time instrument, while playing an instrument for band or orchestra is usually not kept up after school years are over.
The student doesn't like the teacher
This complaint can may mean many different things. I know, I "hated" my piano teacher growing up and now she is the person to whom I am most grateful! Certainly, we have all had these experiences. In reality, most teachers are nice; but those who are trying to help students play better may meet with some resists to that effort. This happens more often when students have played on their own without training or have been taught by a teacher who did not help them play better. It is important to realize that sometimes a teacher that the student "doesn't like" is the teacher that can help them the most. The actual job of the lesson is to help students do more than they could or would do on their own. Remember, teachers can adjust to students attitudes so it is important that you let someone know if there are personality issues so the teacher can make the appropriate adjustments for the student to feel better. Or, as a last result, there are several different teachers available at each studio, so teacher changes can be made.
Transferring somewhere else
Check out the reason you are transferring. Are you moving? Are you going somewhere that costs less? Do you not like your teacher? Do you want to keep the same teacher all the time? Do you want the convenience of a teacher in your home? Do you want to choose what music to learn at lessons? Do you want more choices of lesson times? There are many reasons for transferring. However, parents should consider the curriculum more than any other thing. The curriculum makes the difference, even more than the teacher. The conservatory curriculum is superior. If you choose to transfer, you are now responsible to watch for the common errors that have proven not to work and should alarm parents: 1) The use of popular sayings instead of reading the staff alphabetically as it is designed. 2) The term hand positions in the method book to introduce chords before the hand is ready and before students are fluent at reading notes individually. 3) Finger numbers, letter names, or counting written under or over notes as duplication to reading the actual notation. 4) Students looking up and down while reading, all reading problems originate from this bad habit. 5) Playing the fingers with fingers that are flat or collapsing rather than lifting from the knuckle. 6) The teacher counting aloud or singing along. 7) The teacher expecting parents to help students play their assignment. 8) Students are learning universally accepted literature for the piano and not just simple familiar songs. 9) Students are learning the technique for playing the piano easily and fast.
Desire to play popular songs
When students are failing to learn to play with technical skills, they often try to find a way to keep their own interest by choosing songs to play that they already know. Also, to try to prevent students from dropping, many teachers give students songs to play of their choice. This tactic may temporarily work, but it will eventually fail. In fact, familiar songs actually create a barrier to learning because students are drawn to spontaneously play them; thus experience an internal battle between the easier way of listening for the melody and the concentration in which to read and interpret music notation. In this battle, the easier way always wins. To protect students from this conflict, they should learn new songs at lessons that are unfamiliar and, as they expand their knowledge of music, their interest will be renewed.