Needy Teenage Students

December 6, 2008 at 06:13 AM ·

I have three 18-year old students who all approached me at the end of this semester saying they may not be able to afford lessons in the spring.  One perhaps is being pressured to pursue her college plans, which do not include a major in music.  One is just now turning 18 and is being dropped by his homeschool program because he graduated early.  The last used her money to buy a car so she could get to a job that is not providing her with the hours she needs.  ...Although, she still went snowboarding on Monday...

I firmly believe each one needs to continue, and each one for different reasons.  I have some more thoughts about the subject, but I wanted to see what you think I should do--if anything at all--to help them.

Mind you, I am the main breadwinner in my household, and teaching is my primary job.

Replies (31)

December 6, 2008 at 08:26 AM ·

In these economic times, it is a challenge.  Rather than lose a student completely, maybe you can offer a reduced lesson frequency, or like the retailers are doing - "holiday specials".  I recently recieved a flier on my door from a local piano teacher advertising for lessons and "gigs".

Question - do you give studio concerts or other opportunities for performance? 

December 6, 2008 at 12:01 PM ·

Are these students out on their own, or do they live at home and receive living assistance from parents?  If the young people are on their own and self-supporting, can they afford lessons?  If they are still dependent on parents, can the parents afford lessons?  What is "afford" anyway?

Are you comfortable offering assistance to students that possibly make more money than you?  Do you think  they value lessons that they don't have to pay for?  Just some things to ponder...If the young people are truely in need, and really, really want to play violin, then I would offer lessons for labor.  Make a list of chores, draw up a contract, and have the work completed before a lesson is offered. 

As far as teaching students that turn 18, most young people this age are ready to start a new phase in life, and that ususally means leaving the old life behind.  This is "growing up", and it is good!  

December 6, 2008 at 03:27 PM ·

You have three really different scenerios here. But you possibly should approach them all initially the same way. Explain from your perspective of their current situations why choosing to stop studying may not be the best choice. This should not include any commentary on YOUR need for steady income. I would also ask the first two what it would take on your part, in terms of a financial deal, a reduced schedule, etc., for them to continue through the spring term. With the third, it sounds to me like this one is already making her own pretty standard older-teen choices about where her money & time go. Not so wise, but not out of the ordinary. In my experience, students don't usually tell teachers they're "thinking of not continuing" until they actually have decided they are NOT, so you would do well to have that thought clearly in mind, keep it there to help you speak in a considered, calm and courteous way to these young people, and have your flyers & contacts cooking so you can locate new students. Also, the description of the homeschooler is puzzling; how does someone get dropped from a homeschool program? To me, homeschool means the parent(s) have assumed the job of choosing school materials & teaching their child at home. Do you mean something else? Sue

December 6, 2008 at 06:41 PM ·

Is there anything any of them has that you need that s/he could trade you in exchange for lessons?

December 7, 2008 at 06:03 AM ·

I'm an adult student not quite in the same position, but some of what I perceive may relate.

I am currently not taking lessons, primarily because I cannot find a reasonable time in my chaotic schedule. I recently purchased an electric violin so I can practice silently with headphones after my wife goes to bed. So, schedule may be an issue.

My instructor left the door open for me to return for tune-up lessons on an 'as needed' or 'as desired' basis. I have done this, however I could not keep anything like a schedule... maybe later after the first of the year.

One option I considered was less frequent lessons- one every other week, instead of one every week

One other option I considered but abandoned was group lessons. If budget is the main factor, this may be an option.

One other option that would be appealing to me is a mini workshop. Set a clear goal of the workshop, keep group size small (three or four possibly), and have a finite number of sessions. Possibly send an invitation to all your students to work on a specific piece, and have it end on a 1-time private concert.

If this fails, record all your practice sessions, and sell the CD on e-bay for extra money.
 

December 12, 2008 at 07:04 AM ·

(I feel like I'm in a voting booth when I try to respond to all of these comments.  I can't see any of the previous posts while I'm deciding what to write.)

Mendy, I do give a recital at the end of the semester.  I also allow my more advanced students to join me on some of my gigs around town.

December 12, 2008 at 07:12 AM ·

(Anne, I'm going to take you into the booth with me.)

Anne, you wrote:

"Are these students out on their own, or do they live at home and receive living assistance from parents?  If the young people are on their own and self-supporting, can they afford lessons?  If they are still dependent on parents, can the parents afford lessons?  What is "afford" anyway?

"Are you comfortable offering assistance to students that possibly make more money than you?  Do you think  they value lessons that they don't have to pay for?  Just some things to ponder...If the young people are truely in need, and really, really want to play violin, then I would offer lessons for labor.  Make a list of chores, draw up a contract, and have the work completed before a lesson is offered. 

"As far as teaching students that turn 18, most young people this age are ready to start a new phase in life, and that ususally means leaving the old life behind.  This is "growing up", and it is good! "

----------------

I believe that none of these students earn more than I, but I also believe that their families probably do.  I'm probably not going to offer them a discount.  I do have some rooms that need painted, though, and I'm pretty sure the one who needs a job would take me up on it if I asked.  I might do that.

I hate it when kids grow up and leave. 

December 12, 2008 at 07:16 AM ·

Is it possible you want them to continue more than they want to?  Maybe they just don't want to tell you they don't really want to invest time/effort/money in the lessons right now.

December 12, 2008 at 07:24 AM ·

Roland, you said:

>"My instructor left the door open for me to return for tune-up lessons on an 'as needed' or 'as desired' basis. I have done this, however I could not keep anything like a schedule... maybe later after the first of the year."

This is the main problem with leaving the weekly routine.  I've never seen it work for anyone.

>"One option I considered was less frequent lessons- one every other week, instead of one every week"

This discourages diligence between lessons, and lessons usually feel more like a dusting session for both of us.  For the right person, this would work, though.

>"One other option I considered but abandoned was group lessons. If budget is the main factor, this may be an option."

The thought of teaching a group makes me wretch.  It feels like I'm institutionalizing private lessons, which for me is built upon very individual relationships and needs. This method seems to work fine for some people, though.  But I envision kids on ponies in a ring, all heading off in different directions while being asked to comply to the same orders.

>"One other option that would be appealing to me is a mini workshop. Set a clear goal of the workshop, keep group size small (three or four possibly), and have a finite number of sessions. Possibly send an invitation to all your students to work on a specific piece, and have it end on a 1-time private concert."

This workshop idea is something I need to develop regardless.  I feel that my students could benefit from playing together every once in a while.  I've just never gotten around to organizing it.

>"If this fails, record all your practice sessions, and sell the CD on e-bay for extra money."

Hmm, I do have my recital cd.  And those documentary samples.  Although, I think I probably shouldn't turn a profit from those.  :)

December 12, 2008 at 07:31 AM ·

Hi Annette,

I'm good friends with all of these kids.  I suspected that one of them (the snowboarder) might just be disinterested, even though her practice routine, enthusiasm during lessons, and future plans for her instrument suggest otherwise.  I told her point blank before George and I left town that if she just didnt' want to take lessons anymore, being truthful about it was best; I could take it.  She told me that she really did want lessons.

And since she's housesitting for me for free right now, I could probably offer some free lessons if she does a halfway decent job.  Tell you what, if I get home and the door isn't wide open, and the floors aren't flooded, and my plants and pigeons are still alive, that's what I'll do.

 

December 12, 2008 at 07:35 AM ·

And Sue,

Thanks for your response.  I like your thoughts on the subject.  To clarify, most homeschool programs in Alaska make a certain portion of funding available for extracurricular activities.  It's enough that a student can pay for their violin lessons entirely with homeschool money.  But when it's out, it's out.  A lot of homeschool students don't know what it's like to pay for private lessons out of their pocket, but that is in fact what most people do.

December 12, 2008 at 01:09 PM ·

 And since she's housesitting for me for free right now, I could probably offer some free lessons if she does a halfway decent job.  Tell you what, if I get home and the door isn't wide open, and the floors aren't flooded, and my plants and pigeons are still alive, that's what I'll do.

I remember when that happened! Are you coming through Philadelphia this year? No pressure, but our local per capita ice cream consumption is way down due to lack of visiting Alaskans.

December 12, 2008 at 02:15 PM ·

Emily, if you use Firefox, you can open v.c as many times as you want, which is great for referencing the posts you respond to...

Also, it is hard to see the kids grow up and leave, but take heart in that you don't have to pay their college tuition (insert smiley face here).

December 12, 2008 at 02:23 PM ·

"To clarify, most homeschool programs in Alaska make a certain portion of funding available for extracurricular activities.  It's enough that a student can pay for their violin lessons entirely with homeschool money.  But when it's out, it's out.  A lot of homeschool students don't know what it's like to pay for private lessons out of their pocket, but that is in fact what most people do."

Wow.   I pay for seven private music lessons a week.  I have no sympathy since my tax dollars are probably paying for some of those private music lessons in Alaska. 

That said, if the parents and the student really want to continue...they will find the money. 

December 12, 2008 at 02:40 PM ·

Emily-

LOL! 

I should have mentioned I was speaking from experience.  At the age of 18 I did the same thing.  I didn't want to tell my teacher the truth.  I thought I would hurt his feelings by saying, "I don't want what you love."  I needed a break from violin to figure out who I was and  what I wanted to do in life.   It seemed I couldn't see past violin to explore other things that may be out there for me,  A break from practicing, pressure, and expectations was refreshing and I soon went back to it to get a music degree and teach.

December 12, 2008 at 05:22 PM ·

Tess,

The homeschool program is what it is because so few educational opportunities exist in the rural areas.  Some small communities don't even have anough children to qualify for a public school, though this isn't the case in Soldotna.  As far as tax money goes, I think most of our tax money is being wasted in one way or another.  I don't mind when money is put toward music lessons when we have no string program available on the peninsula.  I do have a problem when the money gets spent on toys under the justification that they are "educational", when in fact they are just toys.  The homeschool programs realy have to crack down on that type of wasteful spending.

Annette,

I would have been just like you!  I used to worry so much about hurting other people's feelings or disagreeing with them that I often didn't speak my mind about anything.  I think it's crucial that a teacher create an environment that helps kids feel comfortable saying what they really think.  If I can get my students to open up, then I know how I can help them better.     

E. Smith,

Yes, we will be in PA late next week through Christmas.  If I get my way, we'll be making a trip to Philly somewhere in there.  It's a busy time of year for everyone, but if you and I can line something up, it would be so worth it!  Plus, there's all that ice cream that needs dealt with...

December 12, 2008 at 05:37 PM ·

Lessons can be very expensive and if I didn't have the support of my parents I couldn't pay them either.

My old lessons were about 40-45 dollars for a 45 minute lesson. Now with my oppurtunities to work with college professors, they're prices range from 60 dollars, 75 dollars and some even more than that. Lessons from they're students aren't much cheaper...

And maybe your students may want to move on and just don't know how to tell you? So they're using financial issues as an excuse? I don't know. I don't know your students so I couldn't really tell you....

I'm sorry if what I've said has been repeated in earlier comments. I haven't read through them.

December 12, 2008 at 05:40 PM ·

Emily,  that's just it.  I need to check and see if Illinois does the same thing.  We prefer to spend our tax dollars advertising Senate seats for sale.

But the jist of it is...you have a family who has gotten free private lessons for X-amount of years, and now that they have to actually pay for them, they don't want to.  That's what chaps my arse about the situation. 

Well, that and the fact that my kids attend public school but the gov't doesn't give me money so they can take private music lessons.  Our school doesn't have orchestra either.  I'm wondering how this ever got started and what line do I need to stand in?

December 12, 2008 at 06:00 PM ·

Just a couple of stupid things:

EDIT:  Never mind the first thing.

Also, I was in PA this past August, and discovered during a three hour layover in Philly that there are NO TASTY KAKES in the Philly Airport AT ALL.  What is up with that?  No Birch Beer either.  What is wrong with those vendors? (End of rant).  Have a nice trip!

December 12, 2008 at 06:51 PM ·

 Also, I was in PA this past August, and discovered during a three hour layover in Philly that there are NO TASTY KAKES in the Philly Airport AT ALL.  What is up with that?  No Birch Beer either.  What is wrong with those vendors? (End of rant).  Have a nice trip!

This is a shocking state of affairs. I am fainting with embarrassment for my city. 
 
By the way, Tess, I think that Emily's point was that in rural Alaska there is not always a public school available, hence the distribution of funds for homeschoolers, but maybe I got that wrong. 

 

December 12, 2008 at 07:13 PM ·

Paul, in order to keep lessons affordable (since many of my clients are also friends), I only charge $20 per half hour.  I'm curious.  Since you're also a student, can you tell me how difficult it is for you to come up with $20 a week?  When I see high school students blowing money here and there, I keep my mouth shut, but I brace myself because I know I'm going to hear them complaining about being broke in a couple of days.

But when I was in high school, I only got bits of money here and there for babysitting, wedding gigs, and selling art.  So $20 a week may have been a bit much for me.  But for most kids I don't think it is.  It's $3 a day.

December 12, 2008 at 07:16 PM ·

Every state has kids being homeschooled.  Apparently it is up to the discretion of each state and then each district, how the gov't monies are/can be spent...providing there are gov't funds available.  I understand that areas like rural Alaska and other rural areas out west would qualify for funds because of the distances kids would need to travel to get to an actual school building.

Again, it's the idea that the student is considering quitting lessons because now that s/he is 18 years old, there's no gov't money to pay for the private lesson.  It's just another example of when you give something away, does the recipient truly appreciate it? 

December 12, 2008 at 07:19 PM ·

Tess,

E. Smith sums it up.  I feel for your plight, though.

Top reasons to go to PA:

-Tasky Kakes

-Birch Beer

-Pork Roll

-Philly Museums

-Cheesesteak

 

December 12, 2008 at 08:07 PM ·

PA rocks!  I met my wife of 31 years in a bar in Philadelphia and got engaged on the steps of the Art Museum (made famous by the film "Rocky") while listening to performance of Beethoven's 9th.  It doesn't get better than that.  You can't beat PA.

December 12, 2008 at 08:10 PM ·

 

The community pays fo private lessons if you are home schooled? Is this so?

I never heard of such a thing, and although I am an avid supporter of music in public schools, I don't think the average taxpayer would or should support the private lessons for those being home schooled.

Music lessons , and their expense is a relative matter that goes hand-in-hand with one's priorities. I have done things like chamber music nights and playing duets (sight reading skills and just an enjoyable add-on to a lesson). These are gratis. However, if the student is paying for the lesson; a few less burgers, movies, and the like.... if parents are paying, then they should insure that Junior is practicing to get true value of the money expended.

Of course then the topic of the instant gratification society comes up. When I saw the TV commercial for "guitar hero" I wanted to launch my shoe at the set.

 

December 12, 2008 at 08:29 PM ·

PA is most nifty, 'tis true.  (I was born in Allentown).  And along with Tasty Kakes and Birch Beer, let us not forget the Philadelphia Orchestra...

If the lessons are important to the kids, and/or their parents, they will find a way to come up with the rubles.  We all have to price accordingly to our markets, and $20 would be very low around here.  I can't imagine that $20 in Alaska would be outrageous.  However, the most expensive lessons I have heard of were in Philly, at $500 a pop, and that was almost 10 years ago.  

Knowing who the teacher in Philly is, I would gladly pay those rates, if I had the money (insert smiley face here).

December 12, 2008 at 09:49 PM ·

 Knowing who the teacher in Philly is, I would gladly pay those rates, if I had the money (insert smiley face here).

Wow, that IS expensive. I've heard of a teacher here who charges $400, but we have never approached him for a lesson, so that price be apocryphal. A recent lesson for one of my kids in New York cost us $450, but that included the $300 in cash I need to get my car out of the tow pound. :'-(

--

 I agree with those who have pointed out that if you give something away, it tends to be undervalued by the recipient. It gets so tricky when one is friends with ones students (I have the same issue, in a related discipline and give away tons of consulting time to former students who are struggling economically.) So, do as I say and not as I do, and retain the boundaries. If it's too hard for them to pay, then work out a clear barter system (e.g., the aforementioned housesitting.) They will value their lessons more if they work for them. 

December 12, 2008 at 10:22 PM ·

Hi Emily,

I think I remember after glancing through the comments that you said one of them bought a car recently... I can see how that would add up very easily. Car payments, insurance, gas etc.

I don't have a job right now but if I did it wouldn't be difficult at all to get $20 for a lesson once a week. I'll give an example... One of my friends works at a pizza place, Papa Murphy's. She works part time and gets like $200 every two weeks I think. But kids these days are very resourceful and I know nine year olds how have more money than 16 year olds!

But like I said, I don't have a job, and it's still no problem for me to make money. I don't ask for money up front from my parents... I'll do things and then my dad and I will just keep the numbers in our heads, and when I want to buy something big, I'll just ask for money. But I also always have about $200 in cash in my posession that I can grab if I need something right away. I don't really baby sit for neighbors or anything. I usually watch my nephews every couple of weeks, and I'll be watching Kolt (one of my nephews) tomorrow while his mom and brother are at the mall meeting Santa. But when I was in Junior High I used to exercise and take care of my brother and his wife, Laura's horses and she wanted to give me money for it but I declined.

It's very easy for a teenager to get money and if they're not able to come up with $20 a week, they're obviously doing something very wrong. So I wouldn't cut those students slack if you're being so kind and offering such a low fee to them!

December 12, 2008 at 10:20 PM ·

  But I also always have about $200 in cash in my posession that I can grab if I need something right away. I don't really baby sit for neighbors or anything. I usually watch my nephews every couple of weeks, and I'll be watching Kolt (one of my nephews) tomorrow while his mom and brother are at the mall meeting Santa. But when I was in Junior High I used to exercise and take care of my brother and his wife, Laura's horses and she wanted to give me money for it but I declined.

It's very easy for a teenager to get money and if they're not able to come up with $20 a week, they're obviously doing something very wrong. So I wouldn't cut those students slack if you're being so kind and offering such a low fee to them!

Power to you, Paul, but I think we live on different planets!

December 13, 2008 at 04:01 PM ·

"Power to you, Paul, but I think we live on different planets!"

I agree.  When I was in highschool, I was lucky if I had 20 dollars per month.  granted, like Paul, I had some cash laying around....but it was what I saved over the course of several years, and 20 dollars a week for violin lessons I would never have been able to afford!!! 

December 13, 2008 at 05:06 PM ·

My comment was a little inconsiderate... I know it's not that easy to get money in some parts of the US. But in no way do I live in the "rich" part of Utah... I guess you could say Park City  is the richest part. Because a house like mine which is a little less than 1/2 a million here would be millions there... The tiniest houses are worth 200 thousand and it's insane.

But there isn't anything like poverty in my city. So I can see how it would be hard to raise that much money... But it's nothing like when all of you were teenagers. Kids/teens are very resourceful and manipulative :) So watch out parents!

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