Summer lesson requirement?

Ian Salmon said: May 1, 2013
Ian Salmon
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Addison, TX
21 posts

Simple poll: Do you require your students to take summer lessons? If so, how do you enforce it? If not, could you explain further?

In my studio policy I state that all students are expected to continue their lessons through the summer. If the child is going to summer camp, or taking a family vacation, I am fine with it. Personally, I have to miss over a month for institutes, so I feel that this mutually respectful give and take is necessary.

I’d love to hear some other opinions on this subject!

Ian Salmon
Violin and Viola Instructor
Suzuki Music Institute of Dallas
www.SuzukiMusicDallas.org

Heather Reichgott said: May 1, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
94 posts

I teach year-round and my families know that.
I do not require summer lessons in any way and have no enforcement plans. (I don’t “require” anyone to take lessons with me at any time of year; I provide a service for people who want lessons!) I make myself available and the students and I make a plan based on their availability and goals.
Almost all of my students continue lessons throughout the summer; the only ones who don’t are the ones who are out of town for most of the summer.

Phyllis Calderon said: May 2, 2013
Phyllis CalderonViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Piano
Chicago, IL
22 posts

Like Heather, I teach year-round. I don’t require my students to take lessons during summer, however, I encourage them to, for the following reasons:

  1. growth progression
  2. so they don’t fall behind
  3. so they won’t miss out on fun classes and performance opportunities!

From experience, those who take a break from lessons for the express purpose of taking a break do not progress. When they resume in fall, they see their peers have moved on and they are still working through the same things as in previous year (because they don’t practice over the summer!)

Lastly, I have gotten into this routine of doing something creatively different for summer for the purpose of keeping the momentum going as well as attracting new students. For example, this year I am adding a music theory class with a focus on improvisation (I tried a bit of it last week and the kids just loved it!). I do a little theory in my Suzuki groups but they need more. Two years ago, I implemented a beginning string ensemble for those at end of Book 1 to Book 3 to focus on reading/ensemble skills—and as a result, those in this group had their first experience playing at a wedding ceremony after having learned some wedding music (and the bride generously gave them each an honorarium which they were excited about!)

But those who go away for vacation (which I have a couple families who do) practice and this is evident when they return in the Fall. For those students who do take a break and come back in the Fall, I will provide them with an action plan of what to practice each day.

Phyllis Calderon
Director, String Instructor
A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc.—Calderon Music Studio
www.atouchofclassicalplus.musicteachershelper.com

Barb said: May 2, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

How long is your summer? Here, we have July and August off from school.

Growing up, I think we had almost three months off, and summer stretched endlessly before us in early June.

One year when our boys were taking piano lessons, we decided to end them with the month of May. We were tired, and the teacher had us paying monthly, with no cancellation policy. At the same time another family made the same decision so the teacher lost four students with no warning!

As a child, I quit violin lessons in the summer. I was demotivated by having to practice before I could go outside to play. (It was also shortly after starting book 4 which required more “work” in practice including technical studies.)

With these in mind, I stopped lessons in June my first teaching year. And saw a lot of learning loss in September ! Or maybe worse, bad habits practiced. And have parents pay by term to avoid what we did to our piano teacher! I now teach through the third week of June plus a week of make up lessons.

I have been making myself available on an irregular basis in July and August, having students who want them book via my online calendar. But this year I have had four students start very late in the (school) year, so I let them know when they started that I expected them to also take summer lessons, so that they wouldn’t be starting over in the fall. There will still be a week off for institute for me, and I will be flexible for students, maybe just letting them book five or six lessons however it suits them.

I encourage my students to attend an institute or other summer program, and have also done an August play-in to get them going again for the fall.

I go between “everyone needs a break” and “summer is such a great time to get some intensive learning in!”

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Barb said: May 2, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Phyllis, great ideas!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Christine said: May 2, 2013
Christine Goodner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Hillsboro, OR
68 posts

I run my school year schedule from September to June and offer a summer term in July & August.

I ask that families sign up for 4 lessons during the summer term to save their spot for fall and to keep up their skills over the summer. If they are traveling or away for music camps etc and cannot take lessons I am willing to be flexible and we work out something we all feel is fair.

I found when I first started teaching, that families who wanted to switch instruments or quit would say they were “taking a break for summer” as a way to leave without having to address the issue.

I would find this out in September when I had already turned away other prospective students, which left me in a bad situation. Since I made the summer lesson policy I don’t have that issue anymore and it seems to work well for families in my studio (since I will be flexible when needed)

Christine Goodner

Studio Website: Brookside Suzuki Strings

Blog: The Suzuki Triangle

“When Love is Deep, Much can be Accomplished” ~ Suzuki

Susan said: May 2, 2013
 Violin, Viola
22 posts

Parents who have ‘taken a break’ during the summer and come back, realize
that we will spend up to 3 months re-learning what was lost over the summer.
Over the years I have tried a variety of things to keep students taking lessons
during the summer. This is what works for me. I print up all the days and times I will be teaching and post them on the door to my office. I tell parents to sign up for lessons during the summer. I don’t tell them how many, that is determined by how much time they will be out of town. Also I don’t ask them to sign up. When they
come to me I let them know that lessons are all year. It’s just during the summer
there is more flexibility in scheduling. And while I charge by the semester for
fall through spring, during the summer I charge by the lesson. I also email the families the week ahead reminding them of the lessons. This way if they need to
change or cancel, I get about 5 days notice which suits me just fine.

Inger Ross-Kristensen said: May 3, 2013
Inger Ross-Kristensen
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Needham, MA
8 posts

I don’t require summer lessons, but a few students ask to come and they can take as many or as few lessons as they want. Frankly I enjoy the vacation time for myself. I make enough money during the year to save up for the lean months.

My school year runs from the day after Labor Day until June 20, that is 19 lessons per semester (a 5 month period), the student is obliged to stay for the semester (Sept thru Jan), but can leave when the second semester (Febr thru June) comes. Very few do this, my students often stay from the age of 4 to 18 when they leave for college.

However, I require the parents to matriculate for the fall semester by June 15. They have to sign up and pay a deposit on the September tuition, usually $100, it is not a fee; it is part of the tuition, which my parents pay on the first lesson of the month. Some people pay the whole semester in advance. If they don’t return in September the fee is forfeited, (except in some cases, unemployment, serious sickness etc.), but this is rare.

I don’t think the students lose too much ground, the Suzuki parents have the students play their repertory list, some older children ask me to give them special summer piecers to work on by themselves.

Hope the above is helpful.

Inger

Nina Black said: May 3, 2013
Nina Black
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Modesto, CA
10 posts

I teach all year. I always quote the famous “Practice on the days you eat!” saying, and believe that music education is a part of everyday life. They are motivated to practice if they are accountable for their lessons.

However, I also believe that everyone needs a rest. Most take a week or two (or more) vacation. They need to continue paying their monthly tuition to hold their spot, but all students have access to my schedule and know where the openings are from the vacation spots of others. They can schedule make-up lessons during those times, sometimes coming several times each week.

Also, a change is as good as a rest. The students have a chance to explore many genres of music during the summer—pop, jazz, movie themes, and most anything they wish, as long as we also work on beautiful tone and correct technique.

Barb said: May 3, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

By the way, we started our son’s piano lessons in late May and went through the summer. That was a good time to get started and learn the basics—not a lot of other activities happening to compete for time.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Mircea said: May 9, 2013
Mircea Ionescu
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Crestwood, KY
23 posts

I try to persuade parents to invest in summer lessons, even if they are out of town for vacation, with benefits and losses like some of you have mentioned. I do encourage parents to go to Institutes/summer camps and do try to make the most of the opportunities that we have over the summer.

Laura said: May 11, 2013
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Palm City, FL
105 posts

We have summer lessons each year, but found that we cannot require lessons be taken since every family has different summer plans and goals. We do however STRONGLY suggest that families sign up for at LEAST 6 lessons (which would be about one lesson every two weeks)

Laura Mozena
www.yourmusicsupply.com

Gregory Guay said: Apr 22, 2014
Gregory Guay
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Mount Pleasant, SC
10 posts

I am considering (finally) requiring a Fall registration fee but may consider waiving this for students that sign up for summer lessons…

Meghan Coil said: Apr 23, 2014
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Portland, OR
16 posts

In my studio, being "continuously enrolled" (defined as a minimum of six summer lessons) locks in their tuition rate for the following year. I adjust my rates each Fall for new students. If a family opted out of summer lessons because of extensive travel plans, they would be subject to the "new student" rate in the fall. I've never had to invoke it though; families are happy for the continuity over the summer. I like knowing that if it comes up, I'll be able to offer a choice to the family, where both outcomes are acceptable to me.
I use Music teachers helper for my billing so keeping track of the different rates is not the headache it would be otherwise.

Elise Winters said: May 9, 2014
Elise Winters
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Austin, TX
37 posts

I love all of these ideas!! Especially the registration deposit for the coming fall, so we have a sense of security coming back from the long break.

Here is a "summer lessons" letter I crafted for my studio, in case teachers wish to adapt it for their own purposes. Feedback (positive / negative) welcome!!

Dear parents,
Congratulations on surviving another school year! Summer is upon us, and with it, an opportunity to rest and relax … and also forward some good musical and artistic goals!!

In honor of quality rest and relaxation, I suggest that parents reserve 3 full weeks with no required violin (viola) practice, where the student has completely free evenings. Out-of-town trips are a good time for this.  If possible, I suggest placing one "free" week toward the beginning of the summer, and one at the end.  If the student is doing a violin camp, definitely take the week after camp off.  I am gone the last two weeks of June and the first week of August, if this helps your decision.

During the remaining weeks of the summer, the ideal schedule for dedicated students is to keep regular lessons, with a slightly increased practice schedule. Since there is no homework, this is much easier than during the year. A student who ordinarily practices 45 minutes a day should consider practicing 45 + 30 during the summer.  So the goal is to find a balance between relaxed, genuine vacation, and creating some intense progress as well.  

My summers in middle and high school were spent at camps where we practiced 4-6 hours a day.  I made a year's worth of progress in six weeks, and it was totally inspiring!  Those camp experiences have their own dynamic (i.e. heaven for overachievers), but there are ways to create some of this without heading to upstate New York.  If the student is competitive and motivated, they may wish to take lessons twice per week for some portion of the summer. This allows students to move through music twice as quickly, making almost a semester's worth of progress in just a few weeks. They should also double their practice time during these weeks.

I hope this leaves you inspired to create a summer plan that you love!!  Please answer each question fully below. Please do make sure to list available as well as preferred times, so I can create a workable schedule. Scheduling priority in the fall will be given to students who take at least 6 lessons during the summer.  Thanks so much!! 

♦ I would like the following summer lesson format:

__ 45-minutes / week         __ 45-minutes / twice a week
__ 60-minutes / week         __ 60-minutes / twice a week  
__ 75-minutes / week         __ 75-minutes / twice a week 
__ 90-minutes / week (advanced students only)  

♦ We would like these lessons during the following weeks:

♦ Please list THREE preferred times for lessons for each week you will be in town, in order of preference. I will group lessons back-to-back, accommodating each family as much as possible.

♦ What times absolutely do NOT work for you? (Please be specific—e.g. weekdays before 5:30 p.m.)

Thanks for all you do!  Best of luck with the end-of-the-year craziness.  In a month we get to all take a deep breath!! Yay!!

Warmly,
Elise 

Barb said: May 16, 2014
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Very nice, Elise!

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Alan Duncan said: Mar 2, 2016
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
59 posts

I’m reviving this old topic with a twist.

Does anyone have suggestions when the situation is reversed—that is, when the teacher is not available during the summer but the student is nearly continuously in town?

My daughter’s studio teacher—who is excellent—is away during the summer for completely understandable reasons. I admire her for deliberately striking a work-life balance.

We’ve signed up for two institutes this year—one nearby and our usual institute back in the States. There are also some late summer and early fall commitments to prepare for also. So, in terms of practice she has some things to keep her busy. There may be an opportunity to work with another Suzuki teacher on an ad hoc basis; but I’m not convinced that’s the best. Obviously there’s always review, more review; but at some point new repertoire is needed to keep the motivation high.

What would you do?

Edmund Sprunger said: Mar 2, 2016
Edmund SprungerTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Saint Louis, MO
99 posts

Consider Skype lessons/consultations with someone out of town.

Edmund Sprunger
sprungerstudio.com
yespublishing.com

Kelly Williamson said: Mar 2, 2016
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
246 posts

I think that whether another teacher is in your city or via Skype, it is nice to ask your home teacher whether they have any recommendations.

Kelly

Alan Duncan said: Mar 2, 2016
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
59 posts

Hi Kelly -

I should have mentioned that our studio teacher offered to connect us with a colleague but did not necessarily push it. I’m just mulling over whether it’s a good idea or not.

Kelly Williamson said: Mar 2, 2016
Kelly WilliamsonTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Flute, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Cambridge, ON
246 posts

That’s great! I think there are a lot of positives when a student has access to teachers who can work together.

Kelly

Gregory Guay said: Mar 3, 2016
Gregory Guay
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
Mount Pleasant, SC
10 posts

I’ve invited several substitute teachers to work with my students—and let go of the Suzuki pedagogy for the month I was gone. I’ve even done this in order to take a week off.
I’ve had the following substitute teachers/musicians/ or college students help:
1) Soprano vocalist, taught basic keyboard theory and emphasized basic singing
2) Exceptional classical guitarist (non-Suzuki)
3) Jazz guitarist, worked on songwriting and improvising based on scales
4) a substitute transient suzuki guitar teacher in between jobs/moving

I’ve left some instructions for each student, some important technical points to emphasize but also let the teachers know to be spontaneous.

I bill/operate on the quarterly system and allow the month of July to be optional for students. This allows me to have some play time and consider a sub if it works out, or do cash basis lessons if I stay in town for a duration of time.
It works great! Although, it can be a lot of work to coordinate lessons for a substitute teacher…. I created an email and asked the sub teacher to use my ‘business’ email and even google calendar, so I could check in with any correspondence if needed. Another perk, I actually had my overhead costs covered at my studio while I spent a month in DOminican Republic!

Friederike said: Mar 3, 2016
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Plano, TX
71 posts

I went to Germany for 11 years in 2014 and offered my students to go to substitute teachers, what most of them took. I lost 2 students that way, but I would have gotten them back if I hadn’t moved myself. We’re going again to Germany for 4 1/2 weeks this summer. My work wants to find a substitute teacher.The challenge with that is to find someone who does not teach the opposite as what I’m teaching. I will start looking soon I guess.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

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