parent’s scheduling demands

Lisa said: Dec 17, 2013
Lisa Liske-Doorandish
Suzuki Association Member
8 posts


I’m wondering what wisdom anyone might share about responding to a parent who has made sudden very particular scheduling demands, wishing to have lessons consecutive with Group class for next semester, and even requesting that I put my Group classes in a certain order to accommodate her request.

In my studio, quite a number of people travel from out of town for lessons. Some come from as far away as two hours or more, and I have always tried to give them the benefit of lessons adjoining Group. Some come only every other week, and the woman making the request has readily compared her situation with theirs, saying that her 45 minute drive each way weekly compares with others’ two and a half hour drive each way every other week; or that although her city is closer to where I teach than someone else’s city, it takes her almost as long to get to cello. Therefore, she says, why don’t I give her “preferential treatment ” as well? This family has begun its third year of study with me, and the road has been…interesting.

She has brought up the possibility that maybe her children “just shouldn’t do Group” if I can’t fit them in on the same day. I have never before, in many years of teaching, had someone make such demands. I feel that I cannot acquiesce to her request to have the lesson time right before Group without ruining the opportunity to attend that I have worked hard to offer to people from quite far away who have played the cello longer and with great dedication. On the other hand, if I simply say, “okay, no Group,” this completely betrays the structure of my approach to Suzuki method, leaves her children out of an important learning setting, and sends the wrong message to the rest of the studio. I don’t feel eager, on the other hand, to issue an ultimatum.

There are certainly two issues. One is just the challenge of scheduling both for me, and in the parent’s life (especially since travel is concerned); the other is that the parent is looking around the studio ready to compare her own situation with that of others (of whose circumstances she knows little), and to offer criticism of others and of my decisions regarding the situations of others.

If I were to decide that continuing to teach these children is more important than having them come to Group, what about charging the same fee as if if they did attend Group? This would send the message to the mother that they are missing something. For me, it’s much harder to try to cover all the bases in teaching someone who doesn’t have the benefit of that second weekly cello time with me, so a higher fee feels appropriate from that standpoint as well.

Does anyone have reflections to share about Group attendance, special requests, and this sort of parental presence in a studio?

  • Lisa Liske-Doorandish
    Community Cello Works
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Mengwei said: Dec 17, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

Do you already have another student’s individual lesson scheduled before the group? If so, in my opinion the answer is no because they were there first and I wouldn’t take an established time away and especially not to turn around and hand it to someone else!

I teach individual lessons in two cities (minimum 45 min driving apart—but I often leave myself 1-1.5 hours), do group in one, and charge everyone a monthly rate. Students in the other city are “grandfathered” into a lower rate because weighing Suzuki and business factors, I decided I can’t advertise as being in one city and then say, you also have to pay for and attend group class, driving an hour or more each way every week. I just ask them to please come at least once a month.

In my whole small studio, one student had perfect group attendance this fall and two got 8 out of 10. A financial motivation to charge everyone for group is that rent for the group space still needs to be paid whether they come or not. From a business standpoint, if I allow too many “no group” discounts, then I’m not managing expenses properly. For non-Pre-Twinklers who miss group a lot, I do spend some lesson time covering material from group.

I didn’t charge for group when first setting it up (once a month for a few months) but moved to weekly in September, announcing in August that the new rate would take effect in October. A few students did leave at the end of the summer, but I believe they would have left even without the rate change.

Is this parent of yours approaching other parents? If you have only one of this “attitude” and it’s not spreading, I wouldn’t be too concerned. People are entitled to their own thoughts. It’s certainly unfortunate for the children, but sometimes we can only do so much to influence the decision-makers.

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