Irate Parent storms out of a recital

Katrin St Clair said: Nov 24, 2014
Katrin St Clair
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Roy, WA
1 posts

At my studio recital yesterday a parent whose child had only had 2 lessons (and subsequently been on vacation for more than two weeks in Disneyland), unexpectedly brought her pretwinkler to the recital thinking she would be participating.

When not seeing her child’s name on the program, she stormed out as I was tuning the other children’s violins.Later she sent me a nasty e-mail threatening to contact the SAA , etc.

Has anyone else run into a situation like this? I don’t think I did anything wrong and actually would have found a way to let the little girl participate in some form had the parent not left so abruptly.

i sent the women an apology but am still, feeling upset about the whole situation.

I have been teaching Suzuki Violin for over 15 years and have never had this happen.

Katrin St.Clair

Mengwei said: Nov 24, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

The rule in my studio is everyone gets to “practice performing” in group class, rehearsal, etc. (for some kids this means taking a bow if they are not ready to play even open E) but only polished solos will be in the actual performance. Pre-Twinkle students have something to do as a group (in June they did Pop Goes the Weasel and in Dec Jingle Bells), and we rehearse every week for at least a month leading up to it. I do the programs 3 weeks in advance and list everyone’s names.

But this is so bizarre that maybe the parent would have taken issue with any other reasonable request or solution that you could have made or done. If keeping this student means you have to turn away someone else who is reliable and respectful of your work, then you might consider whether or not you would keep them.

Alexandra said: Nov 24, 2014
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

Wow. I’m sorry you had to deal with this. That few minutes of preparation before the recital starts is stressful enough, and now adding this onto the stress!

You shouldn’t feel like you did anything wrong. Maybe there was some miscommunication that led the parent to believe that her child would be performing, but I’m a little surprised that she expected that her child would be on the program after only two lessons, and then being on vacation for two weeks. In that situation, I wouldn’t have had that student participate. I think that asking a pre-twinkler with only two lessons to go on stage and perform anything at a recital, even just a bow, would be quite overwhelming for them. I probably wouldn’t have had the student perform even with 4 lessons. Clearly you had the child’s best interest in mind by not having her on the program, something the parent should consider.

My studio policy states that all students are expected to perform on the recitals, but I have made exceptions for students who joined my studio shortly before a recital. I specifically tell the parents that I would rather their child wait until the next recital, so they’re not overwhelmed by performing so soon. (I still invite them to come to the recital to watch.) So far, no complaints. However, I do sometimes debate having certain students perform when they haven’t been in my studio very long, so I’m toying with the idea of only starting new students in August and January, to ensure they have enough lessons before the recitals, which are usually near the end of the school semester, and no one feels left out. Not sure about that yet, though.

I do agree with Mengwei, I would take the time to consider whether you will keep this student, just because the parent seems to be demonstrating early on that she might be difficult to work with.

Hi Katrin,

Gosh, what an unhelpful attitude on the part of that parent, probably added quite a bit of unnecessary stress to your pre-recital time. It’s hard in these instances to try to place yourself in their shoes, but maybe it can help you reduce your own stress to try to think through what things might have looked like from their perspective. It might have been a bit of a sacrifice to show up to the recital, though even that wouldn’t justify such rude behavior. What was your communication with this family like on the weeks prior to the recital? If they were absent, did you contact them at all through email so they would know what to expect? Since they were completely new to your studio, they probably have no idea of what preparing for a recital entails. You said their coming to the recital was unexpected, but they did know about the recital taking place. Did you communicate to them that they wouldn’t be participating? It’s easy as a teacher to use common sense in regards to performance preparedness, but I’ve found it’s really not intuitive for many non-musician parents. If she planned to come to the recital all along and talked to her kid about it and built up the expectation for both of them I can see why she would be upset (but STILL do not condone her behavior nor her lashing out at you in that way.)
I find over-communicating is the best bet when it comes to new families and especially as performances draw near. I hope whatever happens, you find rest about this situation and have a happier, better established studio as that incident is resolved!

Kirsten said: Nov 25, 2014
 Violin
103 posts

In my experience about 1 or 2 percent of the population wake up in the morning ready to do battle and be angry. They learn the habit anger from their parents and usually pass it on to their children.

You may have made a mistake resulting in a misunderstanding, I don’t know, but the woman’s reaction is not appropriate to the situation at hand. I don’t think the way she handled her disappointment was respectful or mature. I would not give a third lesson and refund any money paid for future lessons.

Kirsten

Danielle Gomez Kravitz said: Nov 26, 2014
Danielle Gomez Kravitz
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
59 posts

I agree that the parent’s reaction does seem ominous!

In answer to your question, I’ve never had this happen before. We make a big deal (as I’m sure you do) about the upcoming recital by constantly reminding families and prepping the kids. It’s common sense to assume that if the child can’t make any of the dress rehearsals then he/she can’t make the performance itself.

If it’s really bothering you then maybe avoid this is the future by having recital sign ups. If nothing else it would just be concrete evidence that the family is planning on being there.

Jocelyn said: Dec 23, 2014
Jocelyn Basse
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Voice
Marquette, MI
2 posts

Kirsteen,

I, too, am so sorry that you had to go through this at all. Part of accepting a new student in my studio is an initial interview that states requirements and expectations of both the family and the student. All of those important things that we talk about are printed in a pamphlet that they take with them so that they are reminded of what their responsibilities are for a successful music education. Then as a part of them being the child’s teacher at home, they must attend parent meetings once a month so that any issues at all, are discussed together. These meetings include new parents as well as veteran parents so that they share what they have encountered with their children, family situations, etc.

I hope this helps a bit.

Jocelyn Basse

Laura Nerenberg said: Dec 24, 2014
Laura NerenbergViolin
Ottawa, ON
50 posts

Jocelyn—How do you structure a monthly parent meeting? Is it with all the parents and you? Or, one on one? Do teens attend? I do once-a-year meeting where students 11 and up also attend. I just can’t imagine having the time for monthly one-on-ones with every parent, so maybe I misunderstood.
Thanks!
Laura

Meghan Coil said: Dec 24, 2014
Meghan Coil
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Portland, OR
16 posts

Regarding “quarterly parent check-ins” as I call them, I schedule them every three months and they take the place of our weekly group class. (The children do not attend.). I find that frequency works well to keep me abreast of any frustrations parents are encountering. Usually I take requests from them for topics and find an article for us all to read and discuss. Having beginning and veteran parents in the same room is great for everybody.

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