Concert piece problem

Vasuhi said: Mar 28, 2018
Vasuhi KlinkerViolin
Lodi, CA
19 posts

Spring concert is coming up and I have one parent who wants her child to perform the latest piece she is still working on. Never mind that the child has forgotten her earlier pieces. She is working on Bourée right now and that is what the mother wants her to perform in two weeks! I spend most of the lesson time doing review work because she doesn’t bother practicing her old pieces.
Any advise how to deal with this parent.

Barbara Rylander said: Mar 29, 2018
Barbara RylanderViolin, Viola
Saline, MI
29 posts

Hello Vasuhi,

After many years of such struggle, I eventually just said no. There is a book I will recommend to help you think through this. It is 80/20 Marketing by Perry Marshall. I say this because this whole issue has many layers.

One is does your business have systems in place? After dealing with this, I put in place a system. Whatever piece is in polished completely learned form at the beginning of a semester, or quarter goes on the end of the term recital. Period. No exceptions.

Caveat. I am reforming my studio totally and have only a few students right now, so I’m not as formal with structure.

Another is who are you and what are you as a business? Are you just another commodity? Just another teacher? Because if the parent sees you as an expendable commodity and wants to find someone to do her bidding, then something is wrong with this picture.

I do not view parents insisting on making musical decisions as acceptable. And what I had to decide is whether I was going to create a beautiful system, a supportive community, or keep families like this.

In business it is stated like this: Who is your customer? Anyone and everyone because you need the income?

Then THEY control you, your musical vision, your process, your results. AND my biggest concern is that I will not do damage to a child just because the parent wants it. They have the right and responsibility to raise their child as they see fit. But I have a right and a responsibility to protect, nurture, and teach my students.

Barbara Rylander said: Mar 29, 2018
Barbara RylanderViolin, Viola
Saline, MI
29 posts


it sounds like you have a total lack of compliance issue, the family wants to do what they want to do,

no review, etc.

The best thing I ever did was require a 6 week parent orientation to make expectations clear.

And 4 hours of observation of my teaching

Paula Bird said: Mar 29, 2018
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

Sing it, sister!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Barbara Rylander said: Mar 29, 2018
Barbara RylanderViolin, Viola
Saline, MI
29 posts


Joanne Shannon said: Mar 29, 2018
Joanne Shannon
Suzuki Association Member
Los Angeles, CA
140 posts

I just recently had a studio recital. No one was allowed to perform a piece unless it had been polished (a long process that it would take another column to discuss) and the piece had been in their dinner concert for at least three months (dinner concert….another discussion!) It was a great recital, everyone played a more than acceptable performance, and best of all, it was a great experience for everyone because they left their anxiety at home with the new pieces. Everyone commented on the great time they had.

Lori Bolt said: Mar 29, 2018
Lori BoltPiano
San Clemente, CA
261 posts

I completely agree with all the comments. I recently had a similar thing happen, but at our monthly group and in front of others. A newerpiece than the agreed upon solo was announced by a student, I spoke privately with child who refused to budge, and so did I. Sent child to sit down and think it over. Parent did not support me in the moment, child refused to play. I had clearly (I felt) explained expectations and reasons for choosing an older piece during a prior lesson when the newest piece was requested. I didn’t catch it, but the sibling also announced and played the newest piece!

I believe the parent now understands this was unacceptable (we spoke within a few days). We must hold our ground, but explain expectations first.

Lori Bolt

Christina Morton said: Mar 30, 2018
Christina Morton
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Cello
7 posts

Respect for the teacher is needed for the relationship to work. It is big part of the Suzuki Triangle.. it is why we bow when we begin a lesson- to acknowledge our respect for one another.
As teachers we often want to make “everything right” for our students but sometimes that is at the expense of our integrity as a teacher.
When teachers stand by their decisions (which they know in their hearts is the best for the student) then they will grow in personal integrity and in stature in the community. The parents that do not have enough respect for the teacher
can find another teacher. As a teacher, you do not have to worry about losing students. There are many people observing your actions who will come and take the place of that student because they are looking for what you stand for. Trust in the value of integrity and you will not go wrong.

Barbara Rylander said: Mar 30, 2018
Barbara RylanderViolin, Viola
Saline, MI
29 posts

Agreed… on all points. I’d also like to add that I believe we come from a long tradition of private teaching, Suzuki, but traditional also, where the teacher’s directions are to be followed exactly. I would not have dared to tell my teachers who were members of the Cleveland orchestra what piece I would or would not play, or how I thought they should teach.

And when I failed to follow directions, I feel fortunate now that they did not kick me out!

The process of following directions exactly and honoring the expertise of the teacher is an open door to students into the life and world of the musician. Without these parameters how in the world can you play in an orchestra under a conductor? Play an audition for anything? Or even play chamber music effectively, if it always is about having your own way playing what you want to play?

Making music is also about the social construct of working with teachers and other musicians. So then I would have to say, I am grateful to have the life of music that I do, and a good deal of that is the good teachers I had who stuck with their opinions.

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