Cate R., Australia
What tangible practices have you instigated to ensure the success of students staying long term with you? I have students in level 3 with me now but I want more to stay with me longer. I have allowed parents to ‘have-a-go’ at lessons but I find that I’m hardening to the fact that most of those students stay for a level or two and then drop out. I have my LTR graph up and refer to that on occasions but not always. What conversations are you having to say and repeat with parents and students that I might incorporate into my everyday speak?
Sheri R., California
There is a conversation on one of the teacher training recordings, maybe the Relationship one, that talks a little about how to weave the topic of why even take piano lessons into the ongoing conversation. Telling stories is one good way to do this. Stories are compelling, and people remember them.
For example, recently a dad told me over the phone about how his daughter, who is rarely reprimanded, asked if she could still at least play the piano when she was being punished. Dad said he never heard her play so beautifully before. All her emotions went into her playing that day. He agreed to share this story the following week but of course I also shared it in my other classes.
Another mom said her 4 year-old was upset with her and just went to the piano and got it all out and it was a beautiful thing.
Find and collect stories from your students and other teachers. Weave these ideas into your conversations as Neil so eloquently does on the audio files.
Another idea–when your students are on a peak, ask them why they like playing. You’ll get lots of different answers and then summarize them so they hear them back.
Ask students regularly where they are on the LTR graph. They will come to see that they have lots of ups and downs and it’s all normal, so it’s less likely they will stop when they are in a valley.
Play more advanced songs from time to time to inspire them.
Talk about how you never met an adult who wishes they didn’t know how to play, as in “I really wish I could just knock this skill out of my brain to make room for something else.” However, tell them you talk to people every day who call for lessons that say, when you ask about their own piano background, that they took lessons but their parents let them quit and they really regret it.
Also, the poll that has been cited here before or at a symposium: adults who play rate that right up there with their relationships to spouses and kids and family, relationships with career, spirituality, health, & financial well-being. In other words, all these things are in the top six or seven of what contributes to their quality of life.
I tell adults they are giving themselves a priceless gift and I tell the kids that their parents are giving them a gift they will appreciate more and more as they get older.
Having said all this, I still find it challenging to have students stay as long as I’d like, although retention is better. We are up against a culture that doesn’t always value discipline and commitment and big-picture thinking, and educating people about the value of teaching those life-skills through piano is another conversation to have.
Of course, there are lots more. I have found that making sure students really, really get the skills of Controlling the Events, keypads, and external speakers helps ensure a more successful transition from Level 3 to Level 4 and beyond. Without them there is too much frustration when the songs get harder. I’ve recently had a big conversation about this that I will share later that has been a real eye-opener for me and students and parents.
Bernie A., California
My longest standing student and I will be celebrating our 8 year anniversary come soon. I’ve been teaching for nine years.
Retention is one of my favorite subjects. I recall having a conversation with Neil about this whole subject. From that point on, I focused on retaining students for as long as I can. Mostly, because he made a comment about marketing – my weakest link.
I think the bottom line for me is really thinking through “who is it that I need to become.” This is a subject that Neil addresses often. Simply Music for me has been more than teaching piano or making money; it’s about personal development and leadership training, becoming the best human being that I can become. The results are that I’ve become a better person and a better teacher. When this happens, parents and students like being around you; the “law of attraction” kicks in. Students and parents want to stay with you. I think that is one of the reasons why my 8 year student is still hanging around; it definitely wasn’t because I was a maestro at the piano.
Recently, I had a seven year student leave me (he was entering high school from homeschooling). We had a celebratory chat on his last day of class! I gave him my blessing and basically told him how proud I was of him, that he is a self-generative musician and had all the tools he needed to do anything he wanted to musically on the piano. He had everything within him to succeed if he wanted to. I can honestly say he was a better piano player than me. His mother was listening and I could tell that she too was so proud.
I don’t do too much convincing anymore. If they want to leave within their first year, I’m fine with it. I know what they are missing out on if they do leave. Simply Music has so much to offer and I can confidently say that because the results of teaching Simply Music is putting out self-generative musicians. I’ve seen it in my students.
There are certain conversations that I am consistently, always, constantly having with parents to help them understand how important the long term relationship with the piano is. One conversation I have is, “It’s important to keep your students in lessons for as long as you can because the longer they stay in lessons, the greater the likelihood that that piano will be a friend to them for the rest of their lives. It is such a wonderful gift that you are giving them. If you take them out of lessons now, then you will short-circuit that relationship.” If they decide to leave after having numerous conversations of this type, it really becomes their choice.
Another conversation is, “My goal is to help your child become a self-generative musician; that is, they have the ability to read, write, compose, improvise music. Also, they have the freedom to go into a music store, pick out a piece of sheet music that they like and with their base tools that they’ve learned through SM, be able to analyze it, play it, and put the sheet music away. The song becomes theirs forever. Bottom line is that I’m trying to work myself out of a job!” They always laugh at the last comment.