Summer piano lessons - Should you take a break?

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Wed May 03, 2006 11:04 am

With summer fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere and schools getting ready to turn their charges loose, some people, including some teachers, think they should stop piano lessons for the summer, too. This may save money and time for students and their parents, but is it a good idea simply to stop lessons (and practice) for the summer? Can students go for three months without lessons or practice and take up where they left off in the fall? If you don't teach summer piano lessons, what do you advise your students to do with the hiatus? If some students must take time off (going away to a summer home for example), what should they do, if anything, to keep their piano skills moving forward? Do you take the summer off from piano?
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu May 04, 2006 10:16 am

It is a long time 'off'. If the family is away a long time with no piano, I suggest buying a keyboard (yes, it is better to have something to practice on , even though I am not a fan of them for everyday use.)

I offer lessons in the summer, on a relaxed schedule. One family checks out their plans and lets me know when the girls are free - usually we try to do two weeks on and two off as it just works out that way. This is not great for working on a long piece of music, but it is great for catching up on theory, composing, sight reading and the many points you do not always have time for at the lesson. It is not rushed and usually don't have to watch the clock. I love that!

I wish more families would take advantege of it but it is that busy syndrom again - camps and activities that keep their children busy...and tired!

I am going to try to encourage it a little more for some students. I had two who began in January, who are eager, and an 9 year old boy who is very enthusiastic. Others may just need the time off - especailly the two 6 yo boys. I need a little break, too, much as I love teaching.
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Postby Stretto » Fri May 05, 2006 10:37 am

I teach right on through the summer and don't mention to parents/students the option of not taking lessons in the summer. I think most parents want their child to continue and express concern that if they take too long of break, they will lose some of what they had. Also, parents express many times that their main concern is that the child stay interested in piano so as long as the child is enjoying it, perhaps they don't want a break for fear their child won't want to return in the fall - just a theory. Summer is a good time for some kids as some may have more time to practice in the summer. I had one student last summer that practiced a lot and said, "I have nothing better to do."

I've had some students who are unable to come until evening because they are in summer day camps until parents get off work whereas during the school year, they have a baby sitter pick them up from school and bring them when school gets out.

In general, student's tend to miss more lessons due to other activities in the summer, but also have more time available for make-ups. I've often considered charging a lump sum for the summer semester payable at the beginning of the summer whereby, those who came every week in the summer would end up getting 2-4 free lessons but would also provide a little leeway for missing a few times without "being charged". Basically, charge a one time summer fee regardless of how many times a student came. Most are pretty good about coming so I haven't done that.




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri May 05, 2006 5:11 pm

Do you give the students a break in June and September - after and before school?

Unfortunately there are many families in this area who travel or spend the summer away, so it is hard to continue lessons. The one family I mentioned, make a real effort. There may be a few others this year.

I prefer a more relaxed schedule myself and don't schedule back to back lessons, so I have more time. In the case of siblings, I still can give time as needed as long as there is not another student on deck.
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Postby Stretto » Tue May 09, 2006 7:30 pm

I had a student tell me last week "her mom has planned" on her having a break from piano this summer. I haven't heard from the mother on it yet, however. The student will be joining a sport that involves quite a few practices and games each week as well as taking summer orchestra.

How does a teacher avoid everyone telling you at the "last minute" what their plans are for summer lessons? Do you send something asking everyone to notify you by a certain date of their plans? That's what I'm thinking of doing.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed May 10, 2006 6:34 pm

With my Musicale letter, I tell parents that there wull be two weeks off the end of June and summer lessons begin After July 4th on a relaxed schedule. I ask them to let me know if they are intersted (noting the long time from June to Sept.), I tell them that there will be less pressure on the children and less of a time constraint for me, so there can be a lot of learning, especially theory and sight reading.

Some students might as well take the time off!

Many are too booked up for the summer, unfortunately.

I think sending something out is a good idea.

Joan
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed May 10, 2006 6:36 pm

PS I begin later in Saptember so here are about 2 weeks off then as well.
Everyone needs a vacation!
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Postby drewnchick » Thu May 11, 2006 8:20 am

I usually offer lessons during the summer, to anyone who is interested. Some students I really encourage to take because I feel like they need the continuous learning (like little ones). I don't ever require it, maybe I should start!

I am part of a newly formed music school, and we are planning a "piano camp" for the end of summer, for our own piano students (hope to extend it to more students in the area next year). We will have lots of theory work and games, and hopefully piano ensemble work as well. I'm looking forward to it!
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 11, 2006 8:25 am

drewnchick wrote:I am part of a newly formed music school, and we are planning a "piano camp" for the end of summer, for our own piano students (hope to extend it to more students in the area next year). We will have lots of theory work and games, and hopefully piano ensemble work as well. I'm looking forward to it!

Good luck in this new endeavor. I hope you'll tell us how things are going with the piano camp. We often get requests for information on attending and running piano camps, but none of us on PEP's staff have experience running one, so it's hard for us to answer these questions knowledgeably.
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Postby Stretto » Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:46 am

I have 2 more students now who will be taking a month break for the summer and they were some of my most faithful students. I have a suspicion it is really the parent who wants a break from lessons with busier schedules and a break from trying to get them to practice. I plan to start organizing lessons by the semester with "built in" breaks as I can understand coming week after week long-term with no breaks would get old.

If a teacher doesn't give lessons in the summer at all, should they compensate for that loss of income by charging more during the year?

Well, anyway, I've thought about it for the last 2 or 3 summers and next summer I am definitely going to go with my idea of charging a one time fee for the entire summer semester payable at the beginning of the summer whereby a student can come when they can and if they don't come some weeks, they don't. It will be set in such a way as if they come every week they will get the equivalent of 4 "free" lessons. If they miss some weeks, they won't be penalized for up to 4 missed lessons. Basically those who come every week are rewarded, those who miss up to 4 weeks in the summer aren't paying for it. Or students not wishing to can just take the summer off.




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Postby drewnchick » Mon Jun 12, 2006 10:35 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:Good luck in this new endeavor. I hope you'll tell us how things are going with the piano camp. We often get requests for information on attending and running piano camps, but none of us on PEP's staff have experience running one, so it's hard for us to answer these questions knowledgeably.

Thanks, I'll let y'all know how it goes! I think it will be really good for our area...I don't think anyone else here offers something like this on any sizeable scale. Of course, ours will be small this year, since it's our first. But we're hoping to grow it into something substantial over the next few years.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Jun 13, 2006 10:51 am

Stretto:

Charging more to compensate for summer breaks reminds me of university teaching. In our department we had to rotate the summer session teaching opportunities, so there were many years when the salary check only came in for nine months. After years of this the university gave us the option of receiving 9 checks or 12--same annual salary, of course, but spread out. (I suppose this helped the ones with less fiscal discipline.) Maybe you have to look at it like an independent farmer: after a couple of great years of abundant rainfall they know enough to stash as much money as they can, because they know that sooner or later there will be droughts or tornados that can ruin a whole year's crops. It comes with the territory.

I would think you'd have to set your prices according to what the market will bear.

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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:24 pm

As much as I love to teach, and I love it a lot, I enjoy some time off.

I think the children and parents need it also.

For the students who really love it, I give some summer lessons - on a relaxed schedule - often between camps and vacations.

If someone is trying to 'make a living' teaching, he might want to find some summer employment at a music store or something different. The summer camp idea sounds good - but not all summer. I feel we all need time to regroup.

Sometimes I would like to say 'yes, I can meet you for the afternoon!'


:D
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Postby Stretto » Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:42 pm

Well, I hadn't planned to charge more over the year to compensate for no one coming in the summer! If I raised my rates it would be for other reasons than that. I was just thinking the whole thing through. I suppose a person could figure out how much you make on an average in a year for the weeks that you do teach, then if it seems too meager, add more students/and or adjust rates (of course if rates are within reason for the area).

What I was thinking is if a person's rates are already set on the low end or too low to begin with (which a lot of teacher's do set their rates too low) minus less or no fees coming in during the summer minus expenses over the year, one might be making very little on an average. A teacher might need to keep this in mind when determining number of students they would like and setting rates.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu May 22, 2008 8:49 am

Stretto wrote:Well, anyway, I've thought about it for the last 2 or 3 summers and next summer I am definitely going to go with my idea of charging a one time fee for the entire summer semester payable at the beginning of the summer whereby a student can come when they can and if they don't come some weeks, they don't. It will be set in such a way as if they come every week they will get the equivalent of 4 "free" lessons. If they miss some weeks, they won't be penalized for up to 4 missed lessons. Basically those who come every week are rewarded, those who miss up to 4 weeks in the summer aren't paying for it.

I think this is a great idea. It's important for people to continue practice and lessons through the summer. You've come up with an approach which rewards people for taking lessons in the summer.
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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