Studio Policy: In Person

Studio Policy for In-Person Lessons

I. Fees & Payment Options

Please contact for current rates.

The year will be divided into four quarters:
>Fall (Sept-Nov)
>Winter (Dec-Feb)
>Spring (Mar-May)
>Summer (June-Aug)
The information below is for the Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters. The Summer will operate under a less stringent policy. (See “Summer Quarter” below.)

At the beginning of every month an invoice will be sent via email for how much is owed (based upon the number of lessons scheduled that month). Payment for the entire month will be expected at that time.

If the month falls at the beginning of a given quarter, the invoice will also include a total for the full quarter as an optional payment method. See below.

If paying for an entire three month quarter, one day of “clemency” will be allowed. Meaning, if the need to cancel a lesson comes up and is communicated at least three days in advance, that payment could be:

a) reduced from the total at the time of payment (if the exact date is known in advance)
b) credited toward the next quarter

For those with more than one child taking lessons, this would include one “clemency” per child per quarter.

Check, cash or Zelle are the preferred payment methods. If you have an alternate payment method, please inquire.

II. Missed Lessons, Make-Up Lessons, Illness, Weather

Beyond one missed “clemency” lesson (see above), payment is expected for all scheduled lessons during a quarter, including those that are missed. If your family is in a situation in which absences are accruing, please communicate with me about an alternative arrangement for completing the quarter. These situations will be treated as exceptional and handled on a case-by-case basis.

Whenever possible, a make-up lesson will be offered within the same work week. Most likely, this make-up lesson will need to be a remote one.

If I am the one to cancel a lesson, the missed lesson(s) will be credited toward the payment for the next month/quarter.

LEAVE OF ABSENCE (Spring, Fall, Winter Quarters)
During the school year, a requested leave would likely present a significant inconvenience for my schedule (which, with over twenty families spread throughout the suburbs, is quite difficult to coordinate). If a leave is requested, I will give the option for the family to pay to hold their place. Otherwise, they can just take their chances that I’ll be able to get them back on the schedule if/when they are ready to return.

If the needed leave of absence occurs during one of the quarters in which an entire payment has been made, a family may make a special request for up to three weeks’ payment to be refunded.

It’s Minnesota – if we canceled every time I or your child got a cold or other minor illness, we’d (sadly) be missing lessons with regularity. For illnesses of a less serious nature, I will mask, use hand sanitizer, and do all I can to keep your child and your family healthy. I would ask that you consider doing similarly for your child. The last thing I want to do is go from house to house spreading some contagion.

Switching to remote lessons, if possible, is another possibility for these situations.

Should inclement weather prove to be a hindrance to me coming to your home, I will reschedule lessons that day to be virtual (Zoom or Skype). I realize for some of you, virtual lessons are not what you’re paying for and/or an inconvenience, but it is my effort to offer a compromise that allows the lessons to continue in a way that is fair to both parties when the situation (bad weather) is not really fair to either. Having taught virtual lessons for several years now, I will attest that they can be as effective as in-person lessons.

III. Summer Quarter & Holidays

Though I continue to teach June-August, I understand that the summer is chocked full of vacations, camps, etc. Therefore, during the summer, paying week-by-week and/or taking random weeks off without paying for those missed lessons will be an option. (Note: all absences will still be expected to be communicated three or more days in advance.)

While, requesting a leave of absence for the entire summer is not advisable (regression usually occurs), it is understandable. I won’t be able to guarantee that I’ll be able to find an opening if/when the student resumes in the fall, but I’ll certainly do my best.

Should a lesson date occur on one of the holidays listed below, no payment will be expected (though, since I receive no vacation pay, feel free to contribute):
>New Year’s Day
>Fourth of July
>Christmas Eve
>Christmas Day

Below are other holidays in which a family may request an absence for which no payment will be expected. (Please note that I intend to work on these dates and it will be the family’s responsible to communicate their desire to take one of these days off. I will be operating under the assumption that the lesson is on for that day.)
>Martin Luther King’s Birthday
>Washington’s Birthday
>Memorial Day
>Labor Day
>Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day
>Veteran’s Day

IV. Yearly Recital Concert

Every year there will be at least one concert recital for which the student(s) will be invited to play. These are not mandatory but are strongly encouraged. I will endeavor to find a setting for which no rent/payment is required, but if I fail to find one, the families will be asked to help pay for renting a space. Piano competitions or juried recitals are not something I have my students participate in, so if you would like your child to part in these, you are better off finding a different instructor.

V. Supervision

When giving a lesson to a student aged seventeen or younger, It will be expected that at least one adult or teen-aged sibling be present at the home when I am there. They do not need to be in the same room, but their presence should be known.

VI. Books and Supplemental Materials

It will be expected that sheet music, method books, and song books be purchased by the family. There are many different method books out there. I don’t subscribe to any particular one, but my default for piano is the Faber Piano Adventures series and for guitar it’s William Bay’s Children’s Guitar Method. Theory/workbooks I leave as optional to the family. I believe they are helpful but can also more readily cause music lessons to join the ranks of homework drudgery. I will endeavor to procure photocopied material for supplemental songs from the public domain whenever possible, but for those songs outside the public domain, the family will be asked to purchase them.

VII. Communication

Email is my preferred mode of communication, but when I’m out making my rounds, text becomes the best way to reach me – especially for last minute communication regarding a scheduled lesson. Phone calls would be the third option.

VIII. Practice

For better or worse it is not my way to demand that students practice. I will discuss with them the importance of practice and encourage them to do so, but it will largely be up to the student and his/her family to follow through with practicing. I believe time spent with me is valuable to the student whether he/she practices or not, but obviously their skill/development greatly hinges on how much they practice outside lessons. Setting up a routine is highly encouraged. Ten minutes a day or twenty minutes every other day are a couple options that aren’t too demanding. It’s a challenge to balance the approach to the instrument as both work and play; it is both. In my opinion, the less it seems like a chore, the better, but at the same time there will be moments of struggle and resistance which must be braved.

IX. Distractions

A quiet atmosphere is really the best for students. Television, phone conversations, siblings playing in the background are all cause for distraction. I would also encourage families not to surround the lesson time with play time. I have noticed that for students whose lesson time interrupts their playing of video games or playing with friends are much more unhappy and anxious during the lesson. If their homework or house chores or reading time are interrupted, they usually seem less anxious for the lesson to be over.

X. Parental Involvement and Finding Inspiration

A great way to encourage the budding musician is to take interest in their playing. Perhaps sit down and listen sometimes; sing along with a song; arrange for a little house concert for grandparents; help them choose a new song to learn. Taking them to see other musicians perform can also be inspiring and motivating. Guitar players seem to be readily presented as heroes of the instrument on mainstream media; for piano players – not quite as much. You may try to search for DVD/YouTube performances by pianists. As wonderful as classically-trained concert pianists can be, these should probably not be the only performers the students are exposed to. Pop/rock/jazz/blues pianists sometimes are more accessible and exciting for students. There are a series of videos put out by a YouTuber named “Rousseau” that show the pianist’s hands playing while colorful notes drop and disintegrate when each note is played. Several of my students have been inspired by these videos or the like. “The Piano Guys” and their videos also seem to inspire some students.

XI. Apps

I’m not a big fan of children getting lost in their hand-held devices, but… if you can’t beat them, join them. There are many apps out there for music learning (an internet search will reveal plenty of options). I can recommend a couple that might be used to supplement the student’s practice.

Teaching Philosophy

I don’t have a set formula or method I use to teach. I come prepared to meet each student wherever they’re at on any given day. Having studied and practiced the art of improvisation (musically and theatrically) for many years, I feel qualified to use this as a teaching tool: consciously moving with the student, following their curiosity onto any of the myriad paths winding up the mountain of Music.

Having said that (and speaking now less poetically), the general structure of each lesson is: scales/exercises, lesson book, student/teacher-chosen song(s). I always ask students for their input on what songs or kinds of songs they want to learn. My belief is that they are more likely to practice and enjoy making music if they’re playing the kind of music they like. Certainly the choice of Beethoven would provide greater technical challenge than the choice of say – the latest hit by the latest pop diva, but I can always find ways to increase the challenge and thus insure the student is progressing with his/her instrument. (Regarding that: though pop songs are usually simple in structure, the syncopation often occurring in melody lines can prove quite challenging to replicate.)

There are very few things I am insistent upon during my lessons. If a student resists some kind of learning, I won’t force them to “drink from that particular well”. The one major exception is musical scales – I insist my students learn a variety of these and play them at the beginning of each lesson. Frequently the students show some resistance to this kind of rote learning and all I can do is try to assure them that scales are the “chains that lead to freedom”.

I do not offer stickers, draw stars, or offer any such rewards for students completing songs. If you feel encouragement of this kind is beneficial in motivating your child to practice, please let me know and we can design some kind of reward system. If a student does not practice, I do not scold them; I make sure they understand they will not progress much without practicing, but beyond that, I put no pressure on them. I want music to be something they do because they want to. You may rest assured though, I make great effort to help every student connect to the power and joy of making music.

A note for students of the guitar: Whereas learning to read music is a near necessity for most piano students, it is less so with those learning guitar. Outside of “classical” music (which sadly, few young guitar players seem interested in playing) other forms of guitar playing frequently use a numerical system called TAB. This is what I usually use with guitar students. If parents feel strongly about their guitar-playing child learning to read and play standard music notation, I need to be informed – I can almost guarantee, from experience, the student will resist. I think this is largely because it takes great patience to learn to read the musical language and guitar students figure out in short order that they can have success playing their favorite songs without reading music. I make efforts to incorporate reading of standard notation into the lessons, but I don’t push it if the will to learn it just isn’t there.