Right Out The Door


“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something  new.”       

Steve Jobs

“I have this student – VERY gifted. The child isn’t the problem. It’s the mother.”

Mrs. Keller had pulled me aside after the master class. She wanted to talk about her “problem family.”

“The mother keeps calling me on the phone. She doesn’t like the way I’m teaching Ben. But the child is VERY gifted. I don’t want him to switch teachers.”

“Has he switched teachers before?”

“Oh YES! I am the third teacher Ben has had in the past five years and I don’t want him to leave. The mother calls me almost every day and tells me what I’m doing wrong and what I should change. No matter what I do one week, she wants something different the next.”

“So even when you do what she asks it’s never enough?” I asked.

“YES!” the teacher answered. “She never thinks I’m doing enough of anything.”

I hear a story like this almost every time I do a presentation for teachers. The details vary, but these are the main points:

  • Student is profoundly gifted. (Maybe the most talented student the teacher has ever taught. This just makes matters worse.)
  • Student’s mother thinks the teacher isn’t doing a good job.
  • Said mother sucks up hours the teacher’s time discussing this special child. This includes phone calls, emails and face-to-face confrontations.
  • Teacher is afraid of the mother.
  • If the teacher speaks frankly, the family will quit. 

I always say the same thing. “That sounds great. Let them!”


If a parent doesn’t think you’re doing the right thing for their child, you probably aren’t. Some family systems aren’t going to jive with your teaching style and values.

These are my clues to a family who will not be happy in my particular studio:

  • The family wants piano lessons to be about control, not about making music.
  • The family doesn’t believe that music is a form of expression. Instead, they believe music is a thing to be mastered, quantified and used to get something else more important.

If that is the kind of people you want in your studio, please send me your contact information. I can send you lots of students!

Me? I let all that negative energy propel them past me and right out the door.


I love to use these vintage stickers with my young students. I’m always wondering if they will know what each and every gadget was used for. Typewriter anyone?