The tension of student retention

A parent who doesn’t normally attend her child’s lesson came into the studio the other day. There is always an awkward air in the room when this happens. Obviously the parent is in the lesson for a purpose. The few times in the past that this happened with other parents, the outcome was always one of the following:

“I think we will take a break from piano.”

“Piano lessons are a bit too expensive.”

“We are moving away and can no longer come.”

The entire lesson was one of most uncomfortable I have ever taught. I was unable to guide the student, one of my best, through the learning process and improve his listening. Towards the middle of the lesson, the parent asked me to save five minutes at the end of the lesson to talk about something important. My heart sunk.

We invest so much emotion into each and every student and losing them is extremely painful. Challenges in retention and the loss of students in music education is definitely an excruciating topic. By the end of the lesson, I was so frustrated and just felt as though I wanted to get it over with.

With five minutes left in the lesson I looked over at the mother and with a blank stare she asked, “Is now a good time?” I nodded and began to brace for what I knew was coming. “We wanted to let you know that we’re moving 10 miles away. We have found a new house and would like to move our family to a different area.”

I let her know how happy I was for them and told her how much I have enjoyed teaching her son. Half way through my second sentence, she politely interrupted me, “Can I say something else?”

This is when things took a really strange turn.

Smiling, she said, “We plan to continue taking lessons in your studio. We considered the alternatives and don’t believe that we would find a community quite like the one your studio has created. Our son really loves music and studying in your studio. I just thought you’d like to know this.”

There are moments in every teacher’s career where you feel pure joy, and this moment was one of them.


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