A Gold Star

Getting my students to write their practice down can be something of a challenge. The little guys not so much. The high schoolers, I’ve had teeth pulled with less effort. Today I am happy to report that everyone not only wrote their practice down, but met their requirements. Gold sparkly stars all around.

Royal Conservatory Music Development Program

Brunner Studios participates in the Royal Conservatory Music Development Program. This program is an internationally recognized standard for musicians. We can participate in the Piano, Voice, Oboe, Theory, and Music History portions of the program. I am currently looking to enroll serious students who would like to participate in the exams that take place starting in December of 2014. This is a wonderful program to help students develop into well rounded musicians. Any age is welcome to participate. The program is not for children only. If your student is interested in studying abroad or your family is here in the US from another country, this is an easy program to step into and continue your musical education.
Please contact Brunner Studios for further information on signing up for lessons and preparing for this wonderful and internationally respected musical experience.

Letting a Student Go

Occasionally as a teacher you run into a situation where a student is just not working within the parameters of your studio.  Whether it be a personality clash, lack or progress or tuition issues, sometimes things just don’t work out.  How do you set up the release of student while still staying on good terms with the family?

If you and student just aren’t clicking then it is time to let them go.  There are lots of teachers and there will be one that is the perfect fit for each student.  Think about what issues are causing the clash and lay them out to the parent or student.  Sometimes it could be that the student doesn’t click with the teacher’s methodology, or there is a fight for who is the boss of the lesson, or the teacher and student don’t communicate the same way.  It is ok to let students go.  It takes a brave and personally secure teacher to release a student in hopes of them finding a better fit for the student’s musical education.

Sometimes students just don’t make the progress you demand in your studio.  Obviously, this isn’t about a bad week or even month, but a longer term issue.  As a professional, the teacher must think about the product of their studio and the message it conveys to prospective students.  A teacher can love a student dearly and enjoy their lesson time but still realize that the student isn’t the best fit for their studio.  At the same time, if a student is consistently underprepared for lessons and is wasting their parents’ money and the teachers time, then spell out the reasons that you are letting the student go.  Different studios have different expectations as to caliber of students and what standards need to be upheld.

I am a big proponent of giving students notice or putting them on probation.  Sometimes all it it takes is the knowledge that they might have to leave a studio to create some introspection to turn an attitude around.  Giving my students the benefit of the doubt to a certain point is always important to me.  However, if things are still not working, then it is time to make a decision.  If the student is just not a good fit, then help the student find a new teacher who might work better for them.  Music teachers have lots of connections and know each others teaching styles. 

Obviously, letting a student go is a big decision from a professional as well as financial standpoint.  Don’t think that your teacher has understand this decision lightly.  Sometimes a student and teacher just aren’t the best fit.  Keep looking, you will find your perfect teacher or student.

Support a Music Festival and Volunteer

This year I am chairing 2 different piano festivals.  Honestly, the amount of work doesn’t bother me.  The hours of paperwork, a whole lot of email, phone calls, it really isn’t that big of a deal.  The hardest part is getting volunteers. 


Now for both of these festivals it is mandatory, according to the festival rules, that participating teachers volunteer on the day of the festival.  The option is given to send a student or parent representative from your studio.  Some teachers are really great about being ready to volunteer and even sending students.  Many kids can get community service credit.  Other teachers really drag their feet.  There are very few legitimate excuses for not helping in some fashion, but you know from the paperwork that you submitted that volunteering is required.  So if you just had surgery or have been sick, please find someone to take your place.  If you are out of town, find someone to take your place.


Teachers who are only entering 1 or 2 students do have a little bit of a harder time, but it is right there on the paperwork.  Those one or two students still have to be checked in just like those students from the teacher who entered 25. 


It takes team work to make these festivals work.  Students don’t need to be harried because there aren’t enough grownups to keep things running smoothly. 


So call up your local music festival and see if they need some help.  I promise that they will probably be happy to see you.

Piano Lessons In My Home

I’m a member of several different websites that advertise piano lessons.  Parents can send in requests and the teachers can choose to respond to requests in their area that fit their professional goals.  So many of the requests on these boards and inquires that I receive through my website are parents asking for lessons in their home.

I do not teach lessons anywhere other than my home studio.  There are several reasons for this.

1.  It costs me time and money.  Lessons at Brunner Studios are $26.25 for a 30 minute lesson.  If I have to drive to your house, teach a lesson, and drive home.  That is costing a lesson time on either side of the scheduled lesson.  Also, gas and wear and tear on my vehicle.  Gas is approximately 3.50 a gallon right now.  That can eat into my fees quickly.

2.  There are great resources that I’ve spent time building at my studio.  There are keyboards, computers, bookcases full of music that can be loaned, workbooks, reward charts.  These are all things that can’t travel for a weekly lesson.  If the student needs a new book or supplemental material, I am almost guaranteed to have it on my bookshelf.  You won’t find it dragging around in the trunk of my car.

3.  You forgot.  Way back when I first started teaching (in college) there was a family that I went to their house to give lessons.  It wasn’t close but there were multiple lessons and at the time gas was around $1 a gallon.  The family was always forgetting about lessons and leaving me hanging.  If you forget your lessons and are taking at my studio, I can still get work done if you forget or get sick at the last minute.  There is a lot of time involved in teaching lessons other than the 30 minutes you are here.

4.  Student don’t take the lessons as seriously as in a different environment.  My studio is a dedicated space for lessons.  It is a environment set aside for education.  Your living room with the siblings running through and the door slamming just doesn’t allow the same focus. 

So there are a few reasons that I don’t advocate lessons in the student’s home.  Now this isn’t to say that it would never work, but for me from a professional standpoint, I want a dedicated music space for educational purposes. 

Festival Paperwork from the Other Side

This blog originally was more for piano teachers than for students and parents.  Today I think I’ll hit a topic more for teachers.

This year I’m chairing 2 different festivals and they both require copious amounts of paperwork.  Teachers send in their teacher information, check, registrations forms and certificates.  The state organizations send me forms, forms and more forms to fill out and certificates.  We are starting to talk a paper avalanche here.  Now the good thing is that I don’t mind paperwork.  I like organizing and creating schedules and making processes more efficient.

What I don’t like is illegible handwriting and disorganized lists.  What can you do to help your festival chair and make the job a little easier?  First up is to write legibly.  If that is an issue or if English isn’t your first language, find a computer and go to town with some typing.  I can always transfer the information to an official form if need be.  However, if I can’t read your writing, a number of problems could occur.  Your student’s name could be spelled incorrectly and that could affect any number of thing.  I could misunderstand what piece they are playing.  That would be a serious disaster.  I might not be able to read your phone number or email address to get in touch with you to correct the above listed issues.  So write neatly or type.  It saves a lot of time on my part.

Now, if you are reading this blog, you probably have email  Surprisingly enough, there are quite a few teachers who don’t.  If you know your teacher doesn’t email.  Offer to be an ambassador for them.  There are items that I email to most teachers and thereby save time and money.  You get your playing times sooner and paperwork without creases.   

Keep your paperwork organized.  If you are entering students in a festival with categories, when you starting filling out the paperwork, keep the students grouped together.  Groups A and B shouldn’t be intermingled.  That is just a problem waiting to happen.  As careful as organizers try to be, accidents happen sometimes.  Help keep things working smoothly by keeping your paperwork as organized as possible. 

These are just a few ideas to help your festival organizers out.  These events are a lot of work and it takes volunteers to keep them running.  Be nice to the volunteers!

The Carnegie Hall Achievement Program

I just want to say congratulations to Rohan who participated in the Achievement Program in Atlanta, GA this past weekend.  We are now waiting on pins and needles to hear how you did.  You were well prepared and worked very consistently in your lessons while preparing for this event. 


A big thanks to Rohan’s mom who drove him to Atlanta and back in one day.


I would like to encourage teachers in western North Carolina to participate in this event so we can earn a testing center here in Charlotte!  Visit www.theachievementprogram.coorg for more information.

Meet Schubert and Gershwin

This an been an exciting week here at the house.  We had been looking off and on for a second dog.  This week, we took the plunge.  First, meet Schubert.

210 025  121 0099-15 012  Schubert has been a member of the family for about 2.5 years now.  He will be celebrating his 3rd birthday in November.  He is half Bichon Frise and half Shih Tzu.  No designer dogs for us.  We call this a mutt.  He’s a little on the neurotic side.  Schubert likes to play the piano and can tell time.

IMG00240-20111011-1322Now this little fella here is Gershwin.  He is 6 months old and is making me realize just how neurotic Schubert really is.  He’s kind of fast so getting good pictures is a little bit of a challenge.  Today he learned to fetch.  Gershwin has had 2 great nights in his crate.  Gershwin is also half Bichon Frise and half Shih Tzu. 

Schubert is supposed to be as white as Gershwin but is forever getting dirty out in the yard.  Just pretend that he’s white in those pictures.