Should I Have to Commit to a Specific Amount of Lessons?

As students are headed back to school, parents begin looking for music teachers for their children.  There are so many choices.  Do you take at a school of music or from an independent teacher?  How much should you pay for lessons?  What do different teachers offer that sets them apart?  Most people do not think about what kind of time commitment that a teacher or school of music is looking for. 


Most schools of music run on a semester or annual basis.  These settings usually want a commitment of at least one term.  Is this beneficial to the student?  My answer would be yes and no.  The idea of being committed to a certain amount of weeks resulting in dedication does have value.  We always want students to be dedicated but if a student really hates their instrument or circumstances have changed and student can’t practice, it really doesn’t do any good for the situation.  It can help a student who is going through a slump in interest to hang in there until things swing back to the norm.  However, it usually just results in a frustrated teacher who can’t discontinue lessons due to the school’s policy and a student with a poor attitude who is being forced through fiscal means to continue.  Does that sound like fun to anyone? 


On the far side of the spectrum are teachers who have no studio policy and allow students to come and go at will with no notice.  Music stores that provide lessons can also fall into this category.  From a parental perspective this might look like a great choice.  You can take the month of December off with no repercussions.  Well, you might not have a time slot when you come back but if that is a risk you are willing to take, then this set up might work for you.  I’ve found that this set up lends it self to students riding off into the sunset never to be heard from again.  The teacher then has to wait until the student either lets them know they aren’t returning or wait a month to be sure.  No so great for a  musician trying to pay their bills.


Is there a happy medium?  Most independent teachers run on a month to month basis for lessons.  If you decide to discontinue lessons, you are asked to give 1 month’s notice or you must pay for the following month.  This gives the teacher time to find a new student or rearrange the schedule or it gives the student time to reconsider if quitting is really what they want to do.  There is commitment and flexibility in this arrangement.  If I was a parents looking for lessons, this is the option that I would choose.