How well do you know your students’ parents? Most of my students are dropped off on the fly, so I seldom see their adults. If someone else drives them to lessons, sometimes I don’t even meet them until a recital.
Parents care. They pay tuition for me to teach their children. Obviously they want a good musical experience for them, and hope and trust I can do for their youngsters what they cannot. Many of them would like to be in on the process, if they only knew how.
- Hold a Parents’ Week at your studio. Send an invitation a month ahead for parents to sit in on lessons. Plan at least one learning game the parent and student can play together. Make sure the student has something well prepared to show off.
- Plan a Parents’ Lesson Week, at which you will give the parent a lesson. Let the student act as a Teaching Assistant, with duties outlined ahead of time. Make sure he or she is prepared to encourage, not criticize!
- Send a bi-monthly or quarterly progress report. Call it something non-threatening like Uniquely Yours, _(student’s name)_. Consider including:
- Anything cute/funny/brilliant the student has said.
- Any area of particular improvement.
- Songs or segments of songs learned during this period.
- Progress in core skills.
- Areas showing need of improvement. If you have genuine concerns, call the parent—this is not the place for a serious discussion.
- Good habits mastered or working on.
- Positive observations (“Aiden makes me laugh!” “Mia’s note was SO sweet.” “I love Ella’s determination!”).
- Easy ideas for how parents might encourage the student at home.
- Video the student playing something he or she knows well, and send it to the parents.
- Ask parents of young students, as my friend Lori does, if they’d have time to read instructions to their child at home. Or if one of them could offer help during practice. She makes sure not to guilt them. She tells them it’ll be fine if they can’t—many parents, including her own, were hands-off when it came to practice. But Lori notes that there is often a marked difference in the progress of students whose parents are able to sit alongside and offer direction.
- Follow up promptly anytime a parent offers a concern or suggestion. You don’t have to agree, but don’t just let it slide.
- Give parents the address for your Music Teachers Helper website. There they might find tuition information, lesson and recital reminders, studio news, photos and more!
- Host engaging recitals and invite parents to participate. Perhaps they will play a duet with their child. Help with refreshments. Write encouraging remarks to performers. Act as your photographer. You can read about five magical music recital ideas here: 1. Make it More than a Recital 2. Dynamic Duets and Excellent Ensembles 3. Really Rad Rock ‘n Roll Recital 4. Mickey Mouse Club Musical Review 5. Family Folk Song Celebration
- Encourage voice students—or any students—to learn a simple round. When they know the melody well enough and have practiced it during lessons, send a note home to suggest Mom or Dad ask to be taught their round and sing it together. Great musical training!
- Teach your students a melody from Andrea and Trevor Dow’s Piano Book Club (Teach Piano Today: “Duets for Me and My Not-So-Musical Mates” ) meant for piano students to play together. Adapt it for parents and children. The accompaniment is simple enough to learn in just moments. Invite the parent to come, show how to play the accompaniment and have parent and child play together. This could even be performed at a peer recital, regular recital or other family-friendly venue.
- Instruct younger piano or guitar students—level 1 or below—to teach their latest pentascale or scale to a parent. The student will play simple chords along with them. They might switch parts. Example:
Parent: C D E F G F E D C
Student: I V7 I
Hint: this can work equally well with grandparents, siblings or other relations and friends. Teaching is a wonderful way to reinforce skills.
One of my goals for the coming season is to involve parents more.
How about you? Do you make efforts to involve parents in their children’s musical journey? How do you go about it?