Patience for Music Teachers

What is patience?

Patience is the sate of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way: or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for the description and picture – (

Patience, engraving by Hans Sebald Beham, 1540


The opposite of patience:

Acting too soon, possibly not waiting for all the information before reacting.

Patience with students:

We put our energy into providing the best learning environment and support for our students and when they don’t follow through, especially week after week, it can be frustrating.

Recently my sister told me that she was “fired” from piano lessons as a child because she did not practice enough. I was surprised to hear this and declared, “That was a bad teacher, you never give up on a student.” I am certain there are those that feel differently.

My philosophy is to communicate to students with inferior practice habits (in a gentle but firm manner) what the lack of practice is doing to their progress as a pianist. Additionally I communicate to the parent the desire/need to see the student practice more as the student will be much happier if they move forward. If this does not work we try new materials and adjust the plan.

Students that struggle to practice are often motivated when we switch to materials they prefer (such as pop pieces). Although this last option takes a lot more work and does not seem ideal, it keeps the student playing. Is our goal as teachers, to teach students to play the piano? Is there a set protocol on how this must be done?

Recently I convinced two students to continue taking lessons with the plan to play pop music. Because I have used this method to keep students playing, I knew that eventually they might find the music they selected boring, which in both cases happened.  Sure a few pieces are musically challenging in every way but some pop music can be monotonous.  I suggested we try Fur Elise (what student hasn’t heard and desired to play this piece?). Of course they both jumped at the opportunity and learned the piece slowly, section by section. Both students are so excited to be playing this piece! One of the students is moving on to Pachelbel Canon. She is happy, her parents are happy, and most of all – she is still playing and practicing the piano every week.

Teaching students patience in learning:

The following is a link to an article written by Joanna Warwick. I found it an interesting read about her struggle to learn to play the piano.

Learning to play the piano does not happen overnight and learning to play an instrument is much easier for some students than others.

It is important for teachers to understand each student’s abilities. Setting them up for success will allow them to achieve their goals. I use the MTH lesson notes to tell parents or students that if the work load is to heavy or light they should notify me so it can be adjusted.

I often explain to students that certain pieces are difficult and that they may feel frustrated. I tell them when a particular piece takes most students longer than the norm to complete. When we begin challenge pieces,  student laugh when I tell them they may want to crunch a piece into a ball and throw it. I ask them to please find another piece of paper – which always brings on a another giggle, after which I offer advice on what to do when this frustration sets in.

Patience with running a business:

Patience with customers – We may be far better at being patient with students, after all many of them are children but when your policies state, “no exceptions” and exceptions are requested time after time – again one must remain patient. If we lose patience with our customers we will lose customers. When stressful situations happen (and they will) is is best to wait until the entire situation becomes clear in your mind before taking any action. That way you are more likely to take the correct action.

Patience with our support staff  – Many teachers feel alone in their business. Many of us operate a one man/woman business. Having to execute every aspect of running a successful teaching business requires we do everything from marketing, to bookkeeping, to teaching. The daunting task of tracking schedule changes and finances was my first reason to search for help. When I came across the MTH website I was thrilled to find a program designed to work with my needs. I find MTH makes me feel less alone, like I have a support staff.

Since I have been with MTH since 2008, I have seen many changes. What I am most thrilled to know is that they are always striving to provide more services to help my business run efficiently. Perhaps they try to do too much! The option to make suggestions for your needs is not found in many businesses so I believe we get “spoiled” by what MTH offers in the way of interacting with their clients to find what is desired.

While changes that will help us are made to the website, it is clear that programming these requests is a huge task. While we await the programmers finding every bug and making each new feature work 100%  we need to remember what a gift it is to find such an amazing company with which to work.

Remember patience when talking to the MTH staff. They work very hard to make our teaching jobs much easier!

May the rest of your day be filled with beautiful music!

About the Author

Music Instructor JKroll

I teach in my home studio in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

My musical background began as a young child and continued at the music department of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. I sang with the Minnesota All State Choir and the Concordia Choir, when I was young. I have been teaching students to play the piano for 15 years. I have also been very involved with music at... [Read more]


  1. Caroline Jennings

    Great Post! We all need to remember patience, and patience with ourselves too! But I did want to comment on the “firing a student” paragraph. I have heard way too often about the students who were told as children they didn’t have enough talent to play the piano. That’s Baloney and it is an awful thing to do to a child. But, I do believe that learning styles/personality do have an effect on learning environment. I am in the process of firing two students right now, not because I don’t love them, and don’t think they have potential, but because they aren’t learning from me anymore. Also, the parents were always late, and picking their students up late, at the end of the day, which meant the parents didn’t respect me and my time and possibly what I had to offer their girls. So, I will kindly and encouragingly send them on their way to a new teacher. Sometimes relationships just have to end.

  2. Caroline Jennings

    P.S. yes, we are very spoiled with the MTH personel. I LOVE that they really do listen to our suggestions and we are always seeing the results. It definitely has made me a loyal customer for years, and I tell everyone about it!

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