A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher

The work of a piano teacher is so important. Don’t you agree?

Think about the fantastic privilege we have – it is a joy to share the gift of music with young people.

But it’s not always cotton-candy and rainbows. There are days when our best efforts feel mediocre at best. Or when our genuine love an admiration for our students are met with hostility from the seemingly militant parent.

But it’s on these days that we dust ourselves off and continue doing our important work.

I want to bring you three inspiring stories today. These stories were gathered from willing participants inside the Piano Teacher Central Facebook group, a fantastic community of piano teachers who genuinely love and support one another daily.

I do hope these piano teacher stories inspire you, friends.

Aimee Black is a young piano teacher who’s had a lot of “ups” in her piano teaching journey thus far, but she recently experienced one of her first big “downs.”

Have you ever had a day like Aimee’s?

Aimee writes,

“So today my student’s parents tell me they want to stop lessons with me and continue with a different teacher. I have been teaching her for four years, she is now 12, and was my first piano student.

She has a severe brain injury from a horrible accident 6 years ago, which causes her to wear out quickly, amongst other things. I have been part of her rehabilitation process, her doctors have contacted me saying the music is helping her brain to heal. Music therapists have also given me exercises to help her. However her disability barely affects her now, she is very talented and is playing around grade 2/3.

I also attend her band rehearsals every week for 2 hours because it is something she struggles with and needs help with. I take her to competitions (eisteddfods) because she loves performing. This family is close friends of my family, so I only charge $10 per lesson.

Her parents are very into horses, and that is their top priority. They just don’t think music is very important. They encourage her but do not understand music and how important it is.

The text I received said that they want “in school” lessons for her, as she is too tired after school. I don’t teach in schools, as I am a student myself.

I have done so much for this child, I can’t bear the thought of her having a different teacher. That may sound selfish, but this is the first time something like this has happened and I am a bit upset, to be honest! I’m not exactly sure what to say to the mother either.

Doesn’t your heart go out to Aimee? Mine sure does.

Within a matter of minutes, Aimee had dozens of encouraging comments from other piano teachers in the Facebook group. 

I love that Aimee approaches her students with such genuine love and admiration. She’s in it for the right reasons, folks.

It doesn’t make it easy, but sometimes we just have to let go.

Keep doing the important work you’re doing, Aimee! You’re making a difference in the lives of your students and families.

Now, onto a story with a bit of a  brighter hue.

Joy Smith of Sweet Sounds Piano Studio posted this inspiring story a few months ago.

Joy says,

“Some lessons you will never forget.

I haven’t seen a little girl in a month. The family took a long trip to the Bahamas (must be nice to have an ob as a mom and surgeon as a dad). The little girl loves to play but struggles with confidence in all areas of life and didn’t like to perform publicly.

Well, she came in tonight and said, “I have a story for you!” Plops on the bench and proceeds to tell me that at the resort someone was playing the piano. That person left and didn’t lock it up so she thought “why not.” She sat down and from memory played THREE songs!

People stopped to listen, complimented her, told her how nice it sounded and that she had a real gift. She was beaming ear to ear and I was fighting tears.

She said after that she felt like she could do anything. And THAT, my friends, is why we do what we do – why we sacrifice our schedules, higher paying jobs, and put up with crazy parents. Because what we do makes a real and lasting impression in the lives of others.

This young lady will NEVER forget that moment. My joy for her is indescribable.

I love this story! And I can just hear the passion in Joy’s voice. She’s sincerely happy and joyful for her student.

Way to go! Keep doing what you’re doing, Joy. You really are making a difference.

And now onto a story that’s remarkable, funny, crazy, and wonderful all at the same time!

Lael Portwood, a collaborative pianist and piano teacher from the Houston area recently posted this story in the Piano Teacher Central Facebook group.

Lael says,

“I was teaching a lesson at a student’s house yesterday when I started to hear dripping water.

(I’d like to interject something here. Dripping water at a student’s house? Never good. Okay, let’s continue…)

The student went to the source of the sound and shouted, “Oh, my God!”. I walked into the kitchen and looked up. Water was pouring out of one of the pot lights on the ceiling.

I slid the trash can under the leak, grabbed towels from the laundry room to mop up the water, all while two very large but adorable dogs were thinking I was playing with them. They were splashing through the water, jumping on me, barking cheerfully!

The mom was on the phone with her mother (who has the beginnings of dementia) because her mom had made a mistake with her bank account and apparently a big one…

The boy told his mom about the leak but she was already frazzled. She came in to the kitchen where I was trying to contain the leak, the puddles, and the dogs. I told her to run upstairs and see if something was leaking.

One of the boys had clogged the toilet. She ran downstairs to tell me.

I asked if she shut the water off to the toilet. She says she didn’t know how. I ran upstairs to shut it off.

All in a day’s work, my friends. All in a day’s work.

Can you believe this? Wow, what a story! Fortunately, this has never happened to me. Lael, you have superpowers beyond that of a piano teacher. How fortunate for the family that you were there teaching at that time. Kudos to you!

You see, friends, we’re going to have “ups” and “downs,” but at the end of the day, we press on because the work we do is so important.

I hope this post and these stories have inspired you to press on today. Keep being the super-wonderful piano teacher you are!

You know, superheroes (like piano teachers) need resources to help them do their superhero work!

I’d like to gift three piano performance pieces to you. I’ve received some cool emails from piano teachers using these pieces in festivals and auditions. I sure hope they can serve you and your students.

Click below to get your sheet music:

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3 Replies to “A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher”

  1. Not everyone will agree with me here, and I mean absolutely no disrespect. I found the above stories enjoyable and engaging, especially the first example (Aimee). I too have lost students for this reason – one with a learning disability just this past summer. I, too, was upset – he and I had made notable progress. Even though this family lives literally across the street from where I live and teach, the mother (herself a professional musician) found it more convenient for him to have lessons at school. However, I think that sometimes we as piano teachers may inflate the importance of our relationship to a student and family, who may merely see the relationship as a friendly business/tutorial relationship. If this happens, we can be overly hurt when the student departs, as they inevitably all do for any number of reasons. I’ve fallen into this trap myself, and believe it important to not get too close to a family, as that dynamic will change, or even disappear as the family moves on. Again, no disrespect intended and this is just my opinion.

    1. Hi, David. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. No disrespect was taken. I appreciate your point and agree to an extent. To your point, yes, we are in the business of teaching piano first and foremost, and we have to be careful to draw precise boundaries to protect ourselves and our students. There are those rare occasions when the bond between teacher and student evolves into a more formal mentor/protege type of relationship, but even then, we still have to erect boundaries so that everyone is protected. In Aimee’s case, she’s a younger teacher, and this was her first “tough” experience with a student who she’d probably consider to be a protege. Everyone is different, but for myself, there is a period of mourning that I go through when “losing” a student with whom I share a unique bond. Or, the relationship evolves, maybe a student has gone off to study music in college. There’s still a mentor/protege relationship, but not in the same way, so a period of mourning (not in a dramatic, outward way, of course) ensues. Again, thanks for thoughtfully responding. I hope this spurs an in-depth conversation on the topic!

    2. I totally agree with you David. I think we, as piano teacher, get attached to our students very easily due to the nature of our job. We work physically close to our students. We also get emotionally close to our students as we often listen to how their week went. Most of us see a student only once a week, so it is important to know in what emotional state our students are to adapt our teaching. What I am trying to say is that most teachers have a hard time to let their students go, while it should not be the case. In my experience, I know that most of the teachers I’ve had in my life had a hard time letting me go. I had to be the one who to cut the cord. But it shouldn’t be the case. A teacher should let his/her student go experience other teaching in the same way a student doesn’t keep the same teacher from elementary school to high school. I personally tell all my student that after 3 years they are free to study with someone else. I even encourage them to leave. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a teaching culture that encourages this system, but in a culture that glorifies the teacher – it’s MY student!
      In any case, it’s never easy to lose a student when it is not planed or when we think it’s too soon… so it’s a better to be ready for the inevitability because they all leave one day or another.

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