I could write a book titled PIANODRAMA!

Trials and tribulations of being a private piano teacher...

First I thought about Pianorama, which would be a catchy title describing a marathon of student performances sponsored by a local Music Teachers Association. In fact years ago we had one of these in Fresno, where I used to teach.

But for all intents and purposes, Pianodrama comes closer to the truth about the life of a piano teacher through thick and thin. It reads like a soap opera script.

Let’s for a moment dive down into the dark regions of piano teaching:

Roll it, take 1:

Set up scene:

Student comes to lesson needing to wash his hands. He spends 15 minutes each week in the upstairs bathroom. That’s after he’s come to class, 15 minutes late.

The Big Question: How much invaluable time is left for instruction? About a quarter hour? Sounds better than “15 minutes.”

In a matter of weeks, he disappears from two consecutive lessons without a sign of himself. (Add 90 minutes less instruction to the bathroom breaks) No word from parents.

Is this a full-fledged disappearing act? Magic tricks? A David Copperfield impersonation? Maybe the student appeared as the Ghost of Christmas past?

I was starting to lose my mind.

Update: Parents inform teacher that student will take a furlough from lessons for 7 months with no fixed date of return. (Pupil has already exceeded that sum total of time in the bathroom over three years)

Resolution of the above situation is obvious.

(“I’m a no drama mama”) A full scale opera is in the works with a colorful cast of characters.

Roll it, take 2:

A mom calls about transferring her two children to my studio from another teacher, without any reason given.

Teacher (me) does a little detective work (A drama in the making)

It turns out that the prior teacher is one whom I respect.

I call former teacher and get an earful about a circumstance that resulted in a premature farewell.

She still thinks I should consider taking one of the kids because “the daughter works hard, practices, and completes assignments.” It’s the mom who’s managed to undo a good thing. (More earth-shaking details from the horse’s mouth)

I heed the ex-teacher’s advice and set up an appointment to meet with mom and daughter.

A week goes by.

Day of reckoning, first Monday of the calendar month.

There’s no daughter in sight. A boy shows up, excuses himself to use my restroom and returns for the last five minutes of his introductory lesson. Mom is nowhere in the neighborhood.

I conclude that piano is not one of the child’s favorite activities.

Resolution of this situation is a no-brainer.

Roll it, take #3:

I find a large, cumbersome, metal lounge chair eating up the small space beside my front door. It’s been deposited by an unknown gift giver. The monstrosity is placed directly in the sun which has baked too many Fresnans to a crisp. Add in ozone, emphysema and respiratory collapse. (“Did Somebody Say Fresno?”)

In no time, I’ve collected pot holders, a Holy Bible, hand towels, a toilet bowl cleaner, two boxes of Kleenex, and numerous church invitations.

Finally, at long last, the mystery donor is revealed. She’s one of my students who’s been trying to convert me for the past year.

Do I mix religion and music lessons? The answer is obvious.

Two years before, a parent begged me to sign a petition supporting Proposition 8, banning Gay Marriage when it was a brewing matter in California. The mom had painted her SUV with stickers and banners so I felt the pressure mounting.

How should I handle this woman who thought the world was coming to an end?

While toasting a veggie burger in my microwave, I received an Answer from God:

“Don’t sign this petition or any others brought by your students,” He intoned. (Would signing up for a dozen boxes of Girl Scout Cookies be okay?)

I felt like Moses being handed the Ten Commandments.

With concerted prayer and meditation, I managed to extricate myself from a sticky situation.

Roll it, take 4:

Return of the Rack Puncher.

Did I believe in reincarnation?

The kid who punched my piano rack silly about ten years before, returned as a ghost of himself.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Not ten minutes into his first lesson, he blew a few notes from “Star Wars,” and slammed the desk with the impact of a sledge hammer.

Was I his next victim?

Lickety-Split! This no drama mama took decisive action.

Student was escorted out the door by his dad, a crane operator, never again to return. Amen! Thank the Lord and Let My People Go!


To summarize: Dramas are a part and parcel of a piano teacher’s life. We’re used to soap operas and episode re-runs, though for most of us, the beat rolls on from week to week without interruption.



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