“Breaking up is hard to do”. There are many ways we “break up” with people: a romantic relation gone awry, close friends moving mile apart, saying “see you later” to parents when leaving to go to college, and saying goodbye to friends when leaving college after a degree has been achieved.
As a piano teacher I might say goodbye to a student when he decides to quit lessons, or fire a student for not meeting expectations. But I am approaching that bitter/sweet situation where it might be time for a student to move on to another teacher to further his music potential. When exactly is it time to say goodbye to a student?
Students come and go. Most are of average ability, interest, and dedication. But once in a while a teacher is blessed with someone who is extraordinary. That is the gift in which I have been blessed with my student “O” (o for outstanding). O came to me because he decided he wanted to go into music to be a band teacher and thought having a piano background was a good idea. In the very short time we have been together he has soared. Now a sophomore in high school, his ability could competitively get him into university as a piano major. He is completely delightful! He incorporates new ideas easily, takes instruction seriously and practices so much that his mother has to tell him to stop and do other things. He has a great sense of humor and a loving manner. Basically, he is any teacher’s dream.
O has 3 more years of high school and will definitely go to college for music. As much as I would like to be selfish and teach him until college, there is part of me that knows he should now study with a preparatory teacher such as a university professor or professional performer. So when is it a good time to “fire” a good student?
We have so much fun together during lessons. Even so, I know as a teacher I have to do what is best for the student. I have talked with O and his family about moving on. When I first bought up the idea of O finding another teacher he and his family were adamant; they did not want to leave my studio. A year later, I brought up the topic again. They are now understanding and listening. After doing some master classes with other teachers, O’s parents are beginning to see my point . But O does not want to go to another teacher quite yet. As a compromise, we have decided to take small steps in that direction. For this year we are going to try a cooperative method. O will still come for lessons weekly with me but will also take a lesson or two per month with a university teacher. The other teacher and I have conversed and worked out a few details. Everyone is on board to make this experience the best we are able for O. We enter the year with respect for each other, keeping O’s best interest in the foreground. O has agreed to the the idea but firmly states that he will stay in my studio until graduation from high school (In fact, he also said he would rather quit piano than change teachers. haha)
It’s hard to say goodbye to a good student. I guess it’s hard for a student to say good bye to a teacher as well. I know that at some point O will be saying goodbye to me because he will see that the new teacher has much to offer . To be honest, I will be sad when this happens. But I will also be gratified in knowing I gave it my all and sent a student soaring to reach higher goals. Once again my thesis holds true. Piano lessons are much more than music.