Piano Studio Policy and Scheduling Piano Lesson Breaks; Summer Break, Spring Break, Holidays at http://wenjenpiano.com/blog
Take a Break: Even the most dedicated piano student or piano teacher needs a few breaks throughout the year to relax, recharge, and come back to the very next lesson with the energy and excitement comparable to the first day of starting lessons or teaching. I also use this time to spend quality time with my family and to catch up or get ahead on things such as tax preparation, writing recommendations. Teachers have very different philosophies and preferences in taking holidays and breaks. Just remember that “all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy,” a quote from The Shining!
Short Summer Break: Some teachers take off the whole summer. A pro is that a teacher can book an extended judging event or take a long vacation out of town. The con is that the students return in the fall forgetting most of what they worked so hard to learn from fall to summer. It’s virtually back to square one with beginning students. I tried taking the entire summer off teaching my very first year of teaching, and it was my last year of taking more than a two-week summer break ever again!
Summer Motivation Can Wax and Wane: I’ve talked to a lot of teachers that take summer breaks that say that many of their high school students end up quitting piano lessons over the summer. They fall out of the habit of practicing and taking lessons, lose motivation, become busier, and drop the lessons, despite having studied piano for as many as ten years! Remind the high school student that college applications generally don’t care about activities that don’t continue into the high school years. While it is primarily the private schools and not the U.C. schools that allow high school seniors to list extra-curricular activities on the application form, I’ve found that many of my students enjoy writing about their love of music and playing the piano in their essays, no matter what they plan to study! I always feel so honored when a high-school senior tells me that they want to continue their piano lessons right up until the week they leave home for college!
Set Summer Goals: I feel that it’s important to keep the students playing the piano and motivated throughout the summer. My competitive students perform in the Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF) which is a competition with categories based upon the student’s age and length of study. My students enjoy participating in both the solo and duet categories, performing with other students in my piano studio. The event runs at the end of July and first week of August, so students work on polishing their SYMF pieces right after the June recital. Summer is a great time for all students to work on piano duets, duos, or concertos.
Teach Duets, Piano Duos & Concertos: Many of my students participate in the CAPMT Piano Auditions held in November that requires two solo works and a duet, duo, or concerto movement. Summer is the perfect time to take on learning a new concerto! It always amazes me how hard a student will work to get his or her piece learned well enough to play it with the 2nd piano part!
What Works for Me: I try to follow the general school schedule. I take two weeks off in the summer (the last week of August, first week of September because most families like to sneak in that last vacation before the busy school year begins,) two weeks off in winter, a spring break (which doesn’t line up with all of the schools’ breaks,) and national holidays. The parents actually appreciate that they can go off on vacation without feeling like they are missing out on their piano lessons. The students continue to practice during the breaks. Many of the parents will bring a small keyboard with them on holiday or will seek out hotels that have pianos in them! Basically, each student will have eight holidays throughout the year. I compensate for these days by holding 8 or 9 performance workshops monthly during the school year, mandatory for the students, but at no additional charge to the monthly tuition. The key is to schedule out all of the holidays WAY in advance, and to keep the number of holidays the same for each lesson day. By fall, I have my calendar for the next 12 months all planned. This is courteous to the piano students, and makes everyone’s busy lives easier.
Well, after taking my own kids to the park for a play date, lunch, out to a 3D movie, practicing piano with kids to prepare for the workshop on Saturday, going for a run, emailing students and parents, calling some friends, helping my husband prep for his first photography exhibit, cooking and enjoying a semi-quiet dinner together, finishing bedtime rituals for kids, and working on my blog, I’m officially putting day 1 of my spring break to bed. See why I need an entire week of spring break? Stay tuned…