Topic: Question about drum lessons  (Read 5203 times)

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Offline Steve "Smitty" Smith

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Question about drum lessons
« on: February 13, 2010, 04:56 PM »
Hi Bart,

I could really use some advice and input from you and the other pros on this site that provide one-on-one drum instruction.  My drum teacher has fallen into a pattern of rescheduling my lessons and not being good about keeping in contact about the new lesson days and times. This was getting very frustrating, especially since I’m paying $100+ per month.  As a result, I canceled.  I’m new to taking lessons, so here's my question.  Are frequent re-schedules and cancellations common in the drum instruction business?  Might I have pulled the plug in reaction to something that’s a typical part of taking drum instruction?  In my profession, a pattern of meeting reschedules and cancellations would result in lost business.  Should I expect anything less in the business of drum lessons – even if the teacher is highly in-demand?

Thanks for any input you can provide.

Smitty

Offline Bart Elliott

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Re: Question about drum lessons
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2010, 10:23 PM »
Interesting situation. I understand your frustration; it's certainly understandable.

There are a number of things at play here, so let me break it down for you.

First, professional courtesy is always to give (at least) 24-hours notice when rescheduling and/or canceling. Many professionals, regardless of their field of expertise, require more notice than 24-hours. Socially speaking, it's basic courtesy to keep a schedule and not break a commitment. There's always going to be emergencies and times when you have to reschedule, however habitually breaking a commitment and/or rescheduling is not cool ... let alone professional.

On the other hand, a high-profile professional, in your case a musician/instructor, has many commitments and often times must give priority to certain things. Example, if this instructor was in a contract with a national act, he/she would have to drop what they're doing to fulfill the contact. This happens a lot actually ... BUT ... this should have been communicated to the student from the beginning.

I used to carry a heavy load of students over the years, but now, because of my own choices, I no longer carry an ongoing load of students. I no longer teach beginners and rarely have ongoing weekly students. The reason? My schedule and other commitments no longer permit me to give the attention that these students would require. So most of my current students are just "one-offs", meaning they call for a lesson and we schedule it. A small percentage have a block of lessons where I give them a discount to play or a block of four lessons; they take one lesson a week for four consecutive weeks. I don't allow them to skip weeks or miss unless it's an emergency. Their payment reserves time with me for that four-week block; they commit to it, and so do I. There has been an occasions where I've had to reschedule students, actually it's happened plenty of times over the years, but I don't just leave them hanging.

Students that want a lesson in the evening or on a Saturday are told up front that I may have a conflict from time to time because of gigs, sessions, etc. I try NOT to book students during those heavy gig/session times, but sometimes that's all they can do. If it's my fault for needing to miss, I always reschedule and sacrifice whatever I must to make it right for the student. If a student misses a lesson, not giving enough warning or just forgetting, they know I don't have to make it up ... and they still have to pay me. They are reserving the time with me; if they don't show up, I'm still there, so they have to pay me. Okay, enough about that.

So I'm not surprised that your teacher, now former teacher, was needing miss or reschedule, but it doesn't sound like they are handling it professionally. I personally think it's wrong to just take the money and not stick with the commitment. You're booking the time with them; they should reserve that time for your and make it a priority. If he/she can't do that, then they should make that known, not take your money, or possibly stop teaching one-on-one if they can't do it the right way.

I don't have all the details from you, but hopefully what I've shared here will give you some idea of how to handle this ... now and in the future. I think you did the right thing, based on the information you've supplied. If the teacher cares, they'll get a clue and change their ways, but I wouldn't hold your breath. 

Communication is always the best thing. Now you know what to ask and look for with the teacher BEFORE you take lessons from them. It's a business, and they need to be professional in how they conduct themselves. No one is perfect (I'm certainly not), but continually making the same mistakes over and over should tell you something ... and I think it has.

Offline Steve "Smitty" Smith

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Re: Question about drum lessons
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2010, 01:41 AM »
Thanks, Bart.  Your response gave me some needed perspective on the situation.

Here’s exactly what I experienced.

After 25+ years of self instruction, I decided to embark on drum lessons.  I did not take this decision lightly, and I waited until I knew I was ready to commit to the daily homework the lessons would undoubtedly require.

I signed up for lessons with a local, but widely respected pro.  I was really excited and motivated.  

Lesson 1:  I showed up on time, but the instructor had mis-scheduled me for a half hour later.  No biggie.  Stuff happens.  I had a great first lesson and walked away with a great four-way coordination exercise.  All was great.

Lesson 2:  Good lesson.  Got another good coordination exercise.  Was by told by my instructor that I’d have my regular lesson next week, but with a different instructor due to his upcoming trip to NAMM.  Okay, no big deal.

Lesson 3:  Had a nice lesson with another teacher.

Lesson 4:  Received a text from my regular instructor a few hours before the lesson saying he had to cancel, but he would call me the next day to reschedule.  He never called.  

Make-up lesson 4:  I had to remind the teacher what he gave me for my previous lesson.  No biggie, but I’m starting to feel a bit frustrated by the lack of structure.  I’m starting to feel that this guy’s career is really taking off and he’s spreading himself perhaps too thin.  Maybe I caught him at a time in his career when he’s too busy to give me the appropriate level of attention.  He seemed indifferent to whether I would continue lessons with him when he moves to his new upgraded facility.  He clearly does not need new students.  Nevertheless, he’s a cool guy, and we have a nice conceptual conversation about drumming.  I’m still on board.  I take home a lesson that felt a bit too advanced for me, but I take on the challenge.

Lesson 5:  I receive a text about two hours before the 6:30 PM lesson.  He says he’s off for the day (I guess some other students cancelled ), and I’m welcome to come in earlier than our scheduled lesson.  I get the feeling he’d prefer not to wait around at the drum facility with no students for two hours until my lesson.  It’s Friday night, and he’s probably eager to head home.  I respond that I’m at work and can’t come in early.  He responds and asks if it would it be okay to reschedule that evening’s  lesson for Saturday or Sunday.  Reluctantly, I agreed, but waited for hours to hear when the rescheduled lesson would take place, but didn't hear back.  

That was the final straw for me.  I really felt that I needed to quit being a push-over.  I responded that all the rescheduling lead me to believe he’s too busy to provide what I need and that I’m going to cancel.  I was friendly but firm.  I've received no response to that text.  I thought he might at least apologize for the hassle and/or try to keep my business, but so far, silence.  I don’t take it personally, but that seems like some poor customer service to me.   Nonetheless, my motivation is still strong, and I have a lot to work through on my own – rudiments, mainly.  I’ll cool out for a couple weeks, and seek a new teacher.

Thanks for listening to my tale of woe!

Offline Bart Elliott

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Re: Question about drum lessons
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2010, 07:12 AM »
Well, I think you did the right thing and handled it very well. If you are ever in doubt ... just think of what you would have done if this was your doctor? A profession is a profession; decorum applies to all.

Based on your story, it does see that this fellow is more of a pro who can teach, rather than a professional instructor. He would do best to just teach the occasional student who wants to study with him because he's a pro. He's not focused on building a career as a teacher, so he shouldn't take on students who need a dependable mentor or guide.

We all have different needs based on the path we are currently on. Part of being a good teacher is learning what the student needs and figuring out what you can do to help them. This is why I don't take young students or anyone who needs consistent weekly lessons. My career path no longer affords me the time to give that kind of student the time they need. This instructor is basically in the same boat, although our paths are perhaps very different.

My advice to you, based on what you've shared, is that you find a professional instructor. Find a career teacher who will help to shape and encourage you, drawing out the best in you and help you reach your full potential.

 

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