10 Tips for Teaching Transfer Piano Students

Transfer Piano Students

“Hello…Ms. Hall?” “Yes, this is she” “My name is Sherry I am looking for a new piano teacher for my daughter Angie do you have any openings in your studio for  transfer piano students?”

“Hmm, a transfer piano student,” I think to myself. Am I excited to get a student who can play well and is ready for some great repertoire? Or am a filled with trepidation thinking about all of the remediations I may have to do? To be honest, a little bit of both. But transfer students are part of the game so here are 10 tips that will help you book those transfer students have great success.

  1. Have both the potential student and her parent attend the first lesson. You really want to be able to speak with whoever is responsible for booking the lesson. Ask that the student bring along any music on which she is working. Let them know that you will be expecting the student to play for you so that you can place the student at the correct level.
  2. Be well prepared and ready for anything. Make sure your teaching space is neat and free of distractions. Have many levels of music on hand for the student should he show up without any music to play.
  3. When potential transfer piano students first enter the studio have the student sit beside mom or dad while you sit at the piano. Take this time to get to know them a little. I always ask how long the student has been playing, how much practicing they are normally doing and most importantly whether or not they enjoy playing the piano. You want to make sure the student feels at ease and not as though they are at an audition.
  4. Be ready to play something yourself. Parents love this! A nice, short but flashy piece is sure to impress both student and parent and set you up as the expert.
  5. At some point, it is time for the new student to play something for you. Ask him to play something he likes and knows very well. Be sure to point out all of the good things you see and hear. Does he have great technique? Perfect rhythm? Does he sit up straight and tall? I am sure you can find something good to say. After that, do some teaching. Dive in and show your stuff. Parents want to get an idea of your teaching style and your expertise.        Read the post about “Sight Reading”
  6. Refrain from asking questions about the previous teacher or criticizing his or her pedagogy (or lack thereof). Keep everything positive. You will have plenty of time to remediate problems and teach new concepts later.
  7. Assuming things go well. Five or so minutes before the end of the lesson be sure to book the next appointment. Now is the time for them to sign up. Have your schedule ready, any parent materials you want to give them including your studio policy. If mom or dad is not prepared to pay your monthly or semester fee at that moment let them bring it to the next lesson. There is always a chance they may not come back but you have a much better chance of getting the student if they have an appointment set up. Read the post “10 Ways to Make Your Piano Studio More Profitable”
  8. At the second lesson, it’s time to get to work. My number one most important tip for working with transfer piano students is, always assign repertoire that is about two levels below where you think they should be playing. There are two reasons for this; first most transfer students have some gaps in there learning and second it is much better to speed through some easy music and boost a student ahead then it is to have to pull back and assign an easier piece. Working through some easier music builds confidence and gives the student a chance to review some skills and fill in some gaps while having to step down to something easier is discouraging.
  9. As you work with your new student you will discover her strengths and weaknesses. You will most certainly find things that you would have done differently than her previous teacher. I recommend reserving judgment and gently steering your new student in the direction you would like to see her go.
  10. Keep an open mind about everything. It will take time for you to develop a relationship with your new student. There are many reasons students change piano teachers. Some are wonderfully trained and are coming to you because of a move or because the former teacher has retired. Other have had a bad experience with a teacher or may have been dismissed from a teacher due to lack of practice or some other situation.

I hope that these tips will be helpful when getting started with transfer piano students. I have had many over my years of piano teaching. By and large, they are a pleasure teach and do very well. I find that I am challenged and learn a lot from each and every one.

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