Building Trust with Piano Parents

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” –Stephen R. Covey


To do my job effectively my students and their parents must trust me. After all, most of them know little or nothing about the process of learning to play the piano. They come with a dream. A dream that perhaps they wished they themselves had fulfilled. An idea, a gift that they wish to give their child. They depend on me to help that dream come true.


Let me tell you a story. (some details names have been changed)


Back when I lived in Florida, I had a student. His name was Hunter. Hunter was six years old and very sweet. His dad began bringing him to piano lessons because he really wanted Hunter to learn to play. In fact, he went straight out and bought him a Kawai upright piano as soon as I suggested the idea. He always came to lessons on time at the regular time. He had laid out a firm practice routine for his son.






Well, yes. But…Hunter’s dad was super hands-on. He insisted on sitting in on lessons every week. (Which normally is fine with me.) But this parent was kind of shall we say, “larger than life” He loved to tell jokes, and interject comments during the lessons, and he knew just enough about music to make him dangerous.

If Hunter played a wrong note or rhythm during the lesson Dad was quick to point it out. If Hunter tried to talk to me about anything other than music during the lesson Dad would chime in with “Come on buddy, stay on track.”

As you probably guessed I found the situation mildly annoying. But what was more, I knew it was counter-productive if not harmful to Hunter’s piano progress. I also knew that it wasn’t very much fun for either Hunter or me.

I hate to give up. I liked Hunter so I had to figure out what his dad’s deal was. And I think I did. I think he didn’t trust me. He didn’t trust me to teach Hunter to play the piano correctly.

I believe this was the case because, after our fall recital, his attitude completely changed.

The recital was awesome. My older students played beautifully; I played some music myself with a special guest. Everything was great.

My attitude changed too. I started to see Hunter’s dad as an ally. I knew he wanted the best for Hunter. I think he started to trust that I knew what I was doing and was a competent teacher.

I also realized I did a good job. I am a decent teacher. I had some new-found confidence.

Things were better between Hunter’s dad and me but as they say. “Old habits die hard.”

At a lesson, Hunter played a rhythm incorrectly. I knew it, but I also knew Hunter was doing his best to get the notes right.


“Come on buddy, we worked on that dotted quarter, eighth note” his dad called out.

I took this moment to explain what I was doing. Why I hadn’t jumped right in stopped Hunter from continuing and went back to correct that rhythmic error.

“It’s ok,” I told him. “I want to acknowledge the great work Hunter did by playing the correct notes. Don’t worry Dad, we will fix the rhythm. I do this because I want Hunter to feel encouraged so that when we go back to work on the rhythm, he is confident and ready to do his best.”


“Oh,” said Hunter’s dad, “That makes sense.”


“Good job buddy!”


Hunter smiled and so did I.


So, what’s the point of this story?

What did I learn?

First, I learned that I need to give people a chance. Hunter’s dad turned out to be one of my biggest supporters. He really did want what was best for Hunter.


Secondly, I realized that I need to build trust with my student’s parents.  I work to build trust by:

  • Being professional
  • Being on time for lessons.
  •  Having repertoire organized and ready to hand out.
  •  Keeping a neat teaching space.
  •  Let parents know well in advance about any recitals, performances, changes in schedule, etc.)
  •  Being a competent musician.
  •  Keeping up with my own playing skills, by practicing daily, and periodically going back for more training.
  •  Playing for my students the music I am teaching.
  •  Take as many opportunities to perform as possible, and let parents know about these things. (Playing at church, accompanying student evaluations, choirs, playing at student recitals, posting YouTube videos, etc.)
  •  Demonstrating strong teaching skills.
  •  Hosting studio recitals and making sure they are top-notch.
  •  Explaining how and what I am teaching.
  •  Attend workshops, take classes, and read books. Learn new things and share this with your students and their parents.
  •  Make lessons something students and parents look forward to attending. (Oh, and by the way, I should look forward to lessons too)
  •  Lastly, I know to build trust I need to be fair, honest, and understanding. I also need to be humble, and grateful.


And I am grateful.


Grateful for the parents, grandparents, and caregivers who trust me to share what I think is one of the greatest gifts (music) with their greatest treasures (their kids).


Read the post “16 Qualities of a Great Piano Teacher” 


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