Point of Sound

Policies: Piano Studio of Kathy Malyj Santiago

September 2015

By providing me with your fall scheduling information no later than August 28, 2015,, you signify that you agree to abide by the terms stipulated in this document. You also signify that you wish to maintain your place, or your child’s place, in the studio, and that you agree to pay a $60 fee if you withdraw from the studio after providing this information.

Payment policy

Tuition is due for each month in advance, payable at the first lesson of the month. If you should ever forget your checkbook that day, please mail the check to 6 Tulip Lane, Rose Valley, PA 19086. I do not currently charge a late fee but reserve the right to initiate a late fee rule. Please pay in a timely fashion.

Your tuition payments from September 8th through June 30th (ten months) are calculated to include 37 lessons. Please see tuition structure for the rates. Summer lessons are billed separately.

A student who takes lessons with me, to use the language of the world of musical study, belongs to my studio. This means that in addition to giving him lessons, I give thoughtful consideration to his individual needs outside of regular lesson time as needed. It means, furthermore, that each student will have opportunities to enjoy privileges that I make available to studio members, as well as benefit from the continuing education activities in which I regularly engage.

Make-up policy

If your child has a conflict during a given week, it is your responsibility to consult the student phone/e-mail list to arrange a trade with another student. (Although I regret that I cannot take responsibility for the rescheduling needs and wishes of my students, do feel free if you have a conflict to contact me in case I may have a cancellation, keeping in mind that cancellations happen infrequently.) In cases where your child is too ill to come to his lesson, or if an unanticipated family event of great import prevents him from coming, feel free to contact me and I will attempt to reschedule him. Rescheduling opportunities are generally very limited outside of normal studio hours and are only possible in cases of illness or extreme sorts of family situations.

As a courtesy I offer several opportunities to make up missed lessons as specified in the Studio Calendar: once in the winter and once in the spring (i.e., weeks during which the studio is otherwise closed.) Please sign up for make-up lessons on the sign-up sheet I will have available the week before. If you anticipate having to miss a lesson before the end of the school year, please go ahead and sign up preemptively for a make-up lesson. During make-up days, I give priority to students who missed due to illness, family emergency, or pre-arranged family vacation.

Though I am happy to offer these opportunities for makeup lessons, and have never in the past needed to withdraw the offer of makeup lessons during school break weeks, keep in mind that I maintain the right to cancel makeup days if snow or illness prevents me from holding them. Also, though to date I’ve had no problems scheduling anyone requesting a make-up lesson during one of these weeks, regardless of the reason the lesson was skipped, I am unable to promise that this will always be the case.

Therefore, please exercise due diligence in trading lesson times with other students when you have a conflict.

In case I am ill on the day of your lesson or have to call snow days in excess of what my calendar allows, I will attempt to reschedule promptly. In the interest of maintaining the structure of weekly lessons, please be prepared to adjust your schedule to accommodate a time, or choice of times, that I may offer you. If I should, as a result of my own illness or excessive snow, find myself needing to schedule make-ups beyond that, I will be unable to schedule courtesy make-ups for your own skips. However, this will only happen as a last resort.

Payments for missed lessons are not refundable unless due to prolonged illness on my part.

Some thoughts on creating a framework for a successful musical experience

Piano is a rich, complex, and ultimately exhilarating subject. To maximize my students’ enjoyment of their work, I make every effort to honor individual tastes, learning styles, and speeds of skill acquisition; to present music as a discipline that will accept even a beginner’s individual creative imprint; and to maximize each child’s sense of musical wonder through a discovery-based theory curriculum. I am always on the lookout for ways to present the fun side of music to my students and to help them create connections between music and other facets of life that intrigue them.

To foster that deeply satisfying bond of a person to her instrument--one of the great goals of music study--it is also important to recognize that music study is a discipline. Joyful, fun music making (i.e., what we, by and large, want for ourselves and our children) has at its foundation regular and adequate, active coordination and integration of numerous faculties, mental, physical, and emotional—a magnificent undertaking! When your child has learned to handle the challenges the piano presents alongside its delights with aplomb, she will have attained considerable maturity. Until then, she needs guidance, reassurance, boundaries, and support.

It is my practice to offer children choices at multiple junctures--including choices of pieces to work on--and to assign pieces that experience leads me to believe will not pose difficulties too numerous or great for them. With patience and good communication, we can help your child find satisfying ways of practicing productively so that she can make the chosen pieces her own, as well as instigate a snowball effect of skill acquisition.

To support your child most fully, please take the time to read his practice log after the lesson (and feel free to speak with me about anything that you may find confusing). Establish a routine of going over the log with him several times each week (probably less with older children—but you know your child!) including after the lesson. Young children are typically not able to organize themselves sufficiently well to handle structuring their practice time: developing a habit of consulting the log will potentially make a big difference to your child’s progress and therefore to his feeling of enjoyment.

In each week’s log, I suggest a quantity of music to be tackled based on my best understanding of the particular student. Often I am not specific about how much of that music she should attempt to be able to play at a stretch by the next lesson, but I will assign overall amounts of music that will at least be possible to learn quite well in chunks. Each day I hope that she will strive toward some goal that is sufficiently challenging, leaves her feeling satisfied by her progress, and teaches her something about practicing that ultimately gives her a deeper sense of control over the learning process.

As we work toward having him assume ownership of his endeavor to learn his instrument of choice, you might consider asking him at the beginning of the week to articulate, with the log in front of you, what would bring him pleasure to achieve by the week’s end. Help him keep in mind that generally pieces are learned through the piecing together of small chunks, with chunks getting bigger until the learning process is complete. Some children will benefit from your suggesting a timeline (e.g., “Learn the amount Kathy gave you hands separate in four measure phrases for the first few days, then put the hands together for the next few and see if you can get it even farther along by the time you need to play it for Kathy—what would you like to shoot for by the end of the week?”)--as a matter of fact, I often suggest timelines at the lesson. Help him to correlate his successes with good practice choices he has made, and to remember that practicing this cool piece he imagined himself playing in small bits is but temporary.

Consider whether your child—particularly if she is very young--would benefit from your setting specific practice goals with her on a daily basis. (Practice games are often helpful for this purpose—feel free, in addition to using the ones I show in lessons, to make up your own!)  Perhaps, encourage her to demonstrate her happiest accomplishments for a given day (or week) and have her see if she can identify the reason for her success. Again, help her to correlate good practice choices with her success. Try to be on the alert for signs that she is in a practice rut (e.g., playing things over and over but not getting anywhere, then declaring that she is done for the day).  See if she can identify specifically what is not working for her, and ask her to recall my lesson with her and the practice suggestions I almost certainly made (and probably wrote about in the practice log). As you and I are eager for your child to have a pleasant and successful experience, please feel free to call me for ideas, or to share your concerns and ideas with me.

Please think of each part of the log as important. Theory is ideally completed toward the beginning of the week unless it involves learning to play something in particular (e.g., a transposing project, or particular chord progression), or improvisation. The latter kind of assignments generally require attention every day. Written assignments address concepts that will make learning easier. By doing a bit of technique work each day, your child builds a kind of “bank account” of skill for the future that she will be sure to need. (If she ends up settling on an instrument other than the piano for the long term, we would like her to develop an understanding that technique building is part of learning any instrument.) Of course, she will work on pieces, generally a few at varying stages of completion.  Playing for fun involves reaping the benefits of previous work and can involve playing pieces, either as written or with creative license; or creative play with musical patterns (improvisation and composing). This part of the practice session reinforces general skill and memory.

Focused practice is a skill that one develops over time, with ups and downs. It is so hard to be patient, and your pianist is learning not only how to play his instrument, but how to handle himself with an ultimately delightful activity that has a component of delayed gratification. Sensitivity to the fact that his endeavor poses real difficulties, some of them a reflection of his unique personality, will put you in a better position to help.

Students often do well when a certain time of day has been set aside for practicing and, when at all possible, there is consistency from one day to the next as to practice time. Try not to fit practicing in during leftover bits of time as that sends an unhelpful message. Because learning a musical instrument poses significant challenges, please select a time when he is not worn out or otherwise stressed or distracted.  

As part of my strategy to keep children excited about and motivated to energetically meet their goals with this challenging instrument, I offer a series of piano parties and recitals, as well as opportunities to play for experts outside of my studio who are sympathetic to children. Please mark the recital and party schedule (I send this out at the beginning of the school year) into your calendar and try to make it possible for your child to attend as many of these events as possible. In addition to motivating children to practice (I do see a correlation between attendance and rate of progress and ability to persevere!), these events provide a social context for piano study as well as celebratory, nurturing opportunities for them to grapple with their own reactions to the presence of listeners. I consider the performance skills that they consequently develop to be a crucial aspect of what my studio has to offer them. 

I am pleased to offer my students opportunities outside of the studio under the auspices of the two teaching organizations to which I belong: The Main Line Music Teachers’ Association and the National Guild of Piano Teachers. Please consult the regularly updated calendar for dates.

With my very best wishes for a rich and rewarding association with the piano,