Oops! Piano Student Interview Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

Your phone rings… it’s a potential student!  You talk some details and then you arrange an interview.  For all intents and purposes this is a “done deal”.  As long as the child isn’t hanging from your studio chandelier by the end of the interview you’re fairly certain that you’ll take him on as a student.  And as long as it’s clear you don’t bite, the parent will likely sign him up.  So what’s the point of this interview?  To simply check for light fixture fixations?


Oops!  I Thought This Was Just an Interview…

This interview isn’t simply a meet and greet. And it’s not simply an introduction to your piano teaching studio.  It’s the start of a relationship… and you want to start right.  Clearly show your professionalism, your ingenuity and your care and concern for your students.  First impressions matter; they set the tone for the rest of your dealings with this family.

Oops!  I Peppered Them With Questions…

People are never “themselves” in an interview situation.  You will always be met with their careful and guarded side.  Do all you can to put both parent and child at ease.  Avoid the tendency to treat this like a job interview and instead turn it into a mini-lesson.  Put together the most fun introduction to what piano lessons with you will look like and allow Mom or Dad to see you in action and the child to realize just how awesome piano lessons are going to be.  Putting people on the spot and creating awkward and stilted responses is not the best use of your time and you won’t often get candid and genuine answers anyway.

Oops!  I Forgot That This is a Marketing Opportunity Too..

You have a captive audience with the potential to create a ton of free advertising for you.  This is a news-worthy event in their lives (their child is starting piano lessons… everyone will know!) and so this interview is the perfect opportunity to share 3 of the things you feel set your studio apart.  Do not fall into the trap of trash talking your competition, but instead present the 3 most fabulous aspects of your studio that you know cannot be found anywhere else.

Oops!  I Thought It Was Over…

So the interview is over, the policies reviewed, the child is excited and you’ve gained a new student! But it’s not over yet. Be sure to follow-up to further show your commitment to your students and your tendency to go above and beyond. Pop a personalized card in the mail addressed to your new student. Mention something they did particularly well during their mini lesson and include one thing that they can look forward to at their first lesson with you. It makes a huge difference in establishing your relationship with the new family, and it takes about 5 minutes to do.

The word interview sirs up images of awkward questions, stilted answers, and air of judgement. Banish these negative connotations from your first meeting and you’re sure to be scheduling many, many more of them in the near future!

Don’t forget that the initial interview is the perfect opportunity to really “sell” them on how unique your studio is.  Once I show my potential families how I teach theory, encourage practice, teach composing to even young students, and motivate the boys… they’re practically begging for a spot!  If you’re wanting help with bringing “wow” to any of these… we’ve got you covered!

11 Responses to Oops! Piano Student Interview Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

  1. Wendy Funk says

    I am relatively new to the piano teaching career and I’m not exactly sure what a “fun introduction to piano lessons” would consist of. Could you please give me an example?
    By the way. I LOVE your posts and I enter all of your ideas/suggestions in my “How To Be A Fabulous Piano Teacher” binder. After I’ve used one, I record how it went and what I would alter next time, if anything.
    Thank-YOU so very much for sharing your wisdom and experience!

  2. says

    I never refer to this meeting as an “interview”. It makes me feel just as uncomfortable as the student and/or parent does. I call it a “consultation”.

    Wendy…..Make sure you get their book “Piano Hands Shouldn’t Flip Burgers”. Very easy to read, and jam packed with great ideas!

    • Ioana Barrie says

      I will have to start calling the interview a consultation. I do have to agree that I like the term better because it sounds more profesional.

  3. says

    Wendy, one thing I like to do for the first ‘mini-lesson/interview” is a fun “duet”- I play a kind of jazzy accompaniment while the prospective student plays each white key going up the keyboard. Or, you could use the Pecking Hen Duet in the Faber Primer book. Almost everyone does a pretty good job with it and enjoy being able to play a song the first day. And then maybe do some improv exercises. If the child is about 5, they generally like tracing their hands on paper when a colorful marker and learning their finger numbers. That can be the “theory” part of the 1st lesson.

  4. Holly Valencia says

    I agree, the first meet and greet should be comfortable and welcoming, with a friendly atmosphere; and at the same time being clear and firm on your policies. When I first speak to them on the phone, I don’t call it an interview, but an “orientation”. :)

  5. says

    I love the first interviews! I do everything I can to make them comfortable, even offering iced tea to the parents and drink boxes for the children. I relate one-on-one to the child, asking them what kind of music they like, what kinds of things they like to do in their spare time, etc. We go to the piano and I usually talk to them about the black key groupings, teach the student how to play a simple tune on the black keys and other little activities. I didn’t think about the duet, I’ll have to try that next time. Thanks for the great ideas. :)

  6. Sandra says

    You forgot one thing: ask if they have a piano — or at least a good digital piano with full keyboard, full-size keys, and touch sensitivity.

    You wouldn’t believe the number of calls I get from families who have no piano in the house!!

    • Sandy Fortier says

      So true. I’ve started sending our mascot home with students and asking them to take a picture practicing with the mascot. Now I’m getting an even better picture of the students pianos because I’m afraid some of them still don’t have an adequate set up when they think they do.

  7. says

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been following your blog for a while and I love all the articles! Most of it helped me a lot to establish my relationships with students! I’m having interviews with 3 new students this week and this post is really helpful, thank you!


  8. says

    Absolutely ask if they have a piano (or digital instrument that meets your requirements) the first time they contact you. I’ve made this mistake many times. Some people don’t understand that they need one or believe they will be practicing at my studio.

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