Teen retention is a hot topic with piano teachers. Formerly dedicated kiddos turn can into teenage piano students that just…aren’t interested any more.
Once kids hit 12 or 13 years old – we need to work much harder to keep them in our studios. Why is that?
It’s because their priorities have shifted. While they used to be happy to please their parents and us teachers, now their friends have become their primary focus.
On top of that, teenagers are trying to find out who they are.
It might be a cliché, but it’s true. Teens are looking for an identity. They’re starting to question what they previously just accepted to see if it really squares with who they are and what they think.
This is actually a great thing. And if we take this as an opportunity instead of a threat, teenage piano students can be our most dedicated, hard-working and reliable portion of our studio. Promise.
Validate Your Teenage Piano Students
The first step to getting your teenage piano students to stick around is to validate them.
No, not their parking. I mean you need to make them feel heard. Teens, more than any other age group, need to feel like you’re in touch with what they think and their interests.
Ask your teens regularly about their goals for piano lessons. What do they want to learn? Where do they want to go?
Even if you have a teen whose parents have specific plans for their music education – you can still take your students ideas into consideration too.
If these ideas are conflicting (e.g. parents want them to pass an exam and they want to learn the latest Adele) you can still make it work. Just have an honest conversation with your student about a good compromise and how you could balance the two.
Teenage piano students need to feel like you’re on their side.
For more on goal-setting with teens, read this post about treating your teen piano students to a musical escape.
Connect Them with Other Teens
Remember what I said about friends being important to teens?
Well, that’s an understatement. Peer groups are the centre of most teenagers’ worlds.
Teenage piano students need to know that other teens are doing this too. They need to know that piano is cool and that other teens think so.
They’re far less likely to quit if they have their own piano friends. Try getting together all your teen students as regularly as you can. Have them play duets and ensembles together, quiz each other on theory, and just generally hang out and jam together.
One great project to do as a collaboration between teens (even if they’re each in individual lessons only) is a Garageband project like this one. That definitely has that cool factor for teen students.
Wouldn’t you stick around a little longer and practice a little harder if you felt like part of a team? Piano can be just as social as band or a hockey team, if we just take the opportunity to make it so.
Illuminate the Path
Once you know where your teen student wants to go – don’t stop there. Make absolutely sure that they know how they’re going to get there. Illuminate the path so they can see every step along the way.
For example, say you have a student who really wants to learn the Moonlight Sonata (do I need to tell you which movement? 😉 ). Let’s say she’s currently at about a grade 2 standard. Being the fabulous teacher that you are, you start mapping out a plan of what would bridge that gap so this teen can play that oh so popular piece ASAP.
But she won’t be able to play it straight away. There is a process to go through to get there.
I think too often as teachers we don’t explain enough of that process. I have learnt to be quite explicit with the route we’re going to take – especially with teens.
Because, otherwise, she might think you’ve ignored her request completely.
Think about it. If you asked me to teach you to make a soufflé, and I immediately started teaching you to make an omelette…wouldn’t you think I just hadn’t listened to you at all? Wouldn’t you wonder why this crazy woman is teaching you random other egg-related skills?
Now, maybe I know that the best way to learn the skills needed to make a soufflé is to make a great omelette first, but YOU don’t know that. You just feel like you’re being ignored.
Don’t leave your teenage piano students in the dark. While we can’t always give them the steering wheel, we can show them the map.
If you need an assignment sheet that makes these goals and practice steps really clear, try my adult and teen assignment sheet collection here.
Create teen friendly recitals
Performance opportunities are extremely important for teenage piano students. But if your recitals currently look very “kid-centric” your teens might be less than enthused to perform in them, and may even opt out.
Yes, balloons and party bags might be great for your wee ones – but are you don’t anything specifically for your teen students? Do they feel welcome and included at all your studio events?
Try these tips to make your recitals more teen-friendly, and give your teenage piano students another reason to stay in lessons.
Do you struggle to keep teenage piano students in lessons?
What have you tried to engage better with teens? Share your teen-teaching tips and ideas in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers community on Facebook.