Make Up Lessons

Many professional in-home music teachers strictly do not offer make up lessons under any circumstances. We disagree with setting such a strict policy!

However, it is often difficult to schedule make up lessons outside of a student’s regular time slot because we travel to you, we have a full schedule over a large teaching area, and we teach in different neighborhoods on different days of the week. If we’re teaching in Avondale Estates all day, we can’t teach a make up lesson for a student in Morningside because the travel distance would likely be too far outside of our route that day.

Our policy for make up lessons:

  • We offer make up lessons during our regular teaching hours – Monday through Friday. Make up lessons are available when a student provides 24+ hours cancellation notice, or canceled due to illness or family emergency (please don’t share your sick germs with us!!). We will send you our availability calendar so you can choose a time slot that is convenient for you.
  • If student cancels – Make up lesson credit expires 14 days after the missed lesson.
  • If teacher cancels – Make up lesson credit expires 30 days after the missed lesson. Teachers will go above and beyond to offer make up lessons when they have to cancel, including offering weekend or summer time slots.
  • We may offer a make up lesson by extending your lesson time at the next couple of lessons (only available if we don’t have another appointment right after you)
  • You have 4 “free cancellations” built into your monthly rate, so you may not always be owed a make up lesson
  • Make up lessons are not 100% guaranteed. If we don’t have any time slots available which are convenient for you during our regular teaching hours, we won’t be able to provide a make up lesson.

The following article – written by an economist and parent of music students – explains our point of view and predicament when it comes to make up lessons.

“Make-up Lessons From An Economist’s Point of View”
Copyright © 2001 Vicky Barham

I’m a parent of children enrolled in music lessons. I’d like to explain to other parents
why I feel – quite strongly, actually – that it is unreasonable of we parents to expect our
teachers to make up lessons we miss, even if I know as well as they do just how
expensive lessons are, and, equally importantly, how important that weekly contact is
with the teacher to keeping practicing ticking along smoothly. I think that it is natural
for we parents to share the point of view that students should have their missed lessons
rescheduled, but if we were to ‘walk a mile’ in our teachers’ shoes, we might change our
minds about what it is reasonable for us to expect of our teachers.

Like many parents, I pay in advance for lessons each term. In my mind, what this means
is that I have reserved a regular spot in the busy schedules of my sons’ teachers. I
understand – fully – that if I can’t make it to the lesson one week (perhaps my son is sick,
or we are away on holiday, or there is some other major event at school) then we will
pay for the lesson, but that my teacher is under no obligation to find another spot for
me that week, or to refund me for the untaught lesson. And this is the way it should be.

In my ‘other life’ I am an economist and teach at our local university. Students pay good
money to attend classes at the university; but if they don’t come to my lecture on a
Monday morning, then I am not going to turn around and deliver them a private tutorial
on Tuesday afternoon. When I go to the store and buy groceries, I may purchase
something that doesn’t get used. Days or months later, I end up throwing it out. I don’t
get a refund from the grocery store for the unused merchandise. If I sign my child up
for swimming lessons at the local pool, and s/he refuses to return after the first lesson, I
can’t get my money back. So there are lots of situations in our everyday lives where we
regularly pay in advance for goods or some service, and if we end up not using what we
have purchased, we have to just ‘swallow our losses’. On the other hand, if I purchase
an item of clothing, and get home and change my mind, I can take it back and expect
either a refund or a store credit.

So why do I believe that music lessons fall into the first category of ‘non-returnable
merchandise’, rather than into the second case of ‘exchange privileges unlimited’ (which
I think is one of the advertising slogans of an established women’s clothing
store!)? Speaking now as an economist, I would claim that the reason is that items like
clothing are “durable goods’ – meaning, they can be returned and then resold at the
original price – whereas music lessons are non-durable goods – meaning, once my
Monday slot at 3:30 is gone, my son’s teacher can’t turn around and sell it again. The
only way she would be able to give him a lesson later in the week would be if she were
to give up time that she had scheduled for her own private life; and that seems pretty
unreasonable – I can’t think of many employees who would be thrilled if their bosses
were to announce that they couldn’t work from 3:30 to 4:30 this afternoon, but would
they please stay until 6:30 on Thursday, because there will be work for them then!

Many teachers hesitate to refuse our request to shift lesson times (because our busy
schedules do change), because unless they keep us parents happy, we will decide to
take our child somewhere else for lessons (or to drop musical study), and they will lose
part of their income. This is particularly true in areas with lower average income, where
it can be particularly difficult to find students. So rather than telling us that ‘well,
actually, the only time when I’m not teaching and that you can bring your son for lesson
is during the time I set aside each week to go for a long soul-cleansing walk, and I can’t
do that on Monday at 3:30 when you should have turned up’, they agree to teach us at a
time that really doesn’t suit their schedule. Teachers who are ‘nice’ in this way often, in
the long run, end up exhausted, and feeling exploited; they try to draw a line in the
sand. However, too few parents ask to switch only when absolutely necessary, and too
many parents want lesson times when it suits them this week, which is not the same
time that suited last week. If the conflict arises because my child is in the School play,
and they have their dress-rehearsal during his lesson time, then I feel that I must choose
between the two activities, and if he attends the dress rehearsal my private lesson
teacher doesn’t owe me anything.

During May, my eldest son will be missing three lessons because he is going to
accompany me on a trip to New Zealand to visit his great-grandparents. I do not expect
my son’s teacher to refund me for those missed lessons, or to reschedule them by
‘doubling up’ lessons in the weeks before or after our departure. Since there will be lots
of advanced notice, I might ask her to consider preparing a special ‘practice tape’ for
that period, or to answer my questions via e-mail, but if she doesn’t have the time (the
second half of April is going to be really busy for her, and she wouldn’t be able to do
the tape until more or less the week we left) and so has to refuse, then that’s fine. I
certainly don’t expect her to credit me with three make-up lessons; there is no way for
her to find a student to fill a three-week hole in her schedule during our
absence. Instead, I hope that she will enjoy the extra hour of rest during those three
weeks, and that we will all feel renewed enthusiasm when we return to lessons at the
end of the trip.

Copyright © 2001 Vicky Barham