“Outrageous moments” and “piano teacher” don’t seem to fit together. Really, most people probably think of a piano teacher as the nice lady down the street who has a cat, a bunch of lawn nicknacks, and perpetual case of coffee breath. There’s no drama there.
But, I’m not a lady. I’m a slightly overweight middle-aged man who hates lawn ornaments. And I detest cats even more. That’s because a cat once bit my finger. It landed me in the hospital for three days, with the doctor kindly explaining that I would possibly lose my right index finger due to infection. Thankfully, God was merciful and healed my finger. That was a piano student’s cat. So yes, there is some drama being a piano teacher.
As I’ve been mulling over my most interesting experiences as a piano teacher, I thought I would provide some background to my teaching history. Here it is: before teaching out of my home studio, I drove to all my students’ homes. That’s the history. And that’s where the drama comes in. Why? Because when you hang out with people in their homes for long enough, weird stuff happens.
Weird stuff, as in…
I’ve caught a mouse, captured a snake, and suffered a dog bite. I’ve been cussed out. I’ve been presented with various assortments of alcoholic drinks and offered illegal drugs (I graciously declined). I’ve been overpaid, underpaid, and never paid. More times than I can count, students have told me things that made their parents blush, cringe, and lie. I’ve had dogs make procreational gestures toward my leg. I’ve seen bathrooms so disgusting, they made the local gas station restroom look like something out of a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot.
And you know the kind of bathroom I’m talking about. There's that thin shade of gray on the floor from all that hair that hasn’t been swept up in months. And then there are the hand towels. The same exact towels every single week. Because they’ve never been changed. And they have that dirty dark spot in the middle that’s always kind of moist.
But, after sifting through my teaching memories, I came up with three moments that truly qualify as the craziest, most ridiculous memories in my teaching career.
1. Personal Chauffer
In three separate, unrelated incidents, I have had parents call me for lessons, and ask that I pick up their kids from school, and drive them to their home for lessons.
These were parents who had never met me and who had never even spoken to me until our first phone conversation. Hey, I’m glad that I can instill trust in people, but that’s just crazy. For the record, I refused to pick up their kids.
2. Request Denied
Once I had a piano mom ask me to reschedule our entire piano recital. Why? Because she would be on vacation with her family on our recital date. At first I didn’t think she was serious. But then I realized she meant it. How do you respond to that? After a moment I figured out what to say. “No, I can’t arrange another rental agreement with the church, purchase a new insurance certificate, contact every one of our students with a new date, and ask them to rearrange their schedules because you are on vacation.”
A student sneezed during his lesson. More specifically, he sneezed onto the piano keys. More specifically than that, he sneezed onto the piano keys with food in his mouth. We had to have a little chat about how to sneeze without blowing soggy goldfish crackers onto my piano.
Even though I've had some awkward teaching days, the joy of bringing wonderful music to my students is worth it all. And, I'll be honest... its the outrageous moments that make life kinda fun!
Have you had some outrageous moments in your profession? Please share!
Adam & Anna Bendorf are piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. They don't have any lawn ornaments.