Davis Cello Studio
1413 Wildwood Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27517
About the Studio Policy and Information Sheet:
This is a flexible document which is updated yearly. For the moment it consists of two parts:
- Information about how things are done at my teaching studio as well as practical information for parents.
- An essay about what I’m attempting to achieve as a teacher and some perspective about the challenges of practicing on the home front.
Separately from this document, students receive a list of dates for each scheduled lesson during the school year. Please record in your calendars the dates when there are no lessons or when a lesson might need to be moved because of conflicts in my schedule. I will also put a copy of the lesson list in the front of every student’s assignment notebook.
Please save this studio policy and information document so you can refer to it as needed! There is always a copy in my studio as well.
Terminating lessons – My policy is that terminating lessons requires 30 days’ notice. After 30 days’ notice, I will refund whatever balance remains in your lesson account.
What tuition includes:
Please note – the number of lessons in a month may vary depending on the month.
The tuition fee covers 32 individual lessons. The following studio activities involve no additional tuition cost: the nine 24 Cellos meetings, the 24 Cellos concert at a retirement or nursing home, the end-of-the-year class recital and any other studio activities which take place between September and the end of May.
At the time of the class recital in May, there is a separate fee if students use the services of the professional pianist. That usually costs about $20 total for the rehearsal and recital.
Tuition Payment Choices:
Parents are welcome to choose between three ways of paying for lessons during the school year (from September to the end of May.)
- Monthly payment with pre-written checks
If you prefer to pay by the month, please write out 9 checks to me in the correct monthly amount and date them sequentially, Sept. 1, Oct. 1, Nov. 1, etc. up to May 1. I will collect these 9 checks at the first lesson in September. From then on, each month I will deposit the correct month’s check. When you write the January and subsequent checks, please remember to change the year!
Please note: Checks need to be made out to “Deborah Davis.” (I cannot deposit checks made out to “Davis Cello Studio”.)
- 1/2 hour lessons: $124. 44 per month
- 3/4 hour lessons: $186.67 per month
- 1 hour lessons: $248.89 per month
If you decide to terminate lessons, I will return the unused checks for the months following the 30 days’ notice of termination.
- Automatic monthly payment through your online banking
See above for the monthly tuition. Please set up the payments to arrive on the first of the month.
- Semester payment
Parents may pay tuition in two equal payments, the first due by September 10 and the second by January 10.
Once again, please note: Checks need to be made out to “Deborah Davis.”
- 1/2 hour lessons – $560 per semester
- 3/4 lessons – $840 per semester
- 1 hour lessons – $1120 per semester
If you decide to terminate lessons, I will return the balance that remains following the 30 days notice period.
Parents and siblings at lessons: Parents and siblings are welcome to sit in the waiting room next to the teaching studio or in the teaching studio.
Punctuality: I would appreciate students arriving about 5 minutes before their lesson time in order to unpack and be ready to go. Those 5 minutes are also an opportunity to hear a little of the previous student’s lesson which can be interesting and relevant. I try to start and stop lessons on time.
Rescheduling lessons: If you need to change a lesson time for a particular week, please let me know well in advance. While I can’t guarantee that another time will be available, I’ll do my best to accommodate you. Please note that lessons cannot be rescheduled to a future week.
Missed lessons: Lessons cancelled without notice (not showing up) or with less than 24 hours’ notice will not be rescheduled.
Illness: If your child is ill, please call and let me know as early as you can. If at all possible, the lesson will be rescheduled for later in the same week. Once again, lessons cannot be rescheduled to a future week.
Bad weather: If driving conditions are bad, there are two choices – a lesson at your regular lesson time over Skype or a lesson at my studio later in the week, if that can be arranged. I will need your Skype information at the time you sign up for lessons.
If I need to cancel a lesson for any reason, I will make up that lesson at a later time.
Fingernails: All cellists agree on the importance of short fingernails in order to play the cello properly. Playing the cello with long nails will result in bad habits and a compromised technique. Only five fingernails need to be short, however: the four left hand fingernails and the right thumbnail. Parents, please be sure that your child’s nails are kept short and are an appropriate length before you drive them to their lesson!
24 Cellos Meetings, 24 Cellos Concert and Class Recital:
First of all, what is the 24 Cellos?
The 24 Cellos is the gathering of my students to play cello ensemble music once a month at a nearby church during the school year. I started the 24 Cellos years ago because playing in an ensemble is so different than playing alone, as one does in a cello lesson. This monthly gathering allows me to supervise my students in working on important ensemble-playing skills. It is also an opportunity to talk about other important cello-related topics in a group. Most students are ready to join the 24 Cellos after a year of private lessons.
I encourage all students to participate in the 24 Cellos and other studio activities. It’s fun and interesting to get to know the other students, to play music together and learn from seeing and hearing other students play.
Music Theory Workbooks: This year I’m continuing to give a short music theory assignment each week to help students become more and more musically literate. The ABRSM (Associated Boards of Royal Schools of Music) music theory workbooks are simple and logical. I think they’re absolutely great to help kids become rock solid on the details of music theory. They cost about $7 and can be ordered at www.burtnco.com
Mock recital: As always, the final 24 Cellos meeting in May of the coming year will be a mock recital. All students are encouraged to play their recital piece, with or without piano, in order to see what remains to be done to be well prepared. The only audience for the mock recital will be the students themselves (except perhaps for parents waiting around.)
Additional musical activities: In addition to studio activities, I strongly encourage students to attend at least a few of the concerts I am involved in each year. This will help my students know me better and understand why I stress what I do in lessons. I encourage students to attend musical events of all kinds. Hearing a lot of music is an essential part of any musical education.
Cello badly out of tune: If/when your child has a major problem tuning the instrument because strings have slipped or the bridge has been knocked out of place, please call and bring the cello to me. Please don’t waste a week with an unplayable instrument! It will only take me a minute or two to put it right again! (Electronic tuners can help a lot at home, but my assistance may still be necessary if the cello gets way out of tune.)
Standard equipment for students: Aside from their cello, bow and music, all students need a music stand, a metronome and a proper chair. An arm chair or a sofa is not acceptable for playing the cello! These will lead to poor posture, problems playing the instrument and sooner or later, a bad back!
Chairs for playing the cello should have a flat seat, not a “bucket” seat and be of a height such that the student’s feet can easily sit flat on the floor with knees bent.
Owning and using an electronic tuner can also be a tremendous advantage to the student. Their prices range from modest to high. Of course, one of the most helpful pieces of equipment is a plain old pencil and every student should have a good pencil (with eraser) at all times on his or her music stand!
Obtaining music: There are also several good websites where parents can order music. While I may give out a copy of a piece as a temporary measure, it is important to buy the music as soon as possible so that the student can use and mark the original part. I believe it is illegal to perform from Xeroxed music, but in any case, buying the music is the right thing to do. If I need you to order music, I will write down the specifics on that week’s lesson assignment sheet.
Websites for music, strings, rosin, and other accessories:
- www.concordmusic.com (strings and accessories, no sheet music)
- www.burtnco.com (for the ABRSM music theory workbooks)
Gum-chewing: I consider gum-chewing to be a choking hazard when playing the cello. Let’s play it safe – no gum is allowed in my studio and I strongly recommend that no one ever play the cello while chewing gum.
Other concerns: If you have any concerns about how your child’s lessons are going or have anything else you want to talk to me about, please call. Mornings are usually good. E-mail is also a good way to reach me.
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Home phone # – 919-234-0053
Cell phone # – 484-866-0812
Some general comments and goals:
[I wrote this essay years ago but I tinker with it every year – so you may notice a few changes.]
A new idea: During the summer of 2013 I came across a website called habitforge.com. The purpose of the website is to help people “build lasting habits quickly and easily.” Naturally, it occurred to me that this website might help students establish the invaluable habit of daily practicing. Use of the website is free to develop a single habit. There is a nominal cost for daily reminders about a larger number of habits.
As the saying goes, “First you make your habits and then your habits make you.” Please check this website out and see if it, or another similar website, might be helpful for your child.
Back to my regularly scheduled essay:
Learning to play an instrument takes time, but practically anyone can build up a high enough level of skill to have a great time playing music. Slow and steady wins the race. The best way to become skilled on an instrument is to keep at it long enough to gain a reasonably high degree of comfort and ease. The rewards are fantastic! What could be better than playing music with other people for pleasure?
Practicing is central to learning to play any instrument. It’s my job to help students learn how to practice effectively in order to keep improving. Sawing away at the cello any-old-which-way, even with the best of intentions, will not result in well-functioning cello playing.
Practicing well evolves over time. Good practicing involves developing a sense of standards, thinking critically, observing, experimenting and persisting. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as we all know!
My goal is to help my students become skilled enough and self-sufficient enough to enjoy playing whatever music appeals to them at their own highest potential. Achieving instrumental competence contributes enormously to a student’s self-esteem, and helps them have faith in their abilities to do other difficult things as well.
One fact of life is that some children are naturally competitive, but I’m not inclined to encourage competitiveness or comparing one child to another. My goal is to support the development of each individual as well as I can. I respect the efforts that students make, whether the child seems to be a future star or a kid or adult who is playing the cello just for fun.
By the way, playing just for fun is an excellent goal, in my opinion! Playing music is life-enriching at every age, no matter what occupation a person ends up pursuing to make a living.
Practicing Problems: My mantra about practicing is that no one is born knowing how to practice! It is the teacher’s job to help a child learn how to practice so they don’t bog down in perpetual frustration.
I remember quite well my own early days playing the cello and what it felt like not to understand what I was looking at on the page or how I was supposed to play what I saw. I didn’t know the names of the notes, the meanings of the symbols such as sharps and flats, how I was supposed to count, etc. I was stymied and frustrated despite that I loved music and wanted to play the cello.
As I see it, lots of children are in the same predicament that I was in because teachers often gloss over the basics of music literacy, counting, problem-solving and practicing skills. Helping students master these basics is high on my list of goals as a teacher. More than anything, I want my students to become independent and competent over time, to learn how to practice well and to become comfortable with the methods and processes that will help them succeed.
What about discipline? Parents may believe that if their child were truly interested in learning the cello, they would automatically be disciplined, persistent and have a great attitude when practicing. This would be awfully nice, of course, but it’s not very realistic and will bring about suffering on all sides from unmeetable expectations. Practicing has real highs and lows. It involves surmounting a variety of obstacles and tolerating frustration as well as happy moments of excitement and gratification. Things take time! Practicing is hard for practically everyone, at least some of the time, and it takes experience to learn to practice in such a way that one is not derailed by frustration or boredom. Furthermore, some people have a lower frustration tolerance than others, which makes practicing harder. I would definitely put myself (at least as a child) in the category of kids with a low frustration tolerance level!
Finding the discipline to practice is also difficult because there are so many easier, more instantly gratifying ways to spend one’s time! Nevertheless, becoming more disciplined is one of the valuable byproducts of learning to play an instrument. Acquiring greater discipline comes with increasing maturity and experience, so I’d try to be somewhat patient about how your child is doing with their discipline in the beginning, as hard as that is. Do encourage them and do let them know you expect them to practice, but mainly, try to be encouraging.
My mom was not knowledgeable about music, but how well I remember her voice piping out from another room after I practiced, “Sounds good!” Trust me, I wanted to hear her say that!
Praise is golden when it’s deserved but confusing and meaningless when it is undeserved. I’ve certainly known children who seem to expect praise at all times, even when they’re well aware that they’ve made no effort. Far from being either motivating or confidence-building, I believe that false praise is harmful to a child’s healthy self-esteem. I’d be generous with genuine praise when it is deserved and keep strictly away from any other kind. Do attempt to “catch” them making an effort, being persistent, working well, etc. and reward them with your praise for that! They’ll remember it just as I remember my mom’s encouraging voice more than 50 years later.
What about “helpful criticism?” When parents listen to their child’s lesson, they can become aware of many things that the child isn’t doing very well at home. On the whole, at home I’d leave the details of the practicing to the child. Do encourage whatever persistence and efforts you see them make while avoiding becoming the “teacher” when the child is practicing.
Parents need to understand that there may be periods of time, for a variety of reasons, when their child does little practicing and makes little real effort. This is very frustrating to see, but the bad spell can be weathered and the child can emerge with a renewed desire to invest energy in the cello. Practically everyone has ups and downs of some kind. I’d say, keep calm and carry on.
When a child’s practicing is unsatisfactory, I recommend avoiding excessive nagging, threatening or ultimatum-making. Please call me to discuss the situation! It’s important not to escalate practicing issues into the kind of power struggle where the child will quit the cello in order to “win” or the parent will refuse to pay for lessons in order to have the upper hand. The most frequent cause of quitting that I’ve seen, hands down, is power struggles about discipline, not a true lack of interest on the part of the child.
On the other hand, if a child genuinely has no interest in playing the cello or in music, of course, it’s a lost cause. Moving on to some other, more fruitful endeavor would be the right thing to do.
To sum it up, problems about practicing are extremely common and can be managed. Please don’t let them become a chronic irritation or a power struggle between you and your child!
Some final comments: One of the great privileges of being a music teacher is the opportunity to get to know a child and his or her family (or adult student) and work together over a long period of time, often many years. My ultimate goal is to help each person acquire the skills and confidence to make music an enjoyable and fulfilling part of their lives. I also realize that parents go to great effort and expense to give their child lessons with me. I sincerely appreciate the trust this investment of time and money indicates.
Parents – please consider me a resource! I share your heartfelt desire for your child’s success and well being. Call me when things come up that I should know about so I can understand your child better and be more effective as your child’s teacher. We’re on the same team!