Monday 9 September 2013

Unexpected and costly change of piano teacher

My sons recently sat their AMEB piano exams - DS1 got a B+ on his grade 5 'Piano' exam, while DS2 got an A on his preliminary grade 'Piano for Leisure' exam. I also sat an exam (getting a B for grade 5 'Piano for Leisure' - better than I thought given I hadn't played much since I sat my grade 8 AMEB Piano exam more than 30 years before, and didn't have much time to practice due to my PhD studies) as I wanted to ensure their piano teacher had enough students being examined to have the exams held at his studio. As it happened, I needn't have bothered enrolling for the exam, as their piano teacher unexpectedly went out of business the week before the examination date, due to him being arrested and charged for allegedly grooming a child for sexual purposes! I won't form an opinion as to his guilt or innocence, as I always stayed at the studio while DS1 and DS2 were having their lessons and (therefore?) nothing inappropriate happened to my sons. On the one hand the "where's there's smoke there must be fire" line of reasoning (always a favourite of lynch mobs) would suggest that since he has been arrested, questioned and charged on the same day the police must be some substantial evidence that the alleged offence occurred. But, on the other hand, everyone charged with a crime is entitled to a presumption of innocence, so I'll leave it up to the jury to decide. Whether or not he is actually guilty his days as a piano teacher are over - he's 70+ years old and was considering retiring soon anyhow, his business has been closed down with his computers and paperwork taken by the police, and word-of-mouth about the arrest passed around the local piano-teaching community like wildfire (one of the prospective new piano teachers I contacted mentioned that she'd seen the news in the local paper, and her husband had commented that she'd be getting a rush of new students as a result). So, even if he is found not-guilty at his trial, he would be unlikely to want to resume teaching, and probably couldn't get any students regardless of a non-guilty verdict.

It was a bit of a shock to suddenly have to arrange for the exams to be shifted to the AMEB head office in town at such short notice, and I also had to contact several local piano teachers to try and find a replacement teacher for the boys. There were only three local teachers listed in an online directory of piano teachers, and of them one was fully booked and not accepting new students at this time, the second one sounded like a very young man when we talked on the phone, and the third charged substantially more than average for lessons (~$95/hour compared with the typical rate of about ~$70/hour). We arranged to meet the young (cheaper) piano teacher at his home, but found that he was very young (early 20s) and didn't seem very professional (he had his injured arm in a cast due to a recent motor bike accident, was living at home with his mother, and was teaching on a small upright piano located in a messy bedroom!). That left only the more expensive teacher as an option, so I've arranged for DS1 to start weekly 45-minute lessons with her from next week. She doesn't have a time available for DS2 to have lessons at the moment, so I've started teaching DS2 some new grade 1 exam pieces for next year myself. Given the higher hourly rate charged by the new teacher, I'll try to arrange for a one-hour lesson to be scheduled next year, which can be shared between DS1 (40-min) and DS2 (20-min) in order to save a bit of money. And if she can't find a suitable time-slot for a year to so, I'll probably be able to teach DS2 adequately myself until he completes grade 2 in a couple of year's time. One good side-effect of having their old piano teacher go out of business just before their AMEB exams were scheduled, and not having started lessons with any new teacher yet, was that I had to fill in an AMEB 'change of teacher form' and nominate myself as their 'teacher'. This means I an now registed as an official AMEB 'piano teacher' and can easily enter DS2 for his grade 1 exams next year.

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