***Anyone interested in information on the Southern teaching tour, read these posts! ***

I’m not sure if it’s an LA phenomenon or if I am just some sort of magnet for silliness, but the past few months have shown me some outrageous behavior from students and parents. I’ve had to stand up against bullies who think that a loud voice will get them what they want. I’ve had a parent thank me for being available: their last teacher was a “professional” musician, and didn’t have the time to teach! There was the guy who told me his life story about addiction and emotional unrest (red flag! red flag!) and then stiffed me on our third lesson. And of course, the endless parade of dudes and one gal who scheduled their first lesson and then….didn’t show up. But the best, by far, was just a few weeks ago, when a woman called me to schedule lessons for her college-aged daughter. I thought it was a little bit odd, just there: most people over the age of 16 make the call, even if their parents are going to pay for and drive them to the lesson. But maybe she is, ah,um, a full-service mom. (red flag! red flag!) So we talk on the phone. She’s a little aggro, but I chalk that up to not being used to working in concert with someone. In my experience with the rich and famous out here, I am usually treated with deference and respect. In fact, my most famous clients have been the politest of all. But there have been, oh, 8 or 9 folks who would tell me to park next to the maid, use the side entrance and my check (which somehow is $10 short) is on the table on my way out. Their kids would start crying when I told them their nails had to be short, and often, I would show up and the kid would not even be there. *looks at the table* Nope. No check either. So anyway, Red Flag Mom had experience with this other teacher, a guy I know. He is a staggeringly good cellist, but not so hot with the lesson scheduling or returning of the phone call. She asked me about my fee, and used all of her acting chops to gasp and froth about how Mr. Cello had only charged half of that. I told her that she had either had 30 minute lessons or that she had underpaid him. I swear I could her her face go all pruny! Hee hee! It’s at this point that I start having to assert myself in that uncomfortable way; women like this will eat you alive if you don’t stick to your guns. So I said “So I’ll see you on Friday? At 4?” Close the deal or walk away from it, lady. A pruny voice came back, “Yes. See you then.”

Friday came with a torrent of students. It was booked end to end, and I ran as a cello-shaped blur through 7-11 to stave off low blood sugar grumpy teacher syndrome. The phone rang at 3:45, and I sent it to voicemail. I knew it! Cancelling! But at least I get to have a break. The message went something like this,

“Hi, Emily….so just touching base with you……um, we’re thinking 4:15, maybe 4:20….so call meeee, maybe we’ll talk about it.”

Have you ever been late to school? To a massage appointment? God forbid, a lawyer? You don’t get extra time starting from whenever you choose to show up. Or if you do, like with a lawyer, they happily send you an unholy bill including the time they waited for you to show up! I tell people that I just need to be paid for my time, and that the cello lesson comes for free.

I called her back, and she informed me that she had to return home for business reasons, to fax something. I said that was fine, but that I was booked for the hour. Whatever percentage of that time they could show up for is ok, but if I am going to schedule an hour in advance, work the rest of my day around that hour, then I needed to be remunerated accordingly.

Her tone went super pruny:

“I need to do this. This is business.”

I was about to form a sentence indicating that this, too, is my business, but only a few sounds had escaped my lips when I was the recipient of:

“This is business! And you WILL WORK WITH ME!”


She hung up on me! She shouted! Aaaa! I kind of laughed, because she was so over the top, but then I felt all shaky inside. I took a minute to gather myself before calling her back. You’ll never guess. Voicemail! The message was something about not bothering to show up, that she was rude and hurtful, and that I don’t do business with people who hang up on me.

And that was the end of that. What a prune!

So to all of my other students, now in the hundreds when you count those come and gone, thank you for being decidedly un-pruny. You are routinely forgiving of my shifting schedule, deferential to my advice, and rewarding to be around. Plus you don’t hang up on me. Which is very grown up of you.


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5 Responses

  1. I’ll give it to you because when something like this happens, I’m always tempted to go off on the other person (but I don’t, argh); apparently you stayed professional, so good for you!

    heh, I can relate to the low-blood sugar thing.

  2. “Going off” is never an option for me. Unless someone finds me online, I have been referred by a violin shop, music store, or other professional musician. Any zesty behavior on my part will be reported straight back to that source, and the 100 other cello teachers who are in line behind me take my place. In the case of Pruny, I called the referring people, explained what happened (in case she called them with a mouth full of vitriol) and tried to forget about it. Even though her antics were childish, it’s never a good feeling to end on such a sour note. I am lucky that the store that referred her backed me up…she never called, but the owner was ready to defend me.

  3. Childish is right. Good on you for not taking them on at all, start as you mean to go on and all that. ‘This is business’, sheesh, and what you do is… what? Fun time?

    Still, those kinds of people make me all shakey too, even if I know I’ve done all the right things.

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