I’ve been teaching private lessons since the late 1980s. It’s not uncommon for me and my students to spend years learning together. Close friendships form with both the students and their families. Yet, there always comes a time when the student or parent feels that it would be best to discontinue lessons. I wanted to write this page to help guide students and parents on how to end lessons gracefully.

Sometimes families tend to feel guilt or even shame for not continuing lessons–especially when we have become close over the years. Let me assure you that it is perfectly fine to discontinue lessons at any time and for any reason. You don’t owe me a detailed explanation. But, in honor of our friendship, it is courteous to email, text, or call to let me know that you want to discontinue lessons rather than to simply stop coming. A perfectly acceptable message could read as follows:

Dear Dr. Berlin, Suzie is going to stop lessons at the end of the month. Thank you for being her teacher! – Mrs. Q.

I will, of course, thank you for letting me be a part of her musical journey. If you didn’t offer a reason for stopping lessons, I may ask if there is a specific problem with lessons that I can address. If there’s not and you’re just ready to stop, that’s just fine. Know that my door is always open if you want to resume lessons in the future.

If you are dissatisfied with lessons, there are some things to try before quitting. The first thing to do is tell me. I’m glad to listen. I can usually sense when lessons aren’t going well, too. It’s rarely a surprise! We can try several things like changing our approach, changing our repertoire, or even changing instruments! Sometimes, it is fun to try new instruments for a short period of time, like summer time, and then resuming on the main instrument in the autumn. I might suggest trying a new teacher on your current instrument before abandoning it altogether to start another one.

If you are interested in going to a different music teacher, please tell me and I will be glad to write a letter of introduction for you letting the new teacher know what you have learned in the past and what you are learning now. This also shows the new teacher that we have worked together well in the past and that I think you might make a good addition to their teaching studio. It’s also a professional courtesy to formally “hand off” a student to a new teacher. This way, the new teacher need have no apprehension that they’re recruiting students from a fellow music teacher.

I’m honored to be a part of your musical journey and will always have your best interest in mind when offering advice. I am glad to talk if you ever feel dissatisfied or are ready to end our lessons together. It will not affect our friendship!

-Dr. Berlin