Violin Studio: Moving to Memberships

violingroupWHC Ruthven and Lawrence Frylinck

(Please note: As this is a key policy post, it has been edited for clarity.) 

We are changing the system.

As a result of erratic, overlapping, non-congruent public vs private school holidays this year, we have had to rethink the way we do things in the Studio.

In 16 years of well-structured, successful running, the Studio has never had such a challenge to its teaching times, and drawn in its wake, discussions about fees (which are non-negotiable) and catch-up lessons (which are offered but not always accepted).

Traditionally we have always aligned with public school terms (as this is where the majority of our students hail from).  However, it is not enough any longer.  Public school terms were erratic and badly defined this year (especially in the second term which was nightmarish); private schools base their holidays on three vastly different systems plus random long weekends and mid-term breaks, and it is not possible to accommodate everyone’s school holidays any longer.

For the Violin Studio, there is only one remaining option:  To modernize.

Please speak to the guitar teacher to discuss what changes / stays unchanged in the Guitar Studio.

As from next year, the violin lesson fee will become a Violin Studio Membership fee instead.

You will receive a structured fees sheet explaining how this works; but essentially:

By paying a membership fee, you become a member of the Studio and, depending on the type of membership you buy, you are then entitled to a specific lesson schedule.  Two studio concerts per year plus an unspecified number of social functions, exam prep and support, are included in the membership.

The studio concerts form a part of the teaching schedule and are, as they are now, mandatory; the rest is optional.

I will archive the current studio rules and link them on the website so that people can refer back.

What does the change in structure mean for you?

You cannot learn violin in one lesson.  This is why we don’t charge per lesson.

It takes being a part of a studio and fairly diligently following an intelligent, interactive program to move ahead on an instrument as complex as the violin.  This year alone, three self-taught individuals approached me for lessons, realizing that despite the best internet packages and DVDs, the interaction on 1:1 basis with an experienced teacher is what gets the results.

Unlike the Grapevine selling slices of a cake, what we “sell” is not individual slices of anything.

Unlike course work, where you can get the notes from a colleague if you miss a session or two, you cannot fill in the “gaps” of a violin course on your own.  The other half of the equation consists of fine muscles, nerves, increasing stamina, learning to hear certain things, eye-hand-ear coordination, memory, certain movements which have to be exactly right or they never get up to speed; and a host of other things that lie within the student’s body and brain.

You cannot learn violin in one lesson.  Or in three, or six, or even ten.  You cannot become a champion swimmer by going to one swimming lesson.  This is why we sell the whole program, in 1:1 personal undivided attention customized lessons, interactive intelligent development of the whole young musician.  And because it is an interactive, ever-changing developmental program rather than a course, a membership is the most practical format for it.

Here are the main points of the membership model (effective from next year):

You buy a membership by paying ahead for the term, the semester or even the year.

The membership includes:

  • Your weekly or bi-weekly lessons (according to membership type) at a fixed recurring time.
  • Two studio concerts a year.
  • A number of social studio functions per year – the number varying from year to year.
  • Exam preparation and support.

It does not include:

However, extra lessons can be added as needed for at a specific one-off fee.

The Studio Year will remain the same:
EDIT: The Studio Year will be independent of either public or private schools!

We will adopt the following guidelines when defining our Studio year:

The Studio Year: Guidelines

  • There will be 4 terms. An attempt will be made to be largely active in school term.  Overlaps are inevitable though; the Studio terms will not be aligning with any specific school system. Expect plans and work-arounds.
  • A minimum of 40 lessons a year is offered.  Usually, the actual lesson count comes to 42 or even 43, but those extra lessons are regarded as your smiles bonus.  They come free with the membership when they come.
  • On public holidays (such as Youth Day and Heritage Day), the Studio is closed (this remains the same).
  • Holidays will be scheduled as blocks.  This also makes it clear when one term ends and another starts.
  • While public holidays will be observed, long weekends resulting from these will not.  Lessons continue where the Studio has demarcated active term.
  • Mid-term breaks, holiday overlaps etc etc:  You have 3 options concerning your lessons.
    1. Lessons are offered, as long as the time falls into active studio term.  You can observe your lesson even though the school may be closed.  If the school grounds are inaccessible, an alternative venue may be organized.
    2. If you are away, consider rescheduling; it is part of the Studio Policy to offer rescheduling (within reason – I’ll bring out the detailed missed-lesson policy soon).  This policy stands even if the reason you are away is not a long weekend.  This is purely between you and the Studio; the school’s schedule has no impact.
    3. Or you may forfeit the lesson.  This is your choice.  However forfeited lessons don’t carry a refund and cannot be deducted from the next fees payment.  It is usually the better choice to reschedule.

Lessons that are offered but not observed, still have to be paid for, according to the current studio rules.  The teacher’s time was booked; the teacher can do nothing else with this time.  To ride an old metaphor to death, if you buy a MacDonalds burger but throw half of it away, does MacDonalds owe you the money back for half a burger?  Do they owe you another half-a-burger?  Even catch-up lessons are already a concession by the teacher; according to the current Studio Rules a lesson missed by the student can in general not be caught up.  Nevertheless, we are consistently trying to catch up each and every last missed lesson.  However if a catch-up lesson is offered but rejected in principle, there is nothing further we can do to help.  The missed lesson cannot be refunded anyway.

Following this, it is advisable to mark the active studio term (or alternatively the studio holidays) with highlighter in your year planner.  

Concerning lessons you miss:

Essentially, as with any membership, if you don’t utilize the benefits you lose them.  However fair-mindedness dictates that if you lost a lesson due to something you couldn’t prevent, we offer you a rescheduling.  It is up to you to take it or leave it.  (This does not include forgotten instruments or sports practices. If you have a consistent problem with interfering sports schedules, come to me for a different lesson slot.)

If a lesson was missed because the Studio had a problem (such as the day my steering wheel came off as I started my car), such a lesson is always rescheduled.

At no point do lessons missed or lost, influence the membership fee.

Lessons expected and not received outside of Studio Term are not missed lessons.  It is ludicrous that this even needs to be mentioned.  If I buy a burger at MacDonalds and expect a pineapple slice in it, though they never offer one, that doesn’t mean they now owe me a pineapple slice.  I’m hoping that the membership model will make this easier to comprehend.

What changes financially?

For existing students, essentially nothing changes.  If you are paying x amount per month for your lessons now, you’ll be paying x (with inflation-based annual adjustment) per month next year.  It is not about the price tag, at all.

You can contact me if you want to discuss this, at this email:


One thought on “Violin Studio: Moving to Memberships”

  1. Update: While not exactly changing to memberships after all, (we’re still on term fees), I have moved away from 100% synching with the public schools. Our studio terms now mainly take place during school term, but there will be lessons here and there that may fall into the holidays, because: Each of our terms is now a minimum length of 10 lessons. This puts a stop to the end-of-year shorter term nonsense. It also means that there will be additional lessons scheduled either during the break between the last two terms, or in the first week of December holidays, or alternatively individually to make up the individual lesson count to 10.

    Additionally: The following change was introduced:

    Up to 3 lessons per term – that is 30% of the term – can be rescheduled, regardless why they were missed. Beyond that, lessons are forfeited. If there is a consistent problem, please contact me to revise the regular lesson schedule to find a better suited slot.

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