The other day, I had an interview scheduled with an adult student.  Five days prior, Mr. B. had found my website and emailed, expressing an interest in starting piano lessons.   Some ten emails later, we had arranged a time to meet. 

As usual, I had discussed with Mark some of the details, most importantly the question of where to meet.  I normally travel to the student’s home, but on occasion arrange a meeting or a lesson in my studio (which is located in our home).  As Mr. B. and I were discussing when to meet, he asked, “Should we meet at your studio?” to which I said yes, and gave him the address.  Mr. B. had offered two possible meeting times, one in the evening after work, and one in the afternoon during his lunch break. 

When I had a studio at a local piano store, I would ask Mark to come with me to an interview when I was to meet a male student.  Not that I ever had any bad experiences, but I just felt – more comfortable, to have Mark there, even if he wasn’t in the same room, but a few feet away in the waiting area. 

Considering that I wanted Mark to be present when I met Mr. B. for the first time, I agreed to a 5 p.m. meeting. 

The morning of the scheduled meeting, Mr. B. had told me in an email that he was going to bring his wife, which I thought was an excellent idea. 

Shortly before 5 p.m., as I was going through a couple of pieces on the piano, I saw through the window a car drive by, slowly, the woman on the passenger seat intently looking out toward our house. 

Mr. B. never showed up for the meeting but sent an email later, apologizing for not showing up, explaining that his wife was uncomfortable with him “working one-on-one in a woman’s house”, as he “initially thought it was a studio in Shawnee or Lenexa.”  Also that he was terribly allergic to cats.

While I think I can relate to how his wife felt, there was something in the way they looked toward our house, the way they drove by, slowly, and looked.  I can’t help but think that it wasn’t just that his wife was uncomfortable, and his allergy to cats.  I think it was the neighborhood as much as anything else. 

In an attempt to improve my website (Mr. B.’s first impression of my studio) and avoid future misunderstandings, I looked through it to see where I could be more clear in that I do not teach out of “a studio in Shawnee or Lenexa”.  However, nowhere do I mention a studio outside of my home.  As a matter of fact, there are at least three references to my being a traveling teacher and the fact that an occasional lesson may happen in the studio in my home. 

To have my teaching skills judged by the neighborhood I live in is, at first, sad.  But then again, I reserve the right to judge, too.  I once stopped lessons with a student who was militantly religious; I didn’t care whether he was “talented” (he wasn’t …) or that he was a hormone-laden teenager who needed a more tolerant teacher than I was willing to be.  He made me feel extremely uncomfortable, there was aggressive defiance in the way he looked at me.  In another instance, a family I once interviewed consisted of a cute 4-yr old, an interfering mother, and a psychologist father who kept educating his wife about the mental and emotional stages of a 4-yr old, for a good 45 minutes after the initial interview, right there in my studio, in front of me, refusing to leave.  I am judgmental when it comes to smoking.  I do care what kind of car you drive – especially when I see two huge cars in the garage, and a third vehicle or a boat in the third garage but then you tell me that you can’t afford a better instrument for your child.  I have a sensitive nose, I don’t tolerate body odor, nor excessive perfume.  I don’t do loud and flashy.  And no matter how “cute” you think your child is, if she doesn’t have the desire to learn we are not going to have lessons. 

I reserve the right to be judgmental.  And I grant you the same right.