Dec 17 2004, 09:57 AM
Hi, I just had a bad experience recently and would like to share this with all of you.
I am from Singapore. I just took my dipABRSM a few months ago. Prior to my exams, I hired a teacher to teach me for my diploma. The reason why I chose him is because he is very talented and I thought he would be able to help me for my diploma - he was a third prize winner in the National Music Competition Piano (open category) 1995 in Singapore and was awared a scholarship to study in Peabody Conservatory and University of Michigan thereafter. He has also studied with other well known pianists before. After I started lessons with him, he cancelled or postponed my lessons almost every week and always asked for fees in advance (usually in sg students pay at the first lesson of the month, but he asked me to pay the fees for the next month at the last lesson of the previous month, after which he would cancel and postpone my lessons again) He gave me all kinds of excuses for cancelling his lessons, such as sick (very common excuse), need to go to hospital urgently, need to accompany students for exams, need to go for rehersal practices, and even because he need to send his piano for repair! I thought it would be ok to postpone the lessons as long as he gave me all the lessons that I paid for eventually, but he did not do that. For my last few lessons, he cancelled and postponed my lessons until when my exam date (late aug) is very near, I couldn't even contact him! Now he still owes me 2.5 lessons, which is $200 altogether ($80/hr per lesson)
I have been trying to contact him from after my exam until now. He did not reply me at first for the first 2 months, and when he finally did, he said that he didn't reply because he didn't get my messages because he was overseas. But I knew he was lying, cos when I called the music school where he was teaching (coronation music school) and they said that he has always been teaching there.
This is to warn the u all that if you happen to meet a teacher like that, you better be careful. It is better to sign a contract with the teacher to indicate that if lessons are cancelled by the teacher, fees must be refunded to the student or make-up lessons arranged. Or else pay the teacher per lesson. I got another student with a similar experience - she found the teacher through classified ads and paid the teacher during the first lesson. The teacher only came for one lesson and dissappeared after that. I really regret using this teacher. Hope that u all won't have an experience like mine.
Dec 17 2004, 10:06 AM
Sometimes the best performers, prize-winners etc, are the worst possible teachers - they had so few problems themselves they can't analyse and remedy the problems of others.
Notice that Beethoven and Liszt taught no one - probably did on the quiet but no one on a regular basis who could later say "He taught me". They were genius performers. Chopin was the same, wasn't he - when he wasn't carping about Liszt.
So the most famous prizwinner etc etc might not be the best teacher anway. But like designer clothes, the label might count for more when you're getting a job/placement etc.
Dec 17 2004, 12:52 PM
Hi Phoebe, is he going to give you your $200 back?
Dec 17 2004, 01:02 PM
Even though you don't have a written contract, maybe in your country a verbal (spoken) contract still counts? Even just asking the teacher this might sharpen up their response! Hope things work out.
Dec 17 2004, 01:07 PM
actually he replied to my sms, saying that he'll bank the money into my account, but up till now I haven't received the money yet. I just called the music school he's teaching today. The lady there asked him personally.. and guess what? He told her that he already gave me make-up lessons and he doesn't owe me anything! If this is so why would he still reply my sms to say he'll return me the money? Isn't he contradicting himself?!
Is it possible to use this (the sms) as edvidence to take action against him?
Dec 17 2004, 02:44 PM
I think Singapore's legal system is similar to ours in some ways - here we have a "small claims court" which tries to cut out lawyers and avoid legal costs. A more expensive trial would probably not be worth the time, expense or risk. Assuming you have such a court I would do the following:
( i ) Send a courteous letter by recorded delivery setting out so far as you are able:
a) The amounts you have paid and the dates on which you paid them, and therefore the total amount paid.
b: The dates on which you have had lessons, and the total number of lessons you have had, and therefore the cost of those lessons.
c) The difference between A and B, pointing out that this is outstanding, to be repaid.
d) Reference to your "sms". I'm afraid I don't know what one of those is, but if it is some kind of record which you have of an agreement by him to pay the balance, it is important evidence of his acceptance of a debt and you should preserve it. He may claim in court it is "without prejudice" correspondence which you cannot refer to, but it looks to me like a straightforward acceptance of his debt.
e) Stating that you would be grateful for a response to your letter within 14 days.
( ii ) Keep two copies of the above. If you have no response to the above, find a solicitor friend, or reasonable solicitor to send a letter on headed notepaper by recorded delivery stating, "we are instructed by (your name). We attach for ease of reference a copy of a letter written to you by herself dated (date). We look forward to your proposals for settlement of the outstanding balance of $200 within the next 14 days, failing which we reserve the right to issue without further notice proceedings in the [small claims court] (if that's what it's called!)for its recovery, together with a claim for appropriate court fees and/or legal expenses,
( iii ) Keep a copy of your second letter. It may not be economically viable to instruct a lawyer in this case beyond the writing of that simple letter, unless there is some basis on which they would take your case on in exchange for a proportion of the amount you recover.
( iv ) If you have no response to either letter, go down to your nearest civil court office and ask their advice. If there is an equivalent of a small claims court, ask them for a claim form, and advice on how to fill it in - fill it in, attach copies of your letters and sms (if allowed), or re-summarise the contents of your letters on the forms provided, and then ask the court to issue them. In this country there is an issue fee, but for a claim for $200 it would be a fairly tiny amount.
( v ) Take advice at all stages as to your own liability for legal costs should you lose, and bear in mind whether any of this is worth the effort to you.
Dec 17 2004, 03:00 PM
|QUOTE (Rhapsodin @ Dec 17 2004, 05:06 AM)|
|Notice that Beethoven and Liszt taught no one - probably did on the quiet but no one on a regular basis who could later say "He taught me". They were genius performers. Chopin was the same, wasn't he - when he wasn't carping about Liszt. |
Beethoven is reported to have had a small number of "select" students including Czerny:
Recordings (including piano rolls!) from Liszt's students can be found here:
Liszt Student Piano Discographies
According to Jim Samson's biography of Chopin, Chopin apparently taught a fair amount.
Comparison of Chopin and Liszt's teaching can be found here:
Chopin and Liszt
Dec 17 2004, 03:24 PM
You certainly have had a bad experience and on top of that you now have the further hassle of trying to secure a refund. I agree with Rhapsodin that sometimes the best musician does not necessarily become the best teacher. There is more to being a successful music teacher than being an accomplished musician. Not only do you obviously need to be pass on your knowledge to all different types of pupils or differing abilities but you also have to have administrative skills. Being a private teacher is like running any business, you need to be organised and to have other skills such as good time management. Teaching in a music school, where you come in x number of days a week for x number of hours is almost like being employed unlike private teaching. It could well be that this particular person does not have the necessary abilities to be a successful business person. This is often the case in other professions such as science and engineering where quite often the cleverest people would be hopeless at running the business and need good managers to steer them in the right direction in terms of deadlines etc. Very occasionaly you get an exception to this such as for example James Dyson who not only invented his vacuum cleaner but built up a very successful business that makes them.
This person should perhaps examine their limitations and try and work to them. So for example, as he is always likely to cancel lessons perhaps he should only take payment for the following lesson or payment on the day of the lesson itself. Also he could point out to prospective students that in his private teaching he is not always available to teach on a regular basis and may often have to change lessons at short notice. This may not always be a problem if you know in advance what the situation is.
I hope you manage to get a refund soon, I suspect that this person is probably as disorganised in his private life as he is in his business dealings. Also the fact that he told the lady at the music school that you had all your lessons may not necessarily be something to worry about he may have just said this as he could have been too embarassed to admit that he owed you money.
Dec 17 2004, 04:04 PM
Thanks for your reply, zoda. It is very helpful indeed. Yes there is a small claims tribunal in sg. I justed asked a lawyer friend for advise and had just checked out the website. I will be sending an email to my ex teacher to warn him first. If he still does not refund me my fees I will take action.
Thank all for your replies.
by the way.. sms means smart messaging system.. it is a message system for cellular phones.
Dec 17 2004, 05:30 PM
|QUOTE (phoebe @ Dec 17 2004, 04:04 PM)|
| by the way.. sms means smart messaging system.. it is a message system for cellular phones. |
Also known as texting!
Dec 19 2004, 02:15 AM
I have checked with the small claims tribunal of Singapore. I will be able to lodge a claim as long as the amount is less than $10,000, it is less than 1 year ago, and I have the full name and address of the respondent. The sms would be good evidence that he had owed me money.
Hope I'll be able to get my money back...
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