Obligatory Lesson Policy – Has anyone heard of this practice?

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Obligatory Lesson Policy – Has anyone heard of this practice?

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    Neka Borders


    I am reaching out to gain some perspective about a situation I am dealing with. A prospective harp teacher was introduced to me whom I had hoped to study with. Rather than an introductory lesson, this teacher offers an “orientation.” I was told the orienation included; tuning, harp care, string changing, harp selection/procurement assistance. The fee was $75. The night before we met, I recieved an email with the following description of “orientation” as…

    “Serves as consultation time where instructor will obtain details of student’s goals and projections. Resources related to harp rental & purchase will be shared, other options will also be discussed.” The document went on to say that potential students were expected to sign up for lessons at the conclusion of the orientation. “There is a $50 fee for cancellations or changes”. I did not receive assistance on tuning & harp care. That said, I still feel I got my moneys worth by recieving assistance on harp selection.


    1 week later I received a chain of phone calls, and then a voice message stating that since I decided not to sign up for lessons right away, I would have to pay a $50 fee. The teacher is adamant about recieving this fee “for her time.”…time spent “thinking about how to instruct”…for “sharing knowledge…which isn’t free”. I feel that I’ve already paid for this “time” in the $75 orientation, where we did NO playing/tuning/stringing. But, we DID invest significant time into selection-I’m happy with this. I do not want negative feelings floating around about this, but am having a hard time justifying paying $50 when I’m getting nothing in return, and this was never mentioned at any time during, or immediately after the orientation.

    Teachers/Community: is this a normal industy policy I’m not familiar with? She feels I have no right to question her policy (i.e. justification for the fee) since she is “the teacher”. Should I pay to appease? This is a small community, but please share your thougths with me. This has really taken the wind out of my sails and has cast a dark shadow over my excitement; I’m so conflicted. I can’t practice at all right now. It is not my intention to cheat anyone.



    Karen Johns


    Let me see if I understand this correctly- you paid $75 to discuss what kind of harp you should rent/buy? Was there nothing else covered? Call me cheap, but that seems like an AWFUL lot of money just to talk about what kind of harp to get. But I do know that pedal harp instructors can charge quite a bit for lessons, never heard of an orientation though.


    Neka Borders


    We actually took a field trip to see a harp I was considering for purchase. It was about a 25 minute drive, so I figured this alone was probably worth $75? We did make a stop she requested on the way home to look at some harps she might be interested in renting for a different student. This stop ended up taking nearly two hours.



    Are you likely to want lessons from this teacher in future?

    Lynne Abbey-Lee

    Having taught for some 25 years, primarily in Virginia and Colorado, no, I have never heard of such a policy. I offer a “sample lesson,” at no charge, to meet the potential student, show her/him a few things about how we will start, talk about how the harp works, my expectations, etc. This allows both of us to see if we “click,” and if my style of teaching fits that student. There is no obligation on either of our parts, and they are free to try out other teachers as well. I certainly don’t want to teach a student who has reservations about me. I definitely feel that my time is valuable, but we’re talking about a potentially years-long relationship, and it’s good to start out comfortable with each other. (By the way, I have no problem with other teachers charging for the introductory lesson.) Assuming what you’re saying is accurate, I can find no reason at all to pay this $50 fee. Please don’t be discouraged! Wouldn’t it be lovely if we got paid for the time we spend thinking? I would be enormously wealthy!



    I join Lynne above, in never charging for the first meeting with a prospective student.

    Neka Borders


    Thanks for the responses (public and private). I do not have any problem paying for an introductory lesson, since there’s a transfer of value to both parties. Given that this situation goes against my sensibilities, I do not plan to pursue lessons in this particular situation. I’ve just been conflicted about how to proceed, especially in not knowing if this is a typical policy or not. From most of the responses I’ve recieved via email, and by public posting, it seems to be unique.

    *In response to some inquiries, the teacher is not listed with the AHA.

    Thank you,


    Dwyn .

    This woman sounds totally nuts.


    I agree with Dwyn.


    I paid my teacher’s lesson fee the first time I took a lesson with her, but the lesson was definitely a lesson.

    The other stuff came in subsequent lessons.

    Misty Harrison

    You wrote that it’s a small community and maybe it is but usually the problem is that it seems small when you don’t know of the other harpists around. Look for someone else. The whole thing sounds strange. I can see if she wanted her time paid for explaining tuning and stringing, etc. since we sometimes have to do this on our own time and don’t get paid for it and it is very time consuming teaching work. I can also see why you might want to compensate her for driving to look at a harp since that also involves time though you shouldn’t have been expected to take the side trip.

    Sounds like you just need to explain to her that you don’t think you owe the money or just pay the money and let it go but no matter what probably you need to work with someone else because if she is creating things like this now it will only get worse.

    When you find another teacher try to not to take a very long time in deciding because it is good to take your time but it also sends a message of “I’m not actually going to be serious about this” which is difficult because a lot of us teach adult students who appear for a few weeks and then disappear though we scheduled their lesson time and possibly turned down other students for it. It will work out better if you can make a decision promptly but I wouldn’t study with this person. Sounds like a nut.


    I personally would NOT take lessons from this person.


    She’s nuts…..really after money

    Neka Borders

    I’ve decided that I cannot justify paying this fee; this goes against my sensibilities, but I wanted to gain some outside perspective on this. Instead, I’ve opted to write a letter explaining my position nicely. Thanks for your suggestions, and thoughts.



    She stated the policy up front, so you are responsible. It sounds like a very sensible approach to starting students, from her point of view, anyway. No one is entitled to a free lesson. Frankly, I think it’s a bad idea. If she is a good teacher, then go ahead and try lessons, it’s better than wasting fifty dollars. But a cancellation fee is a new wrinkle, she must have gotten the idea from cell-phone companies.

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