Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pianist, Yvonne Musterman talks musical stress

Yvonne has run a piano studio for as long as I’ve known her. I’ve known her all my life, because she’s my mom. Strange as it may sound, it only recently occurred to me that running a piano studio is a business. She has always had so much fun with it, that it never seemed like work to me.

When I started to realize that she actually had to deal with real business-like stressors, I was a little dumbfounded.

She shared some of her stress-relief tactics with me.

Like any business involving humans, confusion is going to happen. People are going to forget to practice. People are going to be late with tuition. Time schedules aren’t necessarily in sync. Life is going to get in the way.

• How do you handle this?

“I have a policy letter where I address all of these issues. If they have a problem, I just refer them back to the policy. “

She went through the list of bad behaviors, and made each a policy item. Constantly making up lessons for people due to last minute schedule changes really stressed her out. So after years of making accommodations for every last minute plan, her policy states that, unless she is the one with the conflict, it is up to the student to arrange for a make-up lesson.

• You enter your kids into national competitions. How do you handle kids who are nervous about playing?

“My ego isn’t wrapped up in their performance, I can only expect their best.”

She realizes that all students learn differently, so she teaches according to the student’s learning style. She obviously wants them to play well, so she trains them with the best of her ability, and expects them to play to the best of theirs. But she doesn’t stress if they happen to hit a wrong note.

Unlike a good majority of teachers, she doesn’t have a performance mentality. She doesn’t push students to perform if they don’t want to. As a result her students excel, and their enthusiasm is not contrived.

• What about when a student doesn’t practice, or is otherwise unprepared?

If someone is consistently unprepared and never practices, they are wasting their time and hers. She has let kids go for not practicing. “They are wasting their parent’s money,” she said.

Yvonne has tapped into some important tool of success. Keep first things first.
If a student is stressing about a piece, she will always be the first to say, “it’s not a hill worth climbing and dying on.”

And above all else, enjoy what you’re doing.

c. 2010


  1. Great post, Brooke. Thanks for sharing!

  2. thanks so much, sabrina for reading & commenting!...b

  3. A great article and some great lessons.