No MakeUps

Lesson resources

Several weeks ago I had a crazy week where I had 14 students miss their lessons in one week!  Yep, you read that right 14!  I have 32 students right now so that is almost half my studio gone in one week.  7 of them were sick, 4 (one family) were coming back from out-of-town and wouldn’t make it, 1 had a b-day party to go to, and the last 2 (sisters) the parents had a work conflict.  Can you imagine if I did make-up lessons?

If you are currently doing make-up lessons you are working overtime without pay.  The time/day the student misses passes whether or not they are here for lessons.  So if they miss their Tuesday 4-4:30pm lesson you can’t go grab someone off the street and have them pay for a lesson, the time passes and if you rescheduled them on Friday from 4-4:30pm instead you are officially working an extra 1/2 hour on your day off for no extra compensation.

This is what it says in my studio policy:

Tuition is based on a 10 month period (Aug-May) and divided into monthly payment installments that can be paid with different payment options listed on the registration form. The studio runs much like a private school; Tuition remains the same each month and is based on enrollment, not attendance, reserving your child’s exclusive lesson time throughout the piano year, whether he/she attends lessons or not. (I can’t teach another student when a student misses a lesson without replacing the student altogether.) 

A student who does not attend a lesson will simply miss the benefit of that lesson. Your tuition reserves you a weekly time slot and benefits within the studio. There will not be any make-up lessons when cancelled by the student; however keep in mind there are up to 3 bonus lessons scheduled throughout the year. You may refer to the student roster exchange list to swap lesson times with someone in case of illness, vacation etc… Please inform me of any changes. Should 2 people arrive at once, I will teach the one whose lesson is normally at that time. Please inform me if you do not wish to have your name included on the exchange list. If you cannot attend please call or I will worry. If I must miss a lesson I will call and reschedule with you.

When I create my policies I try to come up with win-win solutions for both the families and myself.  I don’t want them taking advantage of me, nor do I want the constant stress but I do want them to feel like the policy is fair and not just one-sided.  So my solution to my no make up rule is two-fold.  1) Offer an exchange roster for families to use.  They may opt out of being listed on this exchange roster but if they do, they understand that they will be unable to use it.  Right now, I have one family that opts out.  The exchange roster does come up with a set of rules for them to follow so it is not abused.  I have never had a problem with my exchange list.  I would say about 20% even end up using it.  But it is available if they would like to use it.  2) Offer bonus group lessons.  I hold quarterly group lessons for ALL students.  I tell my families that if they don’t miss anything that quarter than they can call it a “bonus” lesson, if they did miss, they can call it a “make-up”.  Regardless I want all students to participate.  Another option and one I have done on occasion if it works out and if it’s in the middle of my day versus the beginning or end… if another student cancels that SAME week then I will offer the other student that cancelled to come in their place.  I do not make this known on paper but occasionally if it works out and I want to offer it I will.  After all, I’m not working overtime in these instances.

I have heard other teachers putting so many lessons included in the yearly calendar let’s say 40 but the tuition reflects for 38 lessons so the students are getting two free lessons that year in lieu of doing makeups.

There is a wonderful article by a parent of a Suzuki student that has been working its way around music teacher land for many years.  It’s one of my favorite articles and if you haven’t read it, it’s a definite must read.  Make Up Lessons from an Economist’s Point of View.  If you have any parents that just don’t get it, forwarding this article might just open their eyes.

I hear some teachers say, “it’s in my policy that I don’t do makeups but then they ask and I cave in thinking I’ll do it just this once.  But then they ask again and give me a hard time because I did it before.”  My advice to you is you need to create a policy that you are comfortable with but doesn’t allow them to walk all over you.  You deserve to be respected and those who follow your policy are respecting you and your business.  Those who don’t, aren’t.  If they aren’t you need to remind them of the policy and just keep referring back as many times as needed.  If they respect you, they will back off.  If they don’t, they will quit and then you will have a load of stress that will be lifted from your shoulders.

I have a pretty strict policy.  This has not hurt me from getting new students, most of the time I have a waiting list.  Besides the occasional new parent that tries to test it, I have no problems.  For the new parent that tries to test it, it only takes the one time reminding them of my policy and I never have a problem with them again.

Tell me, do you do makeups?  Are you working overtime?  If the answer is yes, why?  If the answer is no, what is your policy?

NO Makeups!  NO Overtime!


  1. Erin

    I allow students to make up lessons one of two ways:

    By attending a group class that I offer twice a year. These are 60 minutes (vs the typical lesson that is 30) and includes music games, improv, performing for each other, and other typical group class stuff.

    By coming any other open time that I have in my regular teaching schedule (either an open time that I can’t fill with a full time student or if another student cancels)

    To do either, students must give 24 hours notice, but I do give each student 1 lesson each school year that I’ll reschedule with less than 24 hours notice (but they MUST notify me before their lesson time). I explain that the intention is that they’ll use this the day their child wakes up sick, but they can use it for any reason.

    Since the open times in my schedule tend to be the ones that don’t work with many people’s schedules, usually only the families that insist that they get what they pay for take advantage of moving their lesson time. I also schedule group classes at a time that should work for everyone, but again, not every family wants to rearrange their schedule, so not everyone takes advantage of these classes.

  2. Sheryl Welles

    I agree with the no makeup policy and actually have established the same policy in my studio. I would like to ask though what you do in the event that you have to be the one to cancel. Example – you get sick or my recent fall and dislocation of my shoulder. I had to cancel an entire week of lessons! I would be interested to know how you and others handle these unexpected cancellations.


    • foxxpianostudio

      Sheryl, I was going to mention that but forgot. My quarterly bonus group lessons can account for my absence as well if needed, though I usually just do a makeup. But if I had something more serious happen to me (like in your case) that would cause me to cancel an entire week, I would most likely refer to my bonus group lessons.

  3. LaDona's Music Studio

    I offer 38 lessons from Sept to June, but that includes 4 or 5 Performance Classes – these are not make-ups. I officially say that if I already have had another cancellation in the SAME WEEK, I can offer that to another student who has to cancel, In truth this rarely works, but I’m throwing them a bone here.

    Even after all these years, though, there are still parents who try…. This is where I remember advice that I got 25 years ago – “Don’t complain and don’t explain.” No one needs to know why your are available or not.


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