Continuity by proxy

I've been teaching music lessons in the same city for nine years now. That makes me almost as venerable as the little old lady down the street.

If you want continuity for your child's music lessons, the little old lady down the street is the way to go. She's not going to go for her Ph.D or get signed to a major record label. She's not going to go on maternity leave or on tour with her jazz trio. She's also not going to get fired, unless you decide to fire her.

Always changing: This photo was taken in January 2008, before the addition of our bird logo. The baby grand has since been sold and replaced with a Yamaha U-1.Yep, you can pretty much count on the little old lady down the street - which makes her pretty boring, when it comes down to it. Because she's not going anywhere. She's not going to tell you excitedly about her show at Eddie's Attic next Wednesday, or her new record coming out. She won't be sharing a song she wrote and show you the music theory behind it. She's unlikely to be appearing onstage with the Atlanta Opera, and she won't be attending workshops and training sessions with the aim of improving her musicianship and pedagogy.

Eclectic Music exists in its current incarnation because I was getting more referrals than I could handle and decided to share them. The people I brought on board were definitely not little old lady types. I caught a few straight out of grad school ready to work. A few people were already teaching and wanted a way to not have to travel to people's homes to give lessons. A few were sometime teachers, part-time musicians, and full-time servers looking for a way out of the restaurant business. A couple were undergrads seeking part-time employment.

Out of this motley crew, several are still with me after two or three or more years. I work with some amazing people - I even married one of them.

But this one guy...

Nah. I'm not going to tell you the horror stories and perpetuate the stereotype of the flaky musician, however accurate it may be. The only reason to tell you a story or two would be to demonstrate how even my most dedicated, reliable, dependable contractor is as likely to move across the country as a freight-train-hopping hobo.

I've definitely had some illusions shattered over the past few years, such as the idea that I have control over anyone's actions but my own. I don't. I cannot take responsibility for someone else's choices. All I can do is all I can do.

I know I'm doing all right as long as I can keep Tara Chiusano happy. We are so lucky to have her.That doesn't mean I'm not accountable for what happens at my business. But I cannot change someone else's level of commitment, even if I hold them accountable for it. Remember, even though they finally made Don Draper sign a contract at Sterling Cooper  -- ...well, if you don't know how that turned out, add Mad Men Season Three to your Netflix queue. The point is, I can't take anything for granted.

Hence the headline - if you can't have continuity with one teacher, you'll have continuity by proxy - that, we can arrange. If a teacher leaves, I take personal responsibility for finding an appropriate replacement as fast as possible - in some cases that replacement has been me personally. While I can't guarantee that a teacher will be around forever, I can do my best to bring another one into the neighborhood so that our students don't lose momentum. If the teacher has tracked the student's progress in a journal, the thread of continuity should be picked up by the next teacher.

Ultimately, the continuity is the school itself. No one person can make the kind of open-ended commitment that is possible for an organization to make - ultimately, not even the owner. For instance, it's fairly likely I'll go on maternity leave sooner or later (although actually I've always wanted to hop a train).

Even the little old lady down the street up and dies eventually - I know, because her students come to me for lessons. But even if the school fades away after awhile (it happened to My So-Called Life), I hope that whatever we do for your children will have brought them joy and growth. That really is the best I can do.