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Student Handbook for teVelde Conservatory of Music

teVelde Conservatory of Music

Student Handbook 2016


Welcome to our musical family. Here are a few suggestions and answers to common questions we get from our students. First of all, the environment of our conservatory has been created to facilitate learning, acceptance, and a loving space to learn. At the same time, we never ever sacrifice excellence. We want our students to be the most thoroughly trained musicians anywhere. If you are coming into teVelde from another music school, know that what you may have been told is advanced musical training somewhere else, is not necessarily advanced at our conservatory. We have a very high standard, and our students are adjudicated twice a year to keep that standard consistent for every single student, and every teacher.


YOUR TEACHER HAS BEEN CHOSEN ESPECIALLY FOR YOU:  We have worked with you or your child to determine how you learn, what motivates you, and how to advise you to work at home. Your teacher has been chosen for you based on those traits. This matching process should create a great student/teacher relationship, that is both motivating and comfortable to both student and teacher. Just as students don’t learn well when they don’t relate well to the teaching style, teachers don’t teach well when they don’t relate well to their student’s learning style. A good relationship is synergistic for both parties, and results in the highest levels of learning and knowledge retention.


WHAT ABOUT PRACTICE AT HOME?  What do you think when someone tells you that you need to go and practice something? Chances are, the first thing that comes to mind is: “I’m still not good enough”, or “I’ve got to try harder”, or “I’m not perfect”. It’s not a very powerful word for students because it isn’t a word that empowers us to want to do more. Instead, the words “play for me” or “play that beautiful song” will show that we want to hear what the student is playing, and that we believe that it is going to be great. NO AMOUNT OF CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM AT HOME WILL BE HELPFUL TO A STUDENT AT ANY PHASE OF LEARNING.


We highly recommend that you set aside a special “family music time” each day, perhaps 10 minutes before bedtime, where you have your child(ren) play for you. It is important to have the television off, and set aside cell phones and computers. Let your child give you a little show, and make only positive comments. The concert doesn’t have to be their lesson songs, but you can ask to hear them. Just this small amount of time every day will make a big difference. From there, you can ask your child during the day if they want to practice for their evening concert, and make every positive comment if they practice on their own.


What is ICME?:  The International Conservatory of Music Educators sends out accredited judges twice a year to award certificates, medals, and plaques to all of our students. They document our student’s progress in music. ICME is an important part of the process of learning to play an instrument, because playing a piece by memory transfers the information from left brain playing, with sheet music, to right brain, playing memorized material. The student plays first for the judge, earning their award, and then in a concert for parents, friends, and family members to receive their award. It is designed to be a 1-2 punch of positive feedback for students who have worked hard to learn pieces. ICME is mandatory for all teVelde students, and is conducted on Saturdays in April, and in October. The appointments take 15-60 minutes, depending on the complexity of the award the student is earning. teVelde keeps records of all ICME awards earned for each student. The ICME record book will be given to the student when they are applying for colleges and scholarships.


CONCERTS: teVelde teachers have concerts on Saturdays in the months of May and again in November. Please talk to your teacher and find out which Saturday to plan for. Our concerts are held at the SLO Conservatory location, in our Performance Suite on our Yamaha Grand Piano. We have small concerts, with 10 performers each, so that you can hear your student play 2-3 times in one hour.



When students succeed we know more time in lessons, with multiple teachers, and multiple instruments, is the best way to support their growth and keep interest high. We believe it takes 10,000 hours to master a subject.  We have many ways to increase your exposure to music all through the week, including 18 teachers that teach many different instruments, reduced cost lessons from apprentice teachers, and free tutoring from student tutors.


OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH ALONG THE WAY: We believe that the best way to learn is to mentor others. When you have had the equivalent of 100 hours of lessons, 4 ICME adjudications including 1 medal, and reached at least the age of 10, you are eligible to take tutor training camps and become a certified teVelde tutor. If you are successful at tutoring, and have at least 200 hours of teVelde lessons, 8 ICME adjudications including 2 medals and 1 plaque, have tutored at teVelde for 50 hours, and reached the age of 15, you are eligible to apply for an apprentice level teaching job. Students who are Certified as teVelde Teachers, Level 1 or Higher, by age 17 will be entitled to full recommendation letters, personalized for 4 scholarship committee reviews, and 4 college applications of their choice written and signed by Bonnie J. teVelde, CEO. They will also be given their entire ICME adjudication history in a book format, for scholarship committees to review.


FREE TUTORING FOR ALL STUDENTS:  All teVelde students are eligible to receive a FREE 30 min tutoring lesson per week in addition to their regularly scheduled lessons. We highly recommend that you take this opportunity for mentoring. Tutors have all completed tutor training courses, and have to be certified before they are allowed to tutor. We will do our best to match the tutor’s age, personality type, and training level to your needs. Besides being educational, it is VERY motivational for students to have someone closer to their age to study music with.



For teachers who work hourly for a living, it can be a significant sacrifice to have to come in on a day scheduled as “off” to make up a lesson for a student who doesn’t come at their regular time. Your teacher is ready and waiting to teach at your regular lesson time, and to ask for a second time costs that teacher the added expense of daycare, driving, and the loss of personal time with their families. We have created this policy carefully, so as to respect parents in their support of their child, as well as respecting the teacher, and the support of their lives. Please get to know other parents that bring their children before or after you do, and get their phone numbers. They are your new teVelde family, and they are all amazing people. Many of our parents work together to trade lesson times if they have a conflict due to sports or other school activities. You can also contact other parents through our facebook pages. There is one page for each campus of teVelde Music.


  1. Excused Absences: Students may reschedule one (1) lesson per three month period, as long as you give your teacher at least 24 hours notice before the lesson is missed, and make up the lesson within 6 months. Get to know the other students who take lessons before and after you. There is no limit to the number of lessons you may trade with another student in a year. Please see options for makeups*.

  2. Late Cancels/No Shows: teVelde has a 24-hour cancellation policy. From time to time students get ill without much notice. We are sorry, but we can not allow make ups for lessons missed without 24 hours notice, because there is no way to schedule someone else in your spot. You may ask another student to trade lesson times with you.

  3. Illness: If you/your child has an illness, please do not bring them to lessons. If a student is brought in sick, they will be asked to leave without having a lesson. Illnesses include: any fever above 99, strep, cough, lice, pinkeye, pneumonia (viral or bacterial), chicken pox, measles, mumps, colds, stuffy noses (except allergies), sore throat, etc. Please get to know other students, so if your child is sick, you can trade lesson days and times with them. Lessons lost due to illness discovered within 24 hours of your lesson time can not be made up, so don’t let them go to waste. Have a sibling, parent, or friend come and take the lesson instead.

  4. Teacher Absences: If the teacher misses a lesson, we may bring in an appropriate substitute teacher to teach. If a sub cannot be obtained, or there is a reason why the student should not have a substitute, the teacher will schedule a time for the student to make up the lesson, as conveniently as possible for the Student.



A great way to get to know other parents is through our facebook pages. We highly encourage you to post photos of your child playing songs. Other parents regularly post, as well, and you can easily put out a call for someone to trade lesson times, photos, and practice tips with you this way. You can also put out a call for a practice buddy, which is incredibly exciting for our students. Just go to and type in “The TeVelde Conservatory of Music: San Luis Obispo” or “The Tevelde Conservatory of Music: Arroyo Grande”. Friend us to get the latest news about concerts, camps, classes, and more.



Our scheduled closures are as follows:

  • Easter

  • Memorial Day

  • Labor Day

  • Thanksgiving Day

  • Christmas Day

  • New Year’s Day


Our schools will be closing early (5:00 pm) on:

  • 4th of July

  • Christmas Eve

  • New Year’s Eve


As a family oriented school, we realize that holidays often mean family time. We don’t want any of your lessons to go to waste! Please feel free to bring visiting family members into the conservatory, give them a tour, and have them sit in on your lessons, or even for a private concert! We may be able to set up a fun intro lesson for them at the same time as your current lessons!


Many of our students are out of school or on vacation from work during holiday weeks. We offer multiple options for making up lessons that fall on a Holiday. (It is best to get as many extra lessons in as possible, and makeup any lessons that have been missed during the school year.) These can be made up by either getting an extra lesson with your teacher, or trying a new instrument with a different teacher. We can even apply your missed lesson as a credit towards a camp tuition!


MISSED LESSON MAKEUP OPTIONS (for Holidays and lessons that qualify for a makeup)

First of all, do not worry. The lessons you have missed, with notice, will not be lost. Our mindbody system tracks every lesson you have purchased, as well as the lessons that have been used. You may use any missed lessons in one of the ways listed below. Please work with your teacher and decide whether you would like to:


  1. Come at your regularly scheduled lesson time, and add 15 min to the beginning or end of the lesson until the time missed is made up. (subject to teacher availability)

  2. Come at a different time/different day with your teacher,

  3. Come on our Saturday makeup day, which is one Saturday a month.

  4. Schedule a makeup for these lessons with a different teacher for the same instrument

  5. Schedule a makeup with a different teacher to try a different instrument, or voice,

  6. Keep the lessons on account to apply to a camp program or extra lessons in the summer,

  7. Gift the lessons to MUSE for a tax deduction,

  8. Gift the lessons to a family member or friend,


Help us serve you excellently:  Please call the school or email us at at least 15 days in advance to let us know which option you would like to pursue. This is to allow enough time for our scheduling staff to handle all requests. We highly encourage you to log in to your account at At any time, you can go onto our mindbody system and see exactly how many lessons you have had in a given year by looking at your visit history. Feel free to call Kezia Liu, at (805)474-1224 if you need help logging in for the first time, or if you need help finding the visit history.



If you need to be gone for longer than two (2) weeks, don’t worry. You just request a leave of absence in writing, and we will put your tuition on hold until you get back. Please make this request in writing, at least 15 days in advance of the absence, so we will have time to stop your tuition payment from going through. Please state the amount of time that you will be gone, and include a date when you will return, if you know. We are sorry, but we can not hold open time slots/days for students on leave. When you return, you will simply pay for the number of lessons in the current month, and on the 25th of the month, the annual tuition plan will go back into effect for the next full month.



We love it when customers prepay for lessons for a year, or 6 months. Check or cash pay is available in this option, and students who use this form of pay become legacy level clients, eligible for extra free lessons during the year.  Here are the incentives for pre-payment of tuition:

  1. 6 months: 2 free lessons added to the account during the term

  2. 12 months: 5 free lessons added to the account during the term

One month before the tuition is used up, an invoice will be sent out for the next tuition period. The monthly tuition will be charged to the card on file on the 25th of the month preceding the new term period. Customers may pay with cash, check, or credit card provided that the payment is received no later than the 25th of the month prior to the start of the new term.




All client information will be kept under the name of the student on our appointment management system. This includes parent information, payment information, visit history, and all other notes and contact information. If you would like to access or update this information, signing up to see your account is easy. Please go to and search for teVelde. Click on teVelde Conservatory of Music. Search for the student’s name and click on the “This is Me” link to create the login information using your phone number or email address, and create your login with password. Your information should already be in the system. Please go to your account page and make sure that all of the information is correct, including student birthdate (important for registering for camps with age limitations), email address (for notifications of ICME and concerts), and email preferences. You can also adjust payment information including credit card numbers and billing addresses.



Beethoven’s students were said to ask him frequently, “what kind of piano should I get my child?” to which he always replied, “the best one you can possibly afford.” Was he making a commission on those pianos he recommended, or was there another reason for his recommendation?


A STORY ABOUT DISCOURAGEMENT:  KIDS WHO QUIT VERSUS KIDS WHO SUCCEED:  When students stop playing on their own, chances are discouragement has something to do with it. What is sad is that both the ones who quit and the ones who succeed start out with the same level of natural “talent”. They start out at the same age, with the same personality types, the same teachers, the same method, and the same school. But something stops some kids from realizing success while the others are wildly successful. And it’s relatively simple. Let me illustrate with a short story:  


A 6 year old child has been singing his/her whole life. He/she has many of the signs of musical talent, and is continually listening to music and talking about wanting to learn an instrument. The parents tell the child that they are so excited about the idea of him/her taking lessons that they are going to call a music school to see if they can buy lessons for them. They take the child to a first evaluation appointment with us, and we notice that indeed, this child has a lot of musical talent. The child is excited, and so is the family. After the first lesson, at the height of the happiness at knowing he/she has finally found the instrument they have always wanted to play, we talk to the parents about starting lessons. We mention that they need a good instrument for the child to learn on. They immediately express concern that they don’t know if their child will “stick with it” or “be good at it and enjoy it”, so they don’t want to spend the money to get a good instrument. In this story we will use a piano. They want to start with a cheaper keyboard for a while. If the child “sticks with it” they will think about buying a good piano later. No matter what we say about how much it matters for a gifted child to start on a good instrument, they don’t hear us. Inside they may not really think that their child is as good as we say, and think we may just be trying to sell them something extra.


The keyboard comes home, gets set up on a little stand, and gets a little bench set up by it. The music book will barely stay up on the little music stand at the back, and there may not even be enough keys on the keyboard to play all of the songs. There are no pedals to push. The keys feel plastic and way too light, so the child has to hold up their hands off the keys, while pushing the ends of their fingers down, a hand position that makes it almost impossible to play a real piano at their lesson.  When they go to their lesson, the child plays on a good piano, and the lesson seems so easy. When they come home, everything is hard again. The songs don’t sound the same, and it isn’t solid. It’s not only not fun to play anymore, it’s hard and they start to feel really stupid… not talented at all. No one has mentioned how great they are for a while, and they begin to doubt they will ever get good at playing piano. At this point there has been a month or two of lessons, and the child very rarely goes to the keyboard and plays on their own. It’s just too hard to play the songs right on it.


The parents start mentioning that they are spending a lot of money on lessons, and tell the child “we are spending so much money on this, why aren’t you practicing more?” The child feels like the lessons are getting harder, and they can’t get it to sound or feel right on the keyboard no matter how hard they try. Now the parents have forgotten how proud they were, and instead are telling the child that they aren’t working hard enough. They now start mentioning that they sort of knew the child wouldn’t follow through… after all they have quit at other things before, etc. Every week the lessons seem harder, and the student plays less. Progress slows to a crawl.


Finally, the parent goes to the teacher and expresses dissatisfaction with the amount of practice time at home, and that the child never wants to play at all anymore. The parent may try to set a timer at home, which is violently resisted by the child. The teacher tries to make the lessons even more fun, but there just isn’t any play at home anymore. The child thinks of a hundred things they would rather do than play and be unsuccessful yet again. They eventually quit before ever getting past the very beginning books, which aren’t any fun to play anyways. The keyboard sits unplayed. The child believes they simply didn’t have the talent everyone thought they did. The parents tell themselves “I did what I could. I got him/her lessons and a keyboard. They quit like they do everything else they want to try. There’s nothing I can do to force them to play.” They think, “all that money for lessons and a keyboard down the drain because my child doesn’t follow through on anything they want to try. What a waste. From then on, they believe in their child even less than they did. The child may go on to “try” the next activity for a few months, and quit that too.


Never is it pointed out that “trying” doesn’t work. It is only “doing” that results in success. But that distinction has to begin with the parents doing what is needed to get the child the tools they need to do the job, otherwise the child is doomed to fail even before they begin. Parents have to believe in the child before the child can believe in themselves. For Bible lovers, I love the saying “where the money is, that is where the heart is also.” I believe this is a practical proverb illustrating that when we truly believe in something, we give it 100% of our support, financial and moral. When we hold back, we are not believing 100% that the child can be successful. Kids can feel and spot parental doubt a mile away.  


What is the true savings we realize when we buy a cheap instrument that the child ends up not using anyways? How much do we lose in wasted music lessons when the instrument the child is learning is substandard and they quit anyway? Music lessons cost about $1820-$3640 per year. All to be lost over a $400 keyboard. We highly recommend parents save that tuition money for the first year, purchase a good piano, and then start lessons.


What is the loss we realize if we purchase a quality instrument and the child is successful and confident? If we truly believe that 10,000 hours will lead to the child’s mastery of the instrument, why would we not want the child to spend every one of those hours on the highest quality instrument possible, so that their practice time is maximized, and they get to spend as little time on beginning material as possible?


The first 1000 hours of the 10,000 hours to mastery are the hardest. And they are harder for children than they are for adults, because they don’t know how to read well yet, and they don’t know how to type. Talent doesn’t mean you have better dexterity or hand/eye coordination. Talent just means you have the genetic propensity to do well at something if put in the right environment. Even a true prodigy put in an inhospitable environment, will not show their talent. Talent always needs the proper environment to be truly developed.


Ask yourself: What if your child is another Mozart or Bach? How do you know they aren’t? How good would Mozart have been if his father hadn’t believed in him and trained him on the best grand piano from the age of 5.


The faster one gets through these first 1000 hours, the easier and more fun playing music becomes. When a child starts lessons, it isn’t easy. We try to make it very fun with innovative music methods and games, but if the parent isn’t there as a cheerleader every day at home, it is simply too hard to be fun at first. No child can be blamed for not wanting to play between lessons, especially if there is no encouragement and help at home for them, and they only come once a week. A week is a very long time to try to remember all of the complex things that have to be learned in a music lesson.  If the instrument fights you, it’s that much harder for them. I believe starting with a cheap instrument is the fastest way to failure at music lessons, and we would much rather have a family wait to start lessons for 6 months then start music lessons with a cheap instrument. The student will more than make up the lost 6 months and end up staying with lessons long enough for it to get fun for them! What’s interesting is that very few adult students come in with a cheap instrument. They are much more receptive to the idea that a quality instrument assists them to get to the intermediate stage faster. I would say it's more important for a beginner to have a very good piano than an advanced student. A beginner doesn’t know what good looks like, so everything that doesn’t happen with a keyboard is internalized as lack of ability, when most of what happens with a beginner is directly attributable to the ease of the instrument they are playing.


How sad.


This is how it goes with our successful students, across the board. Not just one. Every single one of them:  The child is talented as above, and the parents choose our school. When they come in, we recommend they get a good piano, and they do it. Perhaps they say, what is a good starting piano? We tell them about our trade up policy, but that the real piano is an investment that will pretty much pay off by producing a motivated student. They are all in for their child, and so are we. The child starts lessons. After the lesson, the parent asks the teacher what they can do to help the child learn at home. They start out with learning perfect pitch, which teaches them the art of listening, which is the “X-factor” that separates prodigies from regular music students. The parent and child sit down together every night, and play the songs at home together. The parent thinks of subtle ways to spend time with the child at the piano, and maybe even asks the child to teach them what they have learned that week.


It becomes a daily routine for the parent to sit with the child, and ask the child to play for them. Perhaps they move bedtime back 15 minutes each night, just to have the privilege of hearing their son/daughter play. They never give critical comments. They take time to notice every time their child plays anything on that piano. They brag on their child even more now, because they are developing their great musical talent, and the child starts to believe in themselves even more. They play more and more. The parent starts to have to drag the child away from the piano just to eat dinner at night… the child is enthralled with making music. The parent decides that the child needs another lesson per week, and adds one. They find out about free peer tutoring, and they set that up as well. Instead of spending 3 years playing beginning songs, their child is learning so quickly, they spend only 1 year on the easy books.


As they progress, it gets more and more exciting, because they are playing really fun music. They play in talent shows, and for friends and family, and the more they play, the more positive attention they get. They add a second instrument, and that starts to take off too. By the age of 8, they are playing for ICME medals, and by the age of 10, they are playing for advanced plaques. The parents now trade up their entry level piano for a baby grand piano that will enhance their child’s playing and take them to a new level.


At that time, they take tutor training camp 1, 2, and 3, and become a mentor and tutor for other students… and get even more advanced as they explain concepts to others. They may even be asked to work with a child with special needs, which warms their hearts, and gives them even more self esteem. They turn 15, get a work permit, and take teacher training classes. At age 15 ½, they are hired as an apprentice teacher and get to teach a second lesson per week to a student of their own...and be paid for their work. By the time they are 16, and they get their driver’s license, they are a level 1 teacher, ready to take a student through beginning music lessons. When they perform, they are confident, self expressed, and mature. They know how to start a large, detailed project, break it down into small pieces, work on it to perfect it, and present it in a confident and clear way to an audience of any size.


When they apply for colleges, at age 17, they list all of the awards they have won over the last 10 years, all of the tutoring and teaching they have done, and qualify for almost every scholarship they apply for. They get into an amazing pre-med and music program, and end up being accepted to med school after college. They have grown up into fully expressed, confident, intelligent adults who believe in themselves and their ability to tackle anything and stick with it. They are finishers, not just starters. They don’t know how to quit because they have never done it.


This story has happened for many of our students. What was the difference between them and the ones who quit?  In my opinion, they both had the same amount of talent and motivation at age 6. They both had lessons from the same teacher, and were started in the same method. They both were at the same campus, in the same teaching room.


This is why I am so passionate about starting on the right note: with the perfect teacher, perfect pitch, and the perfect instrument… at what I hope is as close to the perfect conservatory of music out there.


Bonnie teVelde :)

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