music recital

One of the most difficult things about being a private teacher is organizing performance opportunities for our students. If you’ve never done it before, it can feel extremely overwhelming, to the point where you never end up doing them at all! That’s really unfortunate because if you think back to your music education, I bet you performed a lot.

There is so much that can be learned by performing that by not giving our students a lot of opportunities to perform, we are really holding them back. So how can you get a recital set up? If you have already held recitals in the past, what can you do to make them even better?

1. Charge a Recital Fee

If you already hold recitals and you don’t charge a recital fee, you should really think about it. Even if you have very few costs (I’m sure you have some) it’s going to take some time to set up a recital, and honestly, there’s nothing wrong with getting paid for your time. Do you consider your lesson fee to include the recital fee? I get it, but you’re probably not charging enough to begin with.

How Much to Charge?

The recital fee should typically be charged per student. I always make sure we buy trophies for each student, so it makes sense that each student would have to pay some fee. You should charge at the very least what will cover your costs. Like I said, it’s ok if you charge more because your time is involved in making recitals great as well, but if you’re not charging enough to cover your costs, you’ll find recitals to be a burden and that’s not what they should be.

I’ve done two recitals a year for 7 years now, and I always charge $20/student. I’ve never had one complaint. Each recital has anywhere between 25-30 students. If we were to assume an average recital has 25 students, then you have a $500 budget. As long as you can get a venue for cheap, that can go a long way to making a great recital.

2. Find a Great Venue

If you’re a piano teacher, you want to do your best to find a venue with a grand piano. Most students don’t have the opportunity to practice or play often on a grand piano. I’ve actually had students play at recitals that have never played on a grand piano in their life! It could be the first time for a lot of your students.


Do you go to church? If you do, the first place I would check is the church you go to regularly. Often churches are more than happy to have a recital during the week when services aren’t going on. The church might see it as a service to the community, but it can also help bring in new patrons.

If you don’t go to church, or you know your church wouldn’t allow a recital, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other local churches that might love to host your recital for you. You can call your local churches, or even just make some rounds and go to many different churches. Some churches may charge a fee for use of their venue. That’s one reason you’re charging a recital fee. If they do, and as long as your recital fee can cover it, then by all means, try it out!

Be prepared to give a deposit as well. Your deposit will normally be held just in case you really dirty the place up. For the most part, if you clean up after yourself, they likely won’t even cash your deposit check.

Music Stores

Another great place to look is music stores. Piano stores specifically often have some room to hold a recital. You may find that many local teachers already use venues like these. These venues often charge very little (some don’t charge at all!) because they just want customers walking into their store. You likely have a lot of these type of stores nearby. Start making some calls!

Find the Venue Early

Some venues are booked solid for months. You don’t want to get stuck with a bad day. Initially, I always had to pick a day in the middle of summer when everyone was on vacation because no one wanted those days for recitals. It was hard to get a lot of attendance. Then I wised up. I asked if I could book a bunch of recitals. I had to pay the venue fee and deposit for each day, but I booked 3 years in advance. I got some great dates, and I didn’t have to stress about worrying about it in the future. If your venue allows it, try to schedule as many recitals as possible.

3. Give Awards

There are a lot of opinions on whether you should give awards out to everyone “just for participating”, but I personally think it’s a great way to get kids excited to perform. Each child get’s a nice trophy after the recital with their name on it and the season/year of the recital. Kids love it. I mean they really do. You think your stickers are a big hit? Just wait until they get this gold trophy in their hands. Regardless of how well they think they did, when they get a trophy they feel good about the recital. You can have a little mini award ceremony after the recital as well. You can call up each student one by one and say a little something. The specific attention really goes a long way.

4. Make Programs

At a college recital or even a professional recital, there will always be a program. You should have one too! Make the program simple. The name of each performer, the piece they’re playing, and if applicable, a composer and their dates are all you need. You don’t need some elaborate pictures or backgrounds. Just black text on normal paper. The front can have the date and your studio’s name. The back can have a little thank you note to the parents.

When I first started doing recitals, I went all out on the programs. I had them printed in color, on nice paper, with a lot of graphics. Printing 100 color pages front and back is not cheap. You know what I noticed? No one cared! It was just a big waste of money, and honestly, the simpler programs ended up looking better. Print them in black and white. 100 copies will only cost around $10-15.

Save your program template because it will help make your next recital that much easier.

5. Send Out Recital Invitations Early

The first thing you should do is send out a recital invitation in an email to all of your students at least 2 months early. That may sound like a lot, but the more time you give your students to clear their schedule, the more likely you are to have a lot of people there. Letting people know 3 or 4 months early is fine too! Just don’t forget to follow up with reminders when the date gets closer, as some people may have missed the first email, or completely forgotten about it by then.

If your budget allows it, make up some postcard flyers. I always have them printed nicely, and I give 10 or so to each family. It should have the date/time of the recital along with a map and address to the venue. Don’t forget to include “Free Admission!” on the flyer. These postcard/flyers are a fantastic way for your students to let their family and friends know about it.

You’ll notice people walking into the recital with the postcard in their hand. Whenever I do this, we always have many, more people at the recital. I’ve had 150 people at a recital with just 25 kids before. It’s a pretty fun event.


The first time you run a recital, you’ll likely be stressed out of your mind. It’s a lot of work and there are a lot of unknowns. Now each time I run a recital all I need to do is get a list of students, send the list to my trophy place, make the programs, and show up. The programs take me about 30 minutes because I already have a template. The whole process is pretty seamless and simple.

You know that performing is important. It helps with performance anxiety, it gives students confidence, and most of all, it’s fun! Hold recitals as often as you can. Your students and their parents will appreciate it.

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Posted in Studio Management


My top tip to any new private teacher would be to get a policy drawn up with your students. Everyone will be much happier for it! Pupils and parents need to know how you run things and your business will benefit from establishing some ground rules.

A feature I love about Music Teacher’s Helper is the “studio policy” web page that is part of the included music teacher website package. This gives us an opportunity to explain to prospective students, who might want to register for lessons, how we run our teaching businesses.

When I first started giving private music lessons I had no contract with my students. Things were casual. Some weeks pupils would turn up and pay for that lesson, other weeks they didn’t. It became very frustrating as I waited to see whether they would attend and pay and as a consequence, my earnings were extremely erratic. I began to quickly realise that I needed a solution otherwise I would simply run out of steam. Enter the contract!

I remember the night before I was planning to present my newly drawn-up contract to my students I was feeling rather anxious. What if they didn’t like the idea of a formal agreement? Would I lose pupils? A couple of parents grumbled but most, to my surprise, were very understanding and agreed that it was a good idea to get things into writing. The improvement was immediate! People were now paying for Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Studio Management, Teaching Tips, Using Music Teacher's Helper


Member Spotlight – Ashli

September 30th, 2016 by

Falcon, CO music lessons

Welcome back to our member spotlight series. Today we have Ashi. She teaches piano and voice lessons in Falcon, CO.

How long you’ve been teaching?
23 years.

How would you describe your studio space to someone that’s never visited?
It’s a wonderful place where learning and creativity combine to support aspiring musicians of all ages! Also, we play on a Yamaha baby grand and a Roland HP550 G, so we have the benefit of both digital and traditional instruments.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you loved teaching music?
YES. I’d always felt that I was a performer, not a teacher. At my first recital where I showcased some beginner students in Okinawa, Japan, I realized that teaching was as fulfilling as performing (but I still wouldn’t mind a standing ovation every now and again!)

How did you feel in the moment you made the decision to be an independent music teacher? Do you recall being nervous/excited/scared?
All of the above! But I had a wonderful mentor who encouraged me and gave me some great tools.

What were the steps you took to get your first lessons to having a full student roster?
I simply agreed to teach some young children whose mother approached me after a performance. From then, it snowballed by word of mouth– many of my students were friends of students who attended a piano recital. I now teach 40 students.

What is one piece of advice you could offer to someone looking to start teaching music lessons?
Outsource your business-related tasks! MTH has taken a huge load off of my shoulders, allowing me to run my business professionally while focusing on what I do best — teaching and performing!

How do you currently find new students?
I once put up a flyer at a local recreation center and had a few contacts from that. I also managed a Facebook page for my studio, but truthfully, most of my students come to me through word of mouth.

How do you feel when you think back to all students you’ve interacted with over the years and impacted positively?
I feel like teaching music is not only my passion, it is my calling. My students feel like family.

What is your favorite part of a lesson?
When a student “gets” it– when they’ve practiced so much that they’ve made the piece their own– adding dynamics and playing with feeling. That is heaven!

Is there a favorite piece or style of music you find yourself teaching your students today? And how has that changed from when you started teaching?
I believe in a solid foundation built on a knowledge of classical/modern composers and a basic repertoire of well-known music, however, I firmly believe that the students should always be playing a piece of music that they have chosen. I love that this way I learn about all kinds of new music!

How long have you been using Music Teacher’s Helper?
4 years.

What is your favorite thing about Music Teacher’s Helper?
Love the way I can print out reports for tax purposes, etc at the touch of a button. I also love the invoicing system.

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Music Jeopardy Wins!

September 28th, 2016 by

music jeopardy

Are you looking for learning games for your group class? Music Jeopardy could make a big win and motivate your students. I crafted my own. Here’s how.

What you’ll need:

  • Tri-fold project board
  • Velcro dots
  • Cardstock (tagboard) squares, 3” x 3” or 4” x 4” (or similar-sized cardstock figures—I purchased cardstock owls)
  • Sticky notes (smaller than the squares or shapes)
  • Buzzers (or bells, boom whackers, or even good-old hand raising)
  • Markers
  • A non-partial judge to decide who buzzed, rang or raised hands first
  • A game host (you)

To make:

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Posted in Music Theory, Studio Management

music teaching business

A lot of teachers of music, especially private ones, just fell into this line of work. Someone asked them to show them a few chords and one thing led to another. This is fine. But if at some point you find yourself really beginning to love teaching others, you need to start thinking of it as your career and your business. And teaching music is a business.


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Posted in Financial Business, Product Reviews, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper


Decades away from my childhood, I recently encountered some experiences, events, and resources that sparked memories of what it’s like to be a kid. I’ve been taken back to those feelings of curiosity, insecurity, excitement and anxiety cast in the mindset of a kid. Mmm…as an adult I still have those same feelings–when does that change? Regardless, sometimes it really is important to take the time to feel like a kid again. It may just kick start your approach to lesson time and help you understand the little human looking up to you for guidance.

What triggered these memories and feelings? Not a trip to the fountain of youth or a special vitamin; rather, these four things:

#1 Online Workshop

Have You Forgotten What It’s Like to Be a Child is a recently released online workshop produced by Wendy Stevens of In her unique perspective as a mom, teacher, and composer, Wendy offers:

  • The 5 characteristics of childhood that we forget
  • Scores of practical ways to apply this knowledge to help our students leave every single lesson feeling excited and competent
  • Secrets to composing effective elementary piano music that Wendy uses as a composer.

I enjoyed watching her uncover the psyche of a child and how

  • That influences her composing
  • It can enhance your teaching
  • It helps you engage in activities that connect with those who like to wiggle while warming your bench or chair.


#2 Online Group Lessons

Signing up for lessons in something that you are not proficient will immediately help you recount those feelings of sitting in the hot seat as a child! I’ve taken online improvisation lessons with Bradley Sowash for a couple of years.

Being forced to reckon with new ways of playing my favorite instrument away from the page was humbling and exhilarating at the same time. What’s even better is that Bradley is now teaching online group lessons. This allows many of us read-only players to observe each other learn and expand our improvisational skills in a supportive, interactive environment.

I can’t tell you how many have exclaimed with child-like enthusiasm as they explore their creative side: “This is SO fun!”


#3 A Book

On one of my Pinterest excursions (I limit myself to one, maybe two per week!) I pinned 13 Non-Professional Books that Have Made Us Better Teachers. I immediately went to my Amazon account and placed them all in my cart. The first one to arrive at my door was Wonder by R.J.Palacio.

A book usually doesn’t bring me to tears but this one did more than once and even on an airplane! A few tears of sorrow, but more of the uninhibited sort. Tears that sprang up from my soul. Does that make sense?

Wonder is one book NOT to miss as it is told through the lens of a 5th-grader with….well, you’ll find out.

Go now and get it. Here’s a link.

Find the entire list of recommended books at We Are Teachers  which is also pinned on my Pinterest board Advice for Teachers. The next book I’ll be reading: Outliers: The Story of Success by Gladwell.

#4 An App


I’ve always been a fan of apps but it really hit me how much impact they can have on a kid.  A beginning piano student eagerly explained to me with confidence the name and duration of a half note. I had explored the concept with her at lessons and then assigned her to review the note value with the app called Rhythm Swing. The app offers three modes for each note value:

  • Learn (a video explains the concept)
  • Practice (offers the child instruction on how to use the app to master the concept)
  • Play (invites the child to master the concept by playing the correct rhythm and thus saving the cute monkey from the alligator.)

What I noticed is that reaching this child in a context of structured instruction with gamification (a fancy word for learning through game playing) led her to a clear understanding of half notes. I’ve sensed it for years but it was made even more clear to me that…

Clever apps that combine fun with learning connect with kids.

You can learn more about how I integrate Rhythm Swing and additional apps into my teaching here.

Is is time for you to feel like a kid again? If not now, make some room on your calendar and try out one or all four of these suggestions. Your students will thank you.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

teaching young kids music

Have you ever been asked to teach music to a 3 or 4-year-old? Do you turn them down? It’s completely within your right to only teach older students. Some teachers just prefer to have students start at an older age, and that’s fine. Let me try to make a case for taking younger students, though.

If your studio is not yet full, you’re turning away income and perhaps discouraging a parent from getting lessons for their child until they are older. There are real benefits to early childhood music lessons that I don’t think should be ignored.

When Can Young Children Start?

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Posted in Studio Management, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

5 Ways to Start Composing

September 14th, 2016 by

composing music techniques

There is nothing quite like the thrill of writing your own piece of music or helping your student to compose but sometimes it can be extremely hard to get started. What can you do to get the ball rolling as it were?

1 Numbers: A great idea I picked up the other week is to pick an easy key, roll three or four dice and convert the numbers (1-6) into degrees of the scale to generate the start of a melody. For example, say we picked G major and the numbers were 3, 4 and 1, that would equate to B (3rd note of the scale of G major), C (4th) followed by G (1st). After toying with these three notes, you should be inspired to know what comes next. If not, roll again! You could try something similar with a phone number. After writing out the number, cross out any zeroes or nines (not degrees of the scale) and see what happens!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music Theory, Teaching Tips

Hi Everyone. It’s almost here! Soon, you’ll be able to access all the features we’ve been announcing the past few weeks. And we’ll announce just a few more below. Of course, this is just one set of new features we’ll be releasing this year.

We’re working hard to get them ready for you, and update our software code so we can release features much faster moving forward. We’re excited about all the ways we’re continuing to make Music Teacher’s Helper even better for you so that you can run your studio more easily and effectively and connect better with your students. Thank you for your patience.

As a reminder, we’re first releasing these features as a beta version and instructions will follow for access.

software for music teachers

Improved calendar filtering and searching, and option to show student birthdays automatically on calendar

Filtering options are moving to above your calendar, and we’ve made it easier to see what’s filtered and to change it. You also have the option to show student birthdays and blocked dates automatically on the calendar.

Option to charge a per-person fee for an event

Special events or group lessons that require different pricing can be accommodated with per-person fees. With group lessons, you can track attendance and charges separately.

Set custom attendance statuses, and whether or not they’re billable

Create your own attendance statuses in your Studio Settings, and set whether or not they’re billable. Some example statuses could be: Teacher Absent (not billable) or Student Late (billable).

We’ll be sending an email as well as an in-software announcement when the Beta option is available. Keep an eye out for the announcement and if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact support. Have a great week!

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Posted in New Features and Fixes

Robin Steinweg

Utterly Unique

September 9th, 2016 by

Other teachers said these things to me recently: “I’m just a small-town music teacher.” “It’s all been taught before.” “I don’t say anything new. It’s all been said before.” But not by you. You and your teaching are utterly unique.

Teachers with wonderfully creative ideas write online. Some of them compose songs we purchase for our students. Others create teaching strategies and games. Those aren’t your gifts? Don’t let that discourage you!

You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life…

Think about this. You leave a fingerprint on each student’s life. Utterly unique. Yes, many others have taught the same pieces. They’ve used the same materials. The same words will have been said. But not by you.

I recall the impact of various musicians on my own life. My mother left me a legacy to love music; to make music; to live and laugh music. My first private music teacher impressed me with her pretty voice. But I also picked up her touch on the piano, which I see passed on to my own students. A musician I met only once spoke two sentences that shaped my musical destiny. Other teachers plucked weeds, watered, fed and shone on me as I grew. A professor provided my first playing gig. Each of them impacted my life: utterly unique. Even a negative experience with a teacher helped shape me into a better person.

I’ve had students who no way in this world were going to sing or compose their own songs. But I nudged them. Now they’re making money at it.

Each student comes to you at a particular time of vulnerability. No one else will see him or her exactly the way you do. No one else will relate the way you do. The encouragement you speak at this time can change the course of a life. A word dropped by you might nourish words spoken by others. Your influence might inspire a student to drop a harmful thought pattern. You might provide an oasis. What if you’re the only one who really listens? You are undoubtedly providing a mode of expression that can last a lifetime.

So be encouraged, music teacher. Leave your utterly unique fingerprint on that life.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips