Andrew

Member Spotlight – George

January 6th, 2017 by

Welcome back to our member spotlight series. Today we have George. He teaches guitar and drums in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

How long you’ve been teaching?
Since 1995.

How would you describe your studio space to someone that’s never visited?
I travel to the students’ home.

Was there a specific moment when you realized you loved teaching music?
I think when I realized how much joy it can bring to people both young an old made me realize I was doing something worthwhile, both for them and for myself.

How did you feel in the moment you made the decision to be an independent music teacher? Do you recall being nervous/excited/scared?
I was excited because it is a risk but the reward of being able to do something you enjoy is worth the risk.

What were the steps you took to get your first lessons to having a full student roster?
It is always a little slow going at first but it will happen over time if you stick to it. I mainly started out with flyers and internet ads and then as you go referrals happen and your business spreads through word of mouth.

What is one piece of advice you could offer to someone looking to start teaching music lessons?
Don’t stop you have to always put the work in even when at times it can seem discouraging.

How do you currently find new students?
I use a combination of things to attract new students. You really cannot rely solely on one thing. Try different things find what works best and stick with it.

How do you feel when you think back to all students you’ve interacted with over the years and impacted positively?
It is a good feeling to feel like you possibly may have made a difference in their lives in a positive way.

What is your favorite part of a lesson?
Usually working on songs especially songs that a student enjoys playing.

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 like teaching modern songs and country. When I first started it was more geared towards rock but you need to adapt to the times.

How long have you been using Music Teacher’s Helper?
About 10 years.

What is your favorite thing about Music Teacher’s Helper?
It helps me keep track of my students lessons which is a crucial thing if you are self employed.

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

Hello, friends! As a teacher of over 10 years and a musician for 20 years, I feel like I’ve seen nearly all aspects of the business. Teaching, performing, record sales, composing, recording, music videos, YouTube blogs, you name it. As musicians, we can have many different goals for the present and the future. Some of us just want to strum a guitar on the front porch, some of us want to do this for a living and have it be financially successful. It’s the latter group that I want to address. To those of you that have the dedication, patience, talent, and drive to look at music as a possible career and not just a hobby or pastime.

Over the years I’ve discovered a very disturbing truth about being a musician, and it’s something that each of us must face and know how to deal with to be successful. That truth is that musicians are one of the most poorly treated occupations in the country. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you this:

As a musician, be it a teacher or performer, how many times have you been asked to play a show “for exposure” (a.k.a. for nothing)?

How many times have you been asked to play a show for a bar tab or a payment so small it barely covers the cost of gas to the venue?

How many times have you been in a “pay to play” situation, the worst of all? As a teacher how many times have you been asked for a free “trial lesson”?

My guess is you can answer yes to at least one of these questions and much more just like it, and it may have happened to you many times. I know I can answer yes to all the above. Now let me ask you this: Have you ever asked a plumber if they will fix your clogged sink for free and then if they do a good job you’ll pay them next time? Have you ever walked into a restaurant and asked for a free meal and then said if it’s good you’ll tell your friends and help them get exposure? Have you ever gone into a business that was struggling and offered to pay half price since you know they are desperate?

I feel confident you have never done any of these things, as a matter of fact, if you did the response would be anywhere from a smack in the face to a visit from the police! So why is it that musicians get this honor? Why are musicians looked down on in such low regard that the above treatment is common practice where the same treatment to any other profession would be considered incredibly rude? Well, I have a theory…

The stereotypical musician to a lot of people out there is someone barely getting by, desperate for work, etc. Or sometimes people view musicians as hobbyists only that want to have fun and have no real aspirations. These views are so common that I think people who are otherwise very friendly and caring will do business with musicians in a very denigrating way, and they may not even realize they are doing it! The other reason this happens is that musicians themselves can also fall into this mode of thinking and convince themselves that they aren’t worth very much, or that they should play free shows or charge next to nothing for lessons. It’s a vicious cycle that we need to break!

Allow me to share with you a couple short stories that illustrate both points (these are true stories):

A band is contacted to play a fund-raising show/charity auction for a few hundred people at a nice hotel ballroom. After a discussion about the show and the expectations the band gives a quote to the organizer at a discounted rate since it is a charity show. After a pause of silence, the organizer says that they were hoping the band would volunteer their time. The band’s representative then asked:

Are you paying for use of the ballroom? The answer: “yes”

Are you paying the wait staff that are serving the food? “yes”

Are you paying for the food and the cooks to prepare it? “yes”

Are you paying the auctioneer to run the auction? “yes”

The band then responded: “Ok now that we have established that you are paying for literally everyone and everything involved with this show, now let’s talk about what you are paying the band”.

The organizer was shocked, not because of the attitude of the band, but because they clearly hadn’t thought of it this way, they agreed to pay the band their original quote by the end of the call.

Another story about how this mentality can affect musicians as well:

A good friend of mine teaches piano, she is talented and a good teacher, and has played piano since she was a child. She told me one time that she was having a lot of trouble getting people to pay on time, people doing “no call no shows”, not taking their lessons seriously, showing up late or at the wrong time entirely, etc. I was very confused because I rarely run into these problems, and we live within a few miles of each other so I knew it wasn’t because of location. I thought: could it be that guitar students take things more seriously than piano students? That doesn’t make any sense, what could be the difference? Well, I figured it out: She was charging almost nothing for her lessons, about 1/3rd of what I charge. She was doing this because she felt like she couldn’t charge more, that somehow she isn’t worth it. She fell into this thinking that musicians are somehow not worth as much as other professions. By charging so little she attracted people that weren’t serious about their lessons, the casual students that are looking for a deal, not a great teacher. Since I charge what I know I’m worth, I get serious students that treat me with respect and I do the same in return. I love my students! They are my friends and customers, and I do everything I can to make them happy and satisfied with their lessons. However, I also know what my time is worth after 20 years of experience and education, and I feel it’s very important for a variety of reasons to charge that amount.

So what should you do? What is it that I’m suggesting? I’m suggesting that you, as a professional musician, start demanding what you are worth and stand by that decision. Now you may be thinking: if I charge a reasonable rate for teaching I’ll never get students because there are so many teachers out there charging so much less. Or you may be thinking: If my band starts asking to be paid for shows or a higher rate we’ll lose shows to other bands that are willing to play for free!

Sure, those things are possible, but let me ask you this: Do you think the people at Apple are afraid of losing business because they charge more for phones than other companies? Believe me, they aren’t afraid of that at all. They know they have a good product on their hands and they charge what they believe it’s worth, and they can barely keep their phones in stock. Millions of us are willing to pay more for it when we could have gotten a cheaper phone instead. The same goes for teachers, bands, and everyone else! So maybe you will lose a few students with increased prices, odds are high that you will be replacing them with students that are much more serious and dedicated. So maybe your band won’t be able to play the local dive bar anymore because they won’t pay your rate? The nicer resorts, restaurants, private parties, etc. will! So I say demand what you are worth and stop getting taken advantage of!

Now this doesn’t mean you just raise your rates and sit back and expect huge success! Make yourself the best! I don’t mean the most talented musician in town because honestly, that isn’t really necessary. What is necessary however is being the most professional! Have a nice, quiet, spacious, clean, welcoming lesson room. Offer your students an in-depth learning experience that they can’t get anywhere else. Be knowledgeable and able to answer any question, know your stuff! Be that band that is always on time, always dependable, always practiced up, and always a great show. Make yourself different than everyone else, go above and beyond and offer things that other bands or teachers don’t offer. Treat your customers with the utmost respect, treat them like family. Make your band or your business the best it can possibly be and people will come!

This also doesn’t mean you should NEVER take on a free show or a student at a discounted rate. I’ll play a free performance for a cause I truly believe in, but it would be of my own choosing not because I was made to feel like I must. I would be happy to give a discounted lesson rate to a young student without much money if I felt like they had a real passion for music, but again, this is my own choosing, not pressure from someone that doesn’t think I’m worth what I charge. Being a musician is an incredible gift that very few people have. If you are a good teacher on top of that, or a hard-working reliable band, then you are even rarer and valuable.

I hope this inspires you to rethink the structure of your business, band, teaching studio, etc. I can’t guarantee success of course, but it’s hard to imagine a negative outcome from all of us as musicians believing in ourselves and knowing that our profession deserves just as much respect as any other!

 

Marc Miller is the owner of Sound Theory Studio in Tucson, AZ with 20 years of experience composing and performing, and over 10 years experience teaching guitar. Educated at Berklee College of Music (Master Guitar Certification) with have several albums to his credit in many different genres.

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Posted in Performing, Professional Development

music teaching positive

We asked a few Music Teacher’s Helper members about something positive that happened in their studio this past year. Here are some answers below. Tell us yours in the comment section! 

“I started teaching students as young as five years old this year, and my studio grew. :)” – Brooke

“This year I am thankful that when one branch of my studio closed, a majority of my students from there traveled out of their way to continue to study with me at my home branch. I am grateful for their dedication and trust in my teaching. :)” – Lisa

“In 2016 I became much more professional. One of the things that helped the Alameda Cello Studio was Music Teacher’s Helper. It helped me to have an online presence that looks great, and also to get my student info organized and my calendar online.” – Marcie

“Finished the year with a great student piano recital! I appreciate the immediate, knowledge, and courteous help available through your live chat support.  Thanks!” – Angela

“I’ve had good recitals this year — and gained some wonderful new students, including a 25 year old autistic young man who I love working with.” – Karen

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Posted in Professional Development, Studio Management

pianostar

As a piano teacher, I have to say that I am often underwhelmed by music books for beginners. To be fair to the composers of such books, it is an extremely difficult challenge to write engaging music with such a limited palette of notes but having said that, young students still need to be inspired to build skill and move their music-making to the next level. So I was curious to take a look at a new series for young pianists from the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) entitled “Piano Star.”

There are three books in the series:

  • Book 1 builds from a very basic skill level up to Prep Test (Pre-Grade 1)
  • Book 2 is at Prep Test level
  • Book 3 continues the journey building to Grade 1 standard

I have to say that I am very Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Reuben Vincent

Theory Terminator!

November 7th, 2016 by

terminator

A game of “Terminator” in full swing! From left to right, Lauren, Amanda (Mom) and Alisha Adams

Let’s be honest! Who enjoys learning a long list of Italian terms for their music theory exam? Not many! Here’s an idea for making learning music terms fun! Enter “Terminator!”

Giving the activity an exciting name is half the battle. The two girls pictured are currently preparing for their grade 2 theory exam so we called the game “Terminator 2.” Lauren and Alisha have downloaded free buzzer apps onto their phones and their Mom, Amanda, has really embraced the role of game host giving the girls a fun way of learning their terms several nights a week between lessons in the lead up to their exam.

There are lots of ways of calling the Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Andrew

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.
Read more…

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

have-you-forgotten-girl

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 ComposeCreate.com. 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.

Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

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

This past month I gave a piano masterclass in Jakarta, Indonesia. How? Read below – this post will hopefully inspire you with ideas to help your students (and bring more students to you).

Back in May, I had a dilemma that many teachers face: our piano students leave town for the summer. I could teach my remaining students until the fall rolled around, but what if I mixed in a little adventure?

I brushed with the travel bug last year, but I had never been to Asia. I started thinking, how cool would it be to visit and teach music somewhere out there?

It never hurts to check. I was enticed by Bali, so I chose to look into the city of Jakarta, a short plane ride away.

Steps to Teach Music Overseas

  1. Created a spreadsheet and Googled Indonesian music schools.
  2. Made a list of ~20, with links and contact info.
  3. Crafted a short email, stating that I wanted to teach a masterclass and/or teach lessons while I was visiting.
  4. Cut down my already short email by half, to be clearer and to-the-point.
  5. Sent this to each school.

Within the week, two had enthusiastically responded. I chose to work with Rosa Mistyca, the super sharp and talented owner of Ensiklomusika, based in Jakarta. We Skyped once to confirm that, yes, we’re both real people. Rosa agreed to promote my visit to Jakarta residents (a ton of work on her part). The deal was – I’d give one presentation for teachers looking for tips on teaching, and one masterclass where I teach individual students for ~25 minutes each, with their families and other students in the audience. Over the next month, we coordinated dates and suddenly I realized: Oh this is really happening. Can’t back out now.

No Longer Just a Fantasy: I’m Really Going to Asia

I booked my ticket, got my shots, and started to prepare. I had never done any of this before. But after a decade of teaching and making music in NYC, I felt ready to share what I’ve learned, to challenge myself, and to embrace a little chaos and uncertainty.

I sat down, nervously started to write…and realized I knew a lot more than I thought.

Until you write down or present what you know in a codified way, it’s tough to know how much you truly know. This is why blogging and writing lesson notes to families are so crucial (Music Teacher’ s Helper lets you do this easily, by the way). It doesn’t just help them but gives your teaching clarity. Weak habits get broken. You start to see how to approach the problems students face but also why, at a deeper level, an approach is good or needs to change. Very powerful.

Still, I was intimidated. Ensiklomusika was counting on me, paying me, to prepare something clear and useful, in an unfamiliar context, in a foreign country. It would be nice if they all loved it, and loved me, but maybe they’ll think I’m a fraud. Then what?

A wise man once wrote: “the future is indeed terrifyingly unknowable when you can’t even focus on the present.”

So I focused on what I could control: my own effort, in that moment.

Weeks later, I arrived in Jakarta and spent some time wandering around the city.

After a few stimulating days dodging Southeast Asia traffic, I hunkered down in my hotel to work on my presentation.

The Presentation

I arrived, sat down at the piano, and relaxed for a few minutes. Oh wait, I know how to do this.

Soon, a dozen teachers from Jakarta filed in, with pens and paper, and sat down, waiting for me to begin.

So I took a deep breath, and began. I talked about rhythmic approaches, how to sight-read, and common problems students have. I shared stories about my students to show why rapport matters so much – students often stay or leave because of this alone.

Finally, I brought in a unique approach to helping kids, as young as four, read and play music from their first lesson. I’ve used Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method for close to a year and watched as referrals flew in, my roster almost double, and my confidence as a teacher grow like crazy. Andrew’s approach not only works, but kids (and even one of my adult students!) really love it. What an opportunity to show a room full of Jakarta residents something new, from the other side of the world!

masterclass-group-1-high-res

After two hours, the conference ended. The masterclass began soon after.

Again, this was new for me. I was to give each of seven students a private lesson…with their families, friends, and students watching. To take the searing spotlight off the student, I planned to address the audience at times, to include them in the learning process.

This means I had to:

  • immediately identify the problems that particular student (a student I had just met!) was facing
  • help her feel comfortable enough to listen to me and try my suggestions (with a watching audience)
  • throughout each lesson, I had to observe, frame, and simplify those problems to the audience in a way that 1) didn’t alienate the student herself, and 2) helped the audience understand some technicals without alienating them

masterclass-student-6-CROP-high-res

By the end, I was totally wiped out.

And who headlines the entire masterclass? A wildly talented student, Elnino, six years old, sits down and crushes a tricky Sonatina. This boy used every part of his body gracefully and played it passionately. Not like a robot at all. It was easy for him.

Elnino’s physical instincts were top-notch. I nudged the audience to observe what he does so effortlessly with his arms and body overall, to open their minds to how he’s intuitively solved his own physical problems, the same problems that plague other students.

What a reward, to present material that I love to new faces, and they were thrilled!

We finished, grabbed a beer, and Rosa forced me to eat a durian (a fruit that smells so bad it offends cockroaches). Then I hopped on a plane to Bali the next morning. What a trip.

durian-rosa-high-res

Takeaways: What I Learned by Teaching Teachers and Giving a Piano Masterclass

It challenged me to condense all my knowledge in a simple, actionable way, and to do this publicly, on the spot.

I learned to repeat myself, helpfully. For instance, unclear rhythms cause most problems for students. During the masterclass, I saw five students struggle with this. So I approached them with a similar solution, five times, and noted the common thread to the student and the audience. Everyone wins.

The experience gave me more confidence as a teacher. It gave my work visibility, legitimacy, and a bridge to a whole new set of relationships on a different continent. As a busy teacher in NYC, I know that relationships, and ultimately businesses, are built and sustained on trust. I managed to create a pocket of that within an entirely new part of the world.

____

Want to try something like this? You never know, all it takes is a quick email. Plan ahead now before next summer comes – Ensiklomusika continuously accepts foreign teachers during their visits.

brett-recital-high-res

Brett Crudgington runs a private piano studio in Brooklyn, NY for over 20 students. He studied jazz as a teenager and spent formative years in college working with John Kamitsuka on classical music. It was here that he learned Abby Whiteside’s physical approach to the piano, how to make music that emanates from the core rather than the fingers. He actively brings a wide range of pedagogical tools to his lessons, including Andrew Ingkavet’s Musicolor Method.

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

music teaching tips

Welcome to our member spotlight series. Today we have Angie & Marcus. The questions are answered by Angie, but the husband and wife duo teach music lessons together in Boise, Idaho.

How long you’ve been teaching?

15 years

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