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When I was studying music in college I taught lessons from any unused practice room that I could find. Usually after K-12 schools were finished for the day the stuffy white rooms would start to clear out as well.

This set up was far from ideal, however. My instrument was perched on top of the room’s out-of-tune old piano and students (who were often too short to reach the top of the clunky chordophone) were forced to unpack in one of the room’s dusty corners. If parents wanted to observe the lessons they had to find whatever space was available and dodge flying bows.

As I have started to break into teaching in the real world, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a good studio good, beyond the teacher, of course. What can we change about our studios to make them inviting and encouraging to students? Or if we’re moving into a new studio, what should we look for before we sign a lease? When 50% of young musicians quit after two years, it’s clear that we need to grab onto every advantage we can in order to maintain student interest.

(1) Consider your windows. There’s no simple answer to the question of windows in studio rooms, but it’s much better to think about how you want them than to ignore the issue. Some students will be energized by sunlight and a view of the outdoors, but others may be easily distracted and dispense with your lesson in favor of a bird that’s flying by.

In my experience younger students tend to be the easily distracted ones, while older more self-directed students are able to avoid the distractions and stay upbeat with the aid of some natural light. However, it’s up to you to judge what’s appropriate for each student. Consider investing in some curtains so that you can change the room on a fly.

(2) Think about your position in the room. If you’re like me then you’ll be all over the place to observe the student and watch his or her technique from every angle, but you’ll always default back to a specific spot. Maybe you’ll have a chair there, or a desk, depending on your situation, but one thing is clear: you need to give your students room to breathe.

No one likes to have their teacher breathing down their neck and we need to remember that we can often be intimidating to our students. Give your student some space. You’ll both be happier.

(3) Spice up your studio with some music-themed decoration. My viola teacher in my high school years had a Beethoven action figure that gave the room a sort of fun vibe. That’s not the only way to get your students excited about music, though. Maybe think about a poster of a famous composer or perhaps a page of one of your instrument’s great concertos. Reminding students that they’ll be playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto one day can inspire and motivate them through difficult times.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

A few inspiring measures can go a long way.

Perhaps a life size cutout of a famous violinist is what your studio calls for. What student doesn’t want Jascha Heifetz’s stony gaze scrutinizing their every note? Or maybe a get a cutout of yourself so that you can take a well-deserved nap.

(4) Give your students some space to unpack their instrument, resin their bow, or do whatever else they need to do in order to get set up for the lesson. Don’t repeat my mistake and stand idly by while your student slides their case along the floor, picking up dust and God knows what else along the way. All you need here is a low table, which can double as a place to keep your lesson box. That one investment can go a long way.

(5) Keep photos of your old students around. Every student who sticks with their instrument after they’ve stopped taking lessons is a story worth telling. On top of inspiring your current students to stick with it, having a reminder of your successes around can help you keep going through the rough days.

(6) Get yourself some sort of audio setup. This can be as simple as a pair of mobile speakers to hook up to your laptop or phone. As long as you’re getting your student to listen to some of the music for your instrument, you’re on the right track. I’m reminded of the story of a young Lynn Harrell, who listened to the records of Janos Starker for inspiration in his youth. Having your own equipment “in house,” so to speak, is more important than it seems here, since many students won’t have the resources or the motivation to go out and find recordings on their own.

These are some of my ideas, but I’m not the perfect teacher. Let me know how you make your teaching studios exciting in the comments!

About the author:

NC_Headshot

Nick Cesare is a violist and teacher from Boise, Idaho. He has a degree in viola performance from Boise State University, where he learned that the viola belongs in the left hand and the bow in the right. When he’s not practicing, Nick likes to write about music, bike in the Boise foothills, and cook.

 

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

MTH has the wonderful option to send Lesson Notes after each lesson. Although designed to simply let parents know what’s assigned or happening at lessons, this is an opportunity to save yourself time and keep your customers informed!

Answering ten unnecessary emails = wasted time!

How many emails do you get asking  questions about schedules or upcoming events, even though you previously sent emails or other correspondence with that exact information? Read more…

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Posted in MTH 101, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Using Music Teacher's Helper

Microphone

So you are heading off to your first recording session. What tips can help you achieve a great recording? Even if you are just having fun recording yourself in your bedroom, hopefully, the following tips will help.

Before the recording session
•  If this is your first time being recorded, if you can, visit the studio so as to get familiar with the vocal booth setup to help you relax. Even just looking at the photos on the studio website will help.

•  If you are recording a vocal, get familiar with the words, ideally, memorise them and bring a copy to help the producer follow for accuracy as you record.

•  When you rehearse, check that you only take breaths at the end of sentences to avoid spoiling the flow of the phrases.

•  Focus on your performance. What does the song mean to you? Can you “feel” the emotion as you perform?

•  Head to the session wearing Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

savvymainbannerweb

The Savvy Musician in Action

Have you heard of it before? It’s an immersive, experiential week-long workshop designed to help artists and increase income and impact. 

The entrepreneurship workshop is brought to you by cutting edge David Cutler, author of  The Savvy Musician and a brand new book, The Savvy Music Teacher. In a nutshell, it is perhaps an event like none other. I’ve been to plenty of conferences but this seems truly unique. Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management

creative music teaching tips

Is your lesson schedule jam-packed? Have you maxed out your income because you’ve run out of teaching days and times? Are you nervous about making ends meet during the summer months? As private music teachers, sometimes we have to be really creative when it comes to drumming up more income. Here are a handful of creative tips that will help you boost your income with group lessons and summer camps. Don’t get nervous… you don’t have to be a group expert to make these ideas work!

1) Keep it fun. Sure, summer camps are great for reinforcing basic music concepts, but they’re also an opportunity for you to foster comradery and imagination in your studio. One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen from other teachers about summer camps is about low enrollment: students and parents are reluctant to sign up because from their perspective, the camp just doesn’t sound very fun. That’s why it’s so important to make your camps fun and creative – students are more likely to sign up for something that’s unique and exciting than for something that comes across as an “educational experience.” This summer I’m holding a Hogwarts themed summer camp, and I know my students will be interested in something like that! Check out the video below for a montage of the fun camp we did last year: Music Blast Summer Camp Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio

Reuben Vincent

Autism and Music Teaching

February 20th, 2016 by

Autism

What is autism and how can we best support our music students that have been diagnosed with or whom we may suspect have autistic tendencies?

Autism affects how a person interacts with people around them. Often those with high-functioning autism are highly intelligent with an uncanny ability to focus and achieve incredible results. Friendship will be desired but hard for them to seek and harder to maintain. The autistic can often appear rude and unempathetic. They will require patient understanding from the people in their lives. Interpreting non-verbal communication (body-language and facial expressions) can be a real challenge. Even verbal communication can be hard to interpret; subtleties of language such as sayings or humor being taken too literally.

My son was diagnosed as having high-functioning autism (once termed Asperger Syndrome) when he was seven and also as a private music teacher, I have enjoyed teaching students with autism. The thing I’ve learned over the years is that every autistic person is unique but there are a few common themes (in no particular order):

Fear of change

I remember telling my son we were going to visit a museum but when we arrived, I spontaneously thought it would be fun to visit the art gallery next door first. Well, what a mistake that proved to Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

music school

The Challenges Of Teaching Pre-literate Preschool Music Students

“Most music method books are confusing, cluttered, and just plain suck!”

If you take a look at the way traditional music publishers present information, it makes little sense. There’s too much visual noise on the page, along with confusing notes intended for different audiences. Nevertheless, this is how so many music teachers begin the first lesson with their students.

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

deslexia3

Have you noticed some of your pupils struggling more than usual to learn to read music? Do they score low in sight-reading tests? Do they take a really long time to learn a piece and then seem to be playing more by ear than by reading the music?

Maybe, just maybe they are dyslexic.

Sadly, many dyslexics go through life undetected. They’ve learnt to somehow find ways of avoiding situations which involve numbers and/or words and have endured endless frustration at the hand of parents, teachers, peers and themselves. Going back a little in time, before such learning difficulties were widely acknowledged, dyslexics were often Read more…

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Posted in Professional Development, Teaching Tips

top-pop-tips-730x730

As students return for lessons after the holidays, why not kick off 2016 with pop music? Surprising your students with some Coldplay along with Chopin–or any favorite tune from the past or the present–could strike just the right balance to keep things interesting during the long winter months ahead.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the past year and make some revisions for the months ahead.  Has your curriculum remained relatively the same and even become stagnant?  Could you better match the interests of potential and eager customers in your local area by revamping your curriculum and adding some hit tunes from Adele, The Piano Guys or Star Wars?

David Cutler, author of The Savvy Music Teacher, discovered from his extensive research that music teachers who generated substantial (successful) incomes were more likely to integrate three elements into their instruction compared to other teachers who did not. They include: improvisation, technology and multiple musical genres.

Need to spice up 2016? Considering a fresh approach? Ready to integrate more improvisation, technology and musical genres, ie, pop music in to your teaching? Then you will want to sign up for and attend the 88 Creative Keys Winter Webinar Webshop. Watch the video below for more details. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Leila Viss

How will you play it forward?

December 14th, 2015 by

 

Two weeks ago, my student Addison entered my studio and declared, “I wrote a song for Paris!”

A little puzzled by what he meant, I probed further and learned that he improvised a piece on the piano based on his feelings about the terrorist attacks in Paris and posted it on his YouTube channel. It was Addison’s way of processing the tragedy, paying tribute to the victims, communicating his sorrow and as I thought about it more, this was Addison’s way to give what he could: he wanted to play it forward.

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Performing, Press, Professional Development, Teaching Tips